Hendersonville Sister Cities Awards $4,000 in Youth Travel Scholarships

June 18, 2019

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (June 18, 2019) – Hendersonville Sister Cities is awarding a total of $4,000 to five local students through its annual “Hendersonville Student Ambassador” Travel Scholarship. Members of the second annual cohort of Hendersonville Student Ambassadors will be living and learning in Japan, Jordan, Costa Rica, and Spain throughout the 2019 Summer, 2019 Fall, and 2020 Spring semesters.


Peyton Upchurch, 19, double-majoring in Pre-law Political Science and Spanish at UNC–Greensboro, is currently spending 3 weeks this summer in Costa Rica through UNCG’s School of Health and Human Sciences and in cooperation with the Centro Panamericano de Idiomas (CPI). Through the language and culture immersion program, Peyton will be studying and communicating almost entirely in Spanish – both in class and at home with her host family. Peyton grew up in Fletcher, and graduated from North Henderson High in 2018.


Skylar Smith, 20, double-majoring in Political Science and Global Studies and minoring in Spanish at UNC–Chapel Hill, will be furthering her language studies this summer through UNC’s 6-week Spanish for Business program in Sevilla, Spain. Skylar has lived in Henderson County all her life, and graduated from West Henderson High in 2017.


Alex Ramirez, 19, is double-majoring in Human Development & Family Studies and Education at UNC–Chapel Hill and is enrolled in Master of Arts in Teaching graduate level courses through the Pre-MAT program, with goals of earning a Ph.D. in education. Alex will further his education studies abroad in the fall, spending the full 2019 Fall semester in Nagoya, Japan at Nanzan University studying Japanese and observing education practices in the Eastern culture. Alex is a first-generation North Carolinian raised in Hendersonville, and a first-generation college student, after having graduated from Henderson County Early College in 2017.


Mohammed Khalafalla, 19, is an International Business major at UNC–Greensboro looking forward to a career in international affairs and/or politics, with a keen interest in Japan and its history and culture. To better understand the country’s economic role in the global economy and its relationship with the United States, Mohammed will spend the full 2019-20 academic year at Okayama University in Japan. Originally from Egypt, Mohammed was raised in Hendersonville and graduated from Hendersonville High in 2018.


Maria Morava, 21, is double-majoring in Journalism and Global Studies at UNC–Chapel Hill, and will spend the Fall 2019 semester in Jordan studying the regional refugee crisis and humanitarian response through the SIT Jordan: Refugees, Health & Humanitarian Action program. After graduating from East Henderson High in 2015, Maria apprenticed at an NGO in Senegal with Global Citizen before interning the organization in India. Maria’s international experience has informed her desire to pursue a career in international journalism, on which she’ll conduct an independent field research project in Jordan.


More than a dozen students in high school, community college, and four-year universities applied for the 2019 “Hendersonville Student Ambassador” Travel Scholarship. In awarding the final recipients, consideration was given but not limited to: student’s financial need, foreign language immersion, study abroad programs’ alignment with/support of stated academic or career goals, program location, and individual’s international experience.


As part of their scholarship recipient agreement, each “Hendersonville Student Ambassador” will provide video, photo, and/or written updates throughout their travel, which will be shared with the public on Hendersonville Sister Cities’ Facebook page and website.


Upon returning from their travels, each scholarship recipient will also deliver a community presentation through Hendersonville Sister Cities’ Speaker Series, to share how studying abroad and cultural immersion impacted their academic and personal lives, and to encourage others to make international connections.


About the “Hendersonville Student Ambassador” Travel Scholarship

Created in November 2017, the scholarship was designed to provide assistance to local students and facilitate the exchange of ideas and culture globally, and to foster awareness and appreciation of international relations among Henderson County youth. Scholarships can be awarded for Spring, Summer, or Fall semester travel, and are open to students with residency in Henderson County who are in the process of applying to or have been accepted for a study abroad, internship, or work study program. To donate to the “Hendersonville Student Ambassador” fund, or to learn more about Hendersonville Sister Cities, visit http://www.hendersonvillesistercities.com/.


About Hendersonville Sister Cities

Hendersonville Sister Cities is part of Sister Cities International – a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network that creates and strengthens partnerships between U.S. and international communities to increase global cooperation and understanding through education, exploration of other cultures, travel, and social interaction.

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