Rachel G. Smylie Memorial Scholarship 

When Rachel was a junior in high school, she came home one day with a sparkling brochure from The Road Less Traveled. She handed the brochure to her parents and announced “I’m going to Tanzania this summer…that’s okay, right?” Rachel indeed went to Tanzania that summer.

Going into the trip, she knew no one, but, as was her way, she quickly formed special friendships with the group participants and leaders. Her energy was contagious, and she filled every room she entered with happiness and light. Her adventurous and hopeful spirit pulled her to see the world and help others, and her beaming, joyous smile accompanied her along the way.

 She helped dig a foundation for a new dormitory for teachers, played games with children who were victims of HIV/AIDS, lived among the Hadza tribe who taught her how to hunt rock hyrax, and experienced the wonders of stargazing under the bright African night sky. It was a life-changing experience, and as soon as she came home, Rachel announced that she would return to Africa -- it was only a matter of time. She wanted to continue investing her time and energy in the place she had grown to know and love.

As a University of Michigan student, Rachel continued to learn about HIV/AIDS through course work and volunteering at a local clinic. When it came time to decide where she wanted to spend a semester abroad, it was an easy decision -- to return to Africa to the people and beauty she learned about and loved through her trip with The Road Less Traveled.

Rachel went to South Africa, to study at the University of Cape Town. She was filled with utter joy during her two months there, and was to start volunteering at a local HIV/AIDS clinic before her life tragically was cut short.

In remembrance of Rachel’s zeal for life, her passion for helping others, and her love of Africa, the Smylie family established the Rachel G. Smylie Memorial Scholarship to support students who wish to travel to Tanzania, to experience Africa’s beauty and bounty, and to provide service to others. Rachel’s family hopes that, in this way, her memory will live on through travelers who share her journey. 

 “In the summer of 2010, Rachel was a participant on my program with the Road Less Traveled… Rachel emerged suddenly and unexpectedly as a leader… Even in the airport in Newark, I remember Rachel was leading ice-breaker games that I had only just learned at training. I remember so clearly that she had brought cards and candy to share with other students, and she genuinely just wanted to bond with the group. She was someone who brought people together out of good will and with best intentions, and she was so good at making everything exciting and possible… Many people live their whole lives afraid to take advantage of an opportunity or chase an adventure out of fear of the unknown or straying from what is the norm. Rachel was not one of those people. Her spirit will live on always, and the world is a better place having had her in it.” – Whitney Hall, trip leader, Hujambo

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Rachel G. Smylie. JANUARY 7, 1993 - APRIL 7, 2014