After 10 years of teaching at Harlem Children's Zone (New York) and DSST (Denver), Ryan Sparzak discovered that a learning environment based on values, service and experiences outside of the school are vital to a well-rounded education for all students. In Ryan's current role, he and his team develop company culture and educational trips around certain values, as well as innovative service partnerships with schools so students will take informed action now and in the future.
Ryan came to the group travel industry because, as a teacher and school leader, he saw how travel and experiences outside the school walls could completely alter a student's life and attitude in the classroom. Once he got the bug, he knew he had to find a way to make these experiences a reality for more students.
"When I met Jeff Peterson (President of Global Travel Alliance) and we began rapping about our experiences in education and our shared values, it was clear this was the next step. He was an educator on the reservation in Montana. I taught in Harlem. Ultimately, we want to see every student have these experiences."
Ryan is most intrigued by creating opportunities for students from all backgrounds to travel.
"There has to be a way to create a sustainable business model, while at the same time providing travel opportunities for more communities and students. We are constantly asking ourselves this question at Global Travel Alliance."
Coming from the education world, Ryan had a lot to learn about successfully running a business, detailed trip planning and creating safe experiences. "It was a steep learning curve, and I know I drove my team crazy." When Ryan traveled as a teacher, it was "pretty loose and risky" and he knew little about liability and safety. He's come a long way in shifting his thinking.
"It helps that I now have children of my own, which informs my decisions when designing experiences for educators."
Ryan Sparzak is one of the 2016 Top 10 Next Gens, as nominated by Groups Today readers for making a difference in the industry with his creative ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. Click here to see the January/February magazine.
Know a group travel professional making an impact on the industry with a fresh, progressive perspective? Nominate him or her for 2017's Top 10 Next Gen here.