This summer, the lives of twenty local students will be forever transformed. In late June, they will travel all over the world to experience firsthand the daily lives of Koreans, Italians, South Africans, Peruvians, and fourteen other cultures. 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 immerse themselves in the joys and challenges of living in a foreign country.
This marks the ninth 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 individuals, the Council is sending its largest group of Scholars, representing sixteen different high schools, to seventeen different countries.
This group of Scholars is also among the most diverse in program history. Charles Hickerson, one of seven African American males who will be traveling abroad this summer, is excited to experience life in another country. “This program opens a door for students like me who have only been able to ‘travel’ through books, magazines, and the internet,” says Hickerson, a junior at Propel Andrew Street High School, who will explore Italy for five weeks. “Chances like this do not come often and I do not take this for granted.”
Jacalyn Sharp, a junior at Pittsburgh Sci Tech 6-12, will spend four weeks in Scotland fulfilling her lifelong dream of traveling there and putting her Gaelic language skills to the test. “It is amazing that my dream is actually going to come true,” enthuses Sharp. “This is an opportunity unlike any other. For a lack of better words, it’s like floating on a cloud,” she says.
Providing international travel experiences for students who would not otherwise have the opportunity is the guiding principle behind the Council’s Global Travel Scholarship Program. “Today’s students will enter a globally diverse workforce in which it will be essential to communicate cross-culturally,” notes Dr. Steven E. Sokol, President and CEO of the Council. “Providing young people with an opportunity to develop intercultural skills at such a critical age is a key benefit 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.”
Some of the Scholars have already grasped the significance of their upcoming adventures. “Becoming a Global Travel Scholar will be a life-altering experience,” explains Kara Jones, a junior at South Side Area High School who will be participating in a travel intensive program in China for four weeks. “This trip will expand my comfort zone and help me establish relationships with my host family and other people I will meet.”
In addition to the lifelong connections the Scholars will make this summer, they will also learn quite a bit about themselves. David A. Murdoch, former Chair of the Council’s Board of Directors and Chair Emeritus of World Learning (the parent organization of The Experiment in International Living), was a driving force behind the implementation of the Global Travel Scholarship Program in Pittsburgh. “The Experiment provides a true understanding of the world in which we live, and provides the necessary tools to cope with adversity,” notes Mr. Murdoch. “Experimenters come back with a confidence and maturity that only an opportunity like this could provide.”
Sadik Roberts, a junior at Pittsburgh Obama who will experience the vibrancy of West African culture for five weeks in Ghana, is eager to step out of his comfort zone and grow as a person. “This is a chance to fly across the world, visit a distant land, learn about ancient cultures, and find the truth within myself.”
Timothy Joy, a junior at Ambridge Area High School, can barely contain his excitement about all the new experiences that await him in Thailand. “This journey will be an adventure but I see it as more than a vacation,” he says. “I see it as an outstanding learning and growing experience,” notes Joy. “Along this journey, I hope to find myself, experience things I never have, and most importantly, immerse myself in a new culture.”
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 local host families, many of whom speak little or no English. “The homestay portion of the program is of greatest concern to the Scholars each year,” explains Murdoch. “They are worried about the language barrier and about adjusting to the family’s daily routine. Yet, when they return, the Scholars single out the homestay as the highlight of the entire summer,” he says with a smile.
Reflecting on her upcoming trip to France, Heaven Brown, a junior at Cornell High School, displays wisdom beyond her years when she says, “This experience changes people’s lives in the blink of an eye. I can’t control the gut-dwelling feeling that builds up inside me knowing it will be mine.”
Upon return, each Scholar will be responsible for writing a reflective essay; sharing their experiences with friends, family, teachers, staff, and funders at the Welcome Home Session; conducting at least two school or community presentations; and designing a globally-themed project to engage their peers in international affairs issues.
More details about the program, including names, schools and destinations of the 2012 Scholars; a list of program supporters; and information about the organizations can be found after the jump.
World Affairs Council Global Travel Scholars for 2012
Heaven Brown, Cornell High School – France
Shelby Campbell, Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 – Korea
Corrine Dowlin, Western Beaver High School – Spain
Jacob Gruber, Baldwin High School – France
Corey Hairston, Pittsburgh Brashear High School – United Kingdom
Charles Hickerson, Propel Andrew Street High School – Italy
Brana Hill, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 – Morocco
Kara Jones, South Side Area High School – China
Timothy Joy, Ambridge Area High School – Thailand
Ramona Luster, Fort Cherry High School – Spain
Rhiannon Martin, Karns City Area High School – New Zealand
Jordan Montgomery, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 – South Africa
Sadik Roberts, Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 – Ghana
Heidi Schmidt, Chartiers Valley High School – Costa Rica
Jacalyn Sharp, Pittsburgh Sci Tech 6-12 – Scotland
Ian Snyder, Propel Andrew Street High School – Botswana
Chad Wallace, Shady Side Academy – Spain
David Watkins, Trinity Christian School – Peru
Terrell Williams, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 – Chile
Danielle Yushinski, Woodland Hills High School – Belize
Supporters of the 2012 Global Travel Scholarship Program include:
Eden Hall Foundation
Roger and Brenda Gibson Family Foundation
The Heinz Endowments
Elsie H. Hillman Foundation
Roy A. Hunt 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, 91 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.
About the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh
The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting a deeper understanding of key contemporary international issues throughout Western Pennsylvania. Established 80 years ago, in 1931, the Council is committed to informing opinion leaders and decision-makers about developments around the world as they unfold – and to educating them about the relevance of such developments to the region.
The Council also has a special focus on secondary schools throughout the region, and works to give students and teachers a more nuanced understanding of the global issues of our time. Each year the Council organizes and hosts over 100 events focused on the foreign policy challenges which lie ahead for the successor generation. These events are tailored to a student audience, and reach a combined total of over 11,000 students and teachers in nearly 300 area schools. As a result of these activities – and through the use of modern technology – students in Western Pennsylvania have had the opportunity to engage each other as well as their counterparts in secondary schools from as far away as Brazil, Italy, the Republic of Georgia, South Africa, and Taiwan.
For more information about the Council, visit www.worldpittsburgh.org.
About the Experiment in International Living
The Experiment in International Living’s mission is to create meaningful, dynamic experiences for students eager to challenge themselves and engage their sense of global citizenry. Each year, The Experiment sends nearly 1,000 high school students to more than 25 countries around the world, offering hands-on international travel and exploration. For more information about The Experiment in International Living, visit www.experimentinternational.org.