Valley Senior T.J. Foley’s Nonprofit Fills Global Gaps

T.J. Foley's senior headshot.Like many high school seniors, Valley High School student T.J. Foley is getting ready to graduate. Unlike most, he will graduate with experience as the founder and CEO of a non-profit organization, The Globus Project. Thanks in part to his work with The Globus Project, Foley has been awarded a four-year, full-tuition scholarship by The Bryan Cameron Education Foundation: one of the largest standalone academic scholarships ever received by a Valley student.

Despite all evidence, Foley insists he is an average teenager.

“There’s nothing extraordinary about me,” he said. “I just had an opportunity and did my best to take advantage of it.”

That opportunity came when representatives from Central and South America visited the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council (SIYAC) in October 2015. SIYAC is a policy advising organization of young adults from across the state. Foley was the council’s executive chair at the time. A representative for Guillermo Gallegos, president of the El Salvadoran Legislature, approached Foley to write a proposal calling for a similar youth council in El Salvador.

Three people hold up Foley's plan after presenting it to El Salvador's legislature in November 2015.

Foley’s plan is presented to El Salvador’s legislature.

The proposal was presented to the legislature in November 2015 but just started progressing in January 2017. With the familiarity of a politician three times his age, Foley acknowledged that everything in politics takes its own time, and he is willing to wait for the support he needs.

“One person doing something—no matter how grand—won’t be able to be successful if people don’t get involved and follow it,” he said.

Foley formally started The Globus Project with a friend from SIYAC in fall 2016, making it his capstone project at Valley High School. Always interested in politics and history, Foley’s focus on international connections was fostered by his ninth-grade social studies class at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School.

Foley now works with contacts in countries including Cuba, Taiwan, and Kosovo. He hopes to travel to Cuba to help start a community garden he proposed, which is still seeking funding. He even has a world map on his wall, covered by sticky notes marking connections and potential target areas.

“In a world increasingly connected by technology, by travel, by trade, problems no longer stop at international borders,” he said.

Logo for The Globus Project, T.J. Foley's non-profit organization.That realization led to two of The Globus Project’s main goals: to connect infrastructures across international divides and get young adults excited about and engaged in social change. Foley is determined to provide opportunities for people his own age to discuss their ideas about removing the obstacles they face when pursuing success.

“(People are) responsible for their own success,” Foley said. “They have to have the freedom to solve problems the way they need to.”

In the fall, Foley will begin studying international relations at Harvard University. The Globus Project will make the journey with him. In his eyes, The Globus Project is simply taking the initiative to fix problems, and he believes anyone—especially young people—can and should do the same.

“This is why I feel more hopeful than ever,” he said. “It’s not always going to be pretty or perfect, but as long as people continue to find pieces missing and continue to fill those gaps, I think the world will be OK.”