Michael Dickerson a 2007 MVS recipient, sponsored by Asheville, N.C., Lodge No. 608, is a senior at Middlebury College studying music and philosophy. During a study abroad trip to Chile, he realized how limited he and other tourists were when only traveling the country by bus–and he decided to do something about it.
Buses make it difficult to take in the beautiful Chilean countryside and emit large amounts of greenhouse gases. The obvious solution to Michael was to start biking. In 2010, he received a $500 grant from Middlebury College to begin documenting bicycle paths to popular locations. The project aimed to establish a sustainable bike tourism alternative.
“Most tourists ride buses,” said Michael. “But for much less money they could ride a bike. This lets them take in the scenery, engage with the culture, and visit thousands of new destinations that are inaccessible by bus all while minimizing their carbon footprint.”
The first step for Michael was to gather information. He and a friend took trips to popular tourist spots documenting everything along the way. They took detailed notes about mileage, elapsed time, road conditions, locations of bike shops and bike-friendly stores as well as pictures and video.
Once he had all of the information, he needed a way to get it out to the public. Michael is now working with a prominent Chilean bike organization, Bicicultura, to get the information disseminated through their website.
Back at Middlebury, Michael is planning to pass this project on to new a leader who will continue documenting new trips and grow the project into a self-sustaining organization. Michael’s goal is for the organization to become a reliable and well known source of biking information for Chilean tourism. Michael will graduate this December and is still deciding where his next adventure will be. Where ever he lands, he plans to continue working toward a sustainable future.
In 2011-12, the Elks National Foundation allocated $2.296 million to fund the Most Valuable Student Scholarships. For more information about the Most Valuable Student scholarship program, including eligibility and deadlines, please visit www.elks.org/enf/scholars.