Kaidyle Neukam has always been a go-getter. She knew there was a whole world out there to explore, she just needed a little help opening the door.
Halfway through her junior year at North Montgomery High School, she heard about Indiana Youth Tour – a week-long, all expenses paid trip to Washington D.C.
What she didn’t know was how the trip would change her life and set her on a path of future success that today looks nearly limitless. Now a freshman at American University in Washington D.C. studying International Relations, she recently took a few moments to look back at her Youth Tour experience and talk about how Youth Tour created opportunities she’s realizing today.
Q: How is your first semester at American University going?
A: It has been the most busy, crazy and exciting time of my life! I’m very grateful for the top-notch education I’m receiving thus far at American University. In addition to my studies, I made the AU tennis team as a walk-on this semester. It’s been an interesting time to be in DC, with the presidential election, especially with my home state governor now being the vice president-elect. Whether or not people here agree with his political views, it’s given me an opportunity to talk more about Indiana, and to reflect and recognize all of the amazing opportunities that I had back home.
Q: Youth Tour is a big reason why you’re here today.
A: Before Youth Tour, I had never been outside of the Midwest. When my Youth Tour group reached DC, I remember being in pure awe. I never believed that I would receive the chance to visit the nation’s capital until I was awarded so by Tipmont REMC. Touring the monuments and visiting the memorials really impacted me. They showed me that I am capable of doing anything, and having realized that, I decided that D.C. was where I needed to study in order to pursue my passion in international work and politics.
For the past five months, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to call D.C. home, and every time I go through the monuments, I’m reminded of all of the amazing times from Youth Tour nearly a year and a half ago.
Q: Have you kept in touch with the other students you met?
A: Being a young adult automatically insinuates that we’re great with technology, right? The 2015 Youth Tour alumnus and I keep in touch through social media. It’s been fun to keep updated with how everyone is doing. My best friend from the trip, Hannah Meriwether, and I often traveled three hours across the state to spend weekends and celebrate holidays. Despite going to college nearly 13 hours away from each other, we still talk regularly.
Q: Share a favorite memory from Youth Tour.
A: My fondest moment was being selected as Indiana’s Delegate to the Youth Leadership Council on my 18th birthday! I remember being in disbelief, having just achieved my greatest accomplishment and having 90+ people congratulating me all at once makes this moment nearly impossible to forget. In addition to my friends from Indiana, the people I met on the national youth leadership council remain some of my closest friends today. It’s such an amazing feeling to have this genuine support system, and without Youth Tour, it wouldn’t exist.
Q: Talk about your upcoming trip to Vietnam.
A: I was recently selected as the only freshman at American University to attend a university-sponsored research and social justice alternative program to Vietnam. We will be studying crucial issues affecting Vietnam, such as the Agent Orange Crisis, Human Trafficking, and the unexploded ordinances. I look forward to learning more about United States efforts to alleviate the effects of Agent Orange for both Vietnamese and American Vietnam War veterans.
If you would like to support Kaidlyne’s work in Vietnam, please give her GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/kaidlyneinvietnam