Council Sending (Record) 18 High School Students Overseas This SummerPosted: April 29, 2011
PITTSBURGH, PA –The lives of eighteen area students are about to get a lot more exciting. In just two months’ time, the students will be jetting off to all corners of the world to immerse themselves in the daily lives of Australians, Germans, Spaniards, Turks, Thai, Costa Ricans, and nine other native populations. These high school juniors – selected as Global Travel Scholars by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh – will leave behind friends, family, and the familiar comforts of Western Pennsylvania to discover first-hand the joys and challenges of living in a foreign country.
This marks the eighth year that the Council, in partnership with The Experiment in International Living, has provided this unique opportunity to local students. Through the generous financial support of regional foundations, corporations, and others, the Council is sending its largest and most diverse group of Scholars, representing eleven different high schools, to fifteen different countries.
Maston Casto, a junior at Pittsburgh Carrick High School, will be spending four weeks in Chile exploring some of the country’s most picturesque and culturally-varied regions. He is excited about the opportunity to put his high school Spanish to the test. “The idea of practicing the knowledge and vocabulary I have accumulated with native speakers thrills me,” enthuses Casto. “The fact that I won’t be able to slip into English when I experience problems communicating should make each day more interesting and memorable,” he notes.
Read more about the Scholars, the Global Travel Scholarship program, and those who make it possible, after the jump:
Shay Park is excited about seeing for herself what life is really like in another country. “I have only had the chance to see, learn, and understand about other countries through books I read and classes I have taken in school,” says Park, who will be exploring Japan for the month of July. “Meeting other kids my age and seeing the differences and similarities will be of great interest to me.”
Giving students like Casto and Park an opportunity to expand their horizons is the guiding principle behind the Council’s Global Travel Scholarship Program. “We live in an environment which is multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual,” notes Steven E. Sokol, President and CEO of the Council. “Providing teenagers with an opportunity to develop intercultural skills at such a young age is one of the key benefits of our Program,” says Sokol. “Our Scholars return to Pittsburgh as true ‘global citizens,’ with a much greater capacity to understand and think critically about their world,” he notes.
Some of the Scholars have already grasped the significance of their upcoming adventures. “Becoming a Global Travel Scholar is about more than the opportunity to travel,” explains John Connolly, a junior at Riverview High School who will be participating in a community service program in Argentina for four weeks. “It is about the chance to understand a whole different way of life and learning, and learning how to translate that into my own cultural consciousness.”
If past experience is any guide, the Scholars will also learn quite a bit about themselves this summer. David A. Murdoch, current Chair of the Council’s Board of Directors and Chair Emeritus of World Learning (the parent organization of The Experiment in International Living), was instrumental in implementing the Global Travel Scholarship Program in Pittsburgh. “Not only does The Experiment provide a real understanding of the world in which we live,” notes Mr. Murdoch, “but it equips a person on how to cope with difference and adversity and builds confidence and courage in its participants.”
Teireik Williams, a junior at Pittsburgh CAPA, who will be learning about the history and culture of Italy for five weeks, is eager to step out of his comfort zone and grow as a person. “I know that it will challenge me to learn more about myself; challenge me to think about the things I take for granted; the things that I do with so much ease, not really thinking that someone somewhere else might not have that same capability.”
Sarah Amick, a junior at Northgate High School, can barely contain her excitement about all the new experiences that await her in China. “I want to see what I’m made of. I want to see what the rest of the world is made of,” she says. “The challenge will be to make this experience an integral part of my growth and my life,” notes Amick. “I want it to change the way I view and fit into the world.”
Perhaps no aspect of their time abroad will challenge the Scholars more – and have a greater impact on their personal and intercultural growth – than the time they will spend living with a local host family, many of whom speak little or no English. “The homestay is the one feature of the Program that most concerns the Scholars each year,” explains Murdoch. “They are worried about being able to communicate with their host parents; about fitting in with the family’s daily routine; about not causing offense to the family. And every year, when they return, the Scholars single out the homestay as the best part of the entire summer,” he says with a smile.
Reflecting on her upcoming trip to South Africa, Breean Gilbert, a junior at Ambridge High School, displays wisdom beyond her years when she says: “This entire program shows young adults that the best opportunities in life come when you are willing to take risks and live life to its fullest potential.”
World Affairs Council Global Travel Scholars for 2011
Sarah Amick, Northgate High School – China
Rachel Barone, Pittsburgh Brashear High School – Italy
Maston Casto – Pittsburgh Carrick High School – Chile
John Connolly, Riverview Jr./Sr. High School – Argentina
LaQuan Deen, Propel Andrew Street High School – China
JoAnna Dehler, Pittsburgh Carrick High School – Costa Rica
Sarah Doyle, Pittsburgh Carrick High School – Germany
Breean Gilbert, Ambridge Area High School – South Africa
Grace Gongaware, Kiski Area High School – Thailand
Anthony Hrubetz, Propel Andrew Street High School – Australia
Jade Mathis, Propel Andrew Street High School – United Kingdom
Brian Mugo, Pittsburgh Brashear High School – Korea
Shay Park, Pittsburgh Allderdice High School – Japan
Rachel Simmons, Fort Cherry High School – France
Indya Stewart, Wilkinsburg High School – Spain
Na’Jae Tate, Pittsburgh Carrick High School – France
Teireik Williams, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 – Italy
Rachelle Zehnder, Ambridge Area High School – Turkey
Supporters of the 2011 Global Travel Scholarship Program include:
Eden Hall Foundation
The European Union
Roger and Brenda Gibson Family Foundation
The Heinz Endowments
Elsie H. Hillman Foundation
Roy A. Hunt Foundation
PPG Industries Foundation
Catharine M. and John T. Ryan III
About the Global Travel Scholarship Program
The Council launched its Global Travel Scholarship Program in 2004. Since its inception, 71 area students have been given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of a foreign country, an experience that many of these students might not have otherwise had. The Scholarships awarded by the Council cover the full cost of The Experiment’s programs. The Council also pays for each student to obtain a passport.
The Council focuses on recruiting Scholars from city schools, suburban communities hit hard by the loss of the steel industry, and rural areas. The Council works closely with teachers and after-school programs in these districts, soliciting nominations of students whom the teachers and mentors believe are mature enough to handle the cross-cultural nature of the Program. Those students who advance to the final round are interviewed by the Council’s Selection Committee.
Each Scholar spends three to five weeks in their designated country. Depending on the program and country selected, the Scholars have an opportunity to participate in community service projects, language training, regional exploration, outdoor adventure, or the Arts. All of the Scholars live with a local family for part of their time abroad.