American Experience Foundation

Educating and Inspiring Students in our Nation’s Capital

American Experience Foundation
Helping to inspire the next generation of travelers and hospitality professionals.

The American Experience Foundation (AEF) enriches the lives of low-income students through inspirational travel experiences and educational opportunities to cultivate the next generation of hospitality industry professionals. AEF is the 501(c)(3) charity affiliated with Destination DC. Download an overview.

AEF Provides:

  • Free field trips for low-income 8th graders from Washington, DC and across the country;
  • Scholarships to qualified DC Hospitality Academy students;
  • Internships and mentorships to connect students to hospitality industry professionals.

“AEF gave me the ability to see outside of Southeast, the only place I’ve seen my whole life.” - Kayla, 8th Grade Student, Charles Hart Middle School

The hospitality community is a major economic driver in our city and employs 74,000 people in Washington, DC. AEF provides students an introduction to the wonder of travel and offers exposure to hospitality career paths.


Thank you to AEF partners for helping to provide these annual programs:

Backyard Bound

Many 8th grade students in DC do not have the chance to explore the historic and cultural attractions in their own backyard. AEF provides this opportunity for our local, low-income students to learn firsthand the importance of our nation’s capital through a customized one or two-day field trip. Transportation, meals, and guided tours are provided.

During the field trip, students will experience and learn about the Washington, DC hospitality industry and meet its leaders. Each Backyard Bound field trip has a retail value of over $10,000.

Rite of Passage

An educational experience like no other, for students across the country that cannot access this important milestone travel experience due to lack of resources or school budget cuts. This “Rite of Passage” brings history books to life, providing a three to four-day customized itinerary of DC’s historical and cultural icons. Transportation, overnight accommodations, and meals are provided.

During the field trip, students will experience and learn about the Washington, DC hospitality industry and meet its leaders. Each Rite of Passage field trip has a retail value of over $30,000.

Hospitality Academy Scholarships

AEF continues to serve students in high school through its scholarship program. Each spring, AEF provides scholarships to high school seniors or graduates from the DC hospitality academies located within Ballou High School, Columbia Heights Education Campus and Woodrow Wilson High School to students pursuing higher education to attain careers in the hospitality industry.

AEF scholarship recipients are also given the opportunity to intern at Destination DC or one of its member organizations, and to be mentored by a hospitality industry professional throughout their academic and professional life. Each scholarship winner receives $2,500 directly payable to their college or higher education program.


Contact lisa.waldschmitt [at] (Lisa Waldschmitt), Foundation Associate, to learn how to get involved with AEF. You can provide an experience for an 8th grade field trip, host a DCPS intern at your business, attend our July 4th fundraiser, or simply make a donation to support AEF programs.


On the Fourth of July each year, AEF hosts an invitation-only party at an exclusive Washington, DC venue with a view of the city and fireworks on the National Mall. The event raises over $65,000 annually for AEF programs. Purchase your tickets now!

AEF accepts tax-deductible donations from individuals, businesses, organizations, and other foundations.

“Today was a great day because I got to see things I’d never seen before in DC.” - Makiyah, 8th Grade Student, Kelly Miller Middle School

To learn more, please contact our Foundation Associate, Lisa Waldschmitt.

Contact Lisa Waldschmitt