Donor Spotlight: Mary
FLYTE is more than a non-profit organization. It is a community built by supporters and donors who want to empower students to change their lives – and the world – through travel.
Mary has been one of FLYTE’s biggest advocates and supporters from the very beginning. She’s traveled extensively and owns Mckee Translations, where she uses her love for the Spanish language to serve her clients with all their translation needs. As a member of our FLYTE Crew, Mary is able to share her passion for language and culture with our students. Thank you, Mary, for everything that you do!
How has travel impacted your life?
My earliest memory of recognizing the value of travel was from a family trip to Oaxaca, Mexico when I was around 6 years old. I remember looking around at the children chattering away in Spanish and thinking to myself, “If I had been born here, I would speak like them!” Since then, I’ve kept that trite idea that we are all the same in the back of my mind, and have tried to travel as much as possible, to learn more about myself and the circumstances around the world that make other people different from me. Travel keeps me from getting complacent. It shakes me out of my comfort zone. I cannot imagine the person I would be if I had not had the opportunity to travel.
What’s your favorite travel memory?
My recent favorite travel memory is from when a group of friends and I went to Cambodia in 2015 for the wedding of our friend whose mother is Cambodian and father is from the US. After seeing the beautiful Cambodian two-piece dresses that many women would be wearing to the wedding, and confirming with our friend that it would be appropriate for us to also do so, we found a local market with some dressmakers. Through hand signs and writing of numbers, we succeeded in having custom wedding finery made for us in just a couple of days. I still have the dress, a wonderful, custom souvenir of our adventures in Cambodia!
Tell us more about McKee Translations. How has travel shaped your company’s vision and goals?
As a Spanish to English translator, I must continually build and reinforce my language skills both in English and in Spanish. If I stay at home in the US, I have few opportunities to interact with others in Spanish in the sustained, high-level manner that I need in order to keep my Spanish skills sharp. Thus, each year I strive to travel internationally to conferences, to network with clients in their home countries, and to attend professional development events in Spanish. This is an essential part of my professional career.
Why did you choose to support FLYTE?
When I was a graduate assistant teaching Spanish to college students in Ohio, I heard many students say they did not see the value in learning a foreign language. People who have the opportunity to travel can see how a second (or third, or fourth…) language opens up personal, professional, and educational doors that they might not even have known existed. As a member of the American Translator’s Association, I am enthusiastic about encouraging students of today to become the translators and interpreters of tomorrow, and that starts with fostering a desire to learn a foreign language.
What advice would you give someone who’s hesitant about the idea of travelling abroad?
Remember that people around the world spend their lives searching for the same things that you do: food, shelter, companionship, meaning, happiness. If you can understand that, you will feel less like an outsider and more like a member of humanity. With a little planning, some extra cash for emergencies, and a little bit of courage to step outside your comfort zone, you can thrive anywhere.
Carmela is FLYTE’s Executive Director. She’s also a non-profit & data science consultant, math enthusiast, remote worker, and self-proclaimed chocolate chip cookie connoisseur. Since 2012, she’s been intentionally creating a life that combines her love for youth empowerment, travel, statistics, and social impact.