Celebrating Chelsea

10 years after Chelsea Detrick '07 died of cancer, her father is making sure her legacy is not forgotten.

The landmarks and hairstyles vary, but Chelsea Detrick’s smile stays the same. The images, part of a memorial slideshow made by her family after cancer took her life, show Chelsea in New York City, by the Eiffel Tower, floating on a river in Thailand. Exploring the world with her father, Glenn, was a huge part of her life and now, 10 years after her death, Glenn is making sure that the world continues to celebrate Chelsea.

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Glenn fondly remembers the first international trip he took with Chelsea, then 14, and her little sister, Liza. When they arrived in Paris, he handed Chelsea the subway map and asked her to figure out how to get to the hotel. Although she was initially baffled, after a few days in Paris she would maneuver around the city easily. “Travel is both interesting and developmental. My daughters have traveled to learn and experience other cultures but also to help them get a sense of what they can handle,” Glenn says.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Chelsea came to Elon in 2003 and earned a degree in psychology. While at Elon, she continued to embrace traveling and spent a semester abroad in London. Glenn reflects on her independence and fearlessness with pride. “Although she was introverted, she still went to London on her own and loved the experience,” he says. “I felt good about that because I know it was challenging. She easily could have chosen not to go. But she did it.”

Chelsea Detrick ’07

After her graduation in 2007, Glenn and Chelsea drove cross country from Elon to Seattle, her new home. Neither would’ve guessed at the time, but it was the final trip the longtime travel partners took together. Chelsea was diagnosed with cancer the following year and passed away in April of 2009. “As I was dealing with the grief,” Glenn says, “I felt that I could be depressed, or I could work to guide the future in a positive way. I wanted to create something constructive and useful in her memory.”

Chelsea loved her time at Webster Groves High School, so Glenn’s first project in her honor was creating an experiential learning center there. Through the school’s Chelsea Detrick Experiential Learning Center, students get academic credit and support for programming like job shadowing, travel, service and internships. The center also offers scholarships for a graduating senior heading to college. Nine years ago, the scholarship program awarded its first scholarship to Melissa Bodkin, who teaches art at a St. Louis middle school.

Although the funding was certainly helpful, Melissa appreciates the recognition the most. She was planning to attend art school and felt the scholarship helped confirm her choice. The Chelsea Scholarship is awarded to a female student who is a high achiever and respected by her teachers and peers but who may be overlooked for other scholarships. Melissa and Glenn remain connected, and Glenn recently attended an art show featuring her students’ work. “He’s always been very supportive and interested in what I’m doing, wanting to help out any way he can,” she says.

There’s a second Chelsea Center in Kathmandu, Nepal, housed within the Nepal Orphans Home. It opened in 2013 and was expanded into a separate building and renamed the Chelsea Education and Community Center in 2017. The center is an important community resource, offering training for the children who live there as well as free language, computer and math courses for local women. Glenn participated in an awards ceremony at the school and presented a 72-year-old woman with the inspiration award. She takes a variety of classes at the center six days a week, embracing the opportunity to grow and learn. “Our tagline is ‘Educate, Engage and Empower,’ and it was amazing to see all of the energy and enthusiasm for learning in these women, from 25 years old to 72. It’s quite a place,” he adds.

Chelsea’s legacy also reaches to Burkina Faso, where Glenn sponsors the Chelsea Scholarship. It covers the school fees for nine rural children, who would be unable to attend school otherwise. It’s just the sort of thing Chelsea would have loved. “Chelsea didn’t get to live a long life,” Glenn says. “But because she lived, there are people on three continents getting opportunities that they wouldn’t have had. I think she’d be happy that there is good being done in her name.”