This program was started in 2006; our first trip took place in 2007 in Paris, France.
The impetus for the program began while teaching art history and introducing different art icons to my students. Knowing that my students may never have the opportunity to see the art in person, where they could appreciate it in a very different context, I decided to put together this experience. A summons was issued to the community, who responded by paying for the students to attend and have this life changing experience. The Mona Lisa is one of the most recognizable art icons in all world cultures and thus the name of the organization.
The students who attend are urban males that need a chance to see and experience the world beyond the streets of metropolitan Detroit, Michigan. Most students have never left the region or taken a plane ride. The parents want their sons to travel in hopes that it will make a difference in their lives as they gain greater awareness of the world. During these cultural exchanges the students are learning holistically. When they attend college and study the history of Algeria or become engrossed in Egyptology they will have an immediate relationship to the Mediterranean Sea. They will know the sounds of the waves roaring back and forth, and recall how quickly those waves caught us all off guard and it will resonate with them that they too, know the waters of that most magnificent sea.
As members of a global society, students must learn to celebrate the similarities and respect the differences of every culture. This knowledge is essential to their success as they reenvision, redefine and refocus their own experiences in their own communities. By making the world their classroom, students are enriched with the possibilities, opportunities and awareness that travel brings and in turn the depth of their vision enriches our community.