New academic programs give students head start in college

— For Woodlawn High School students Morgan Tate and Tatyana Brown, their academic future looks promising thanks to a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap, high school students have a greater opportunity to attend college and experience new opportunities.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program was founded more than three decades ago with one teacher in one classroom. Today, the program has favorably impacted over 1.2 million students in 44 states and 16 countries/territories.

The AVID program is dedicated to implementing research‐based strategies and curriculum to educational institutions. Annually, the programs provides more than 30,000 educators with training and methodologies that develop students’ critical thinking, literacy and math skills.

Working in conjunction with AVID, the Early College Program (ECP) is a magnet program offered to Baltimore County Public School students entering 9th grade during the 2017-2018 school year.

Endorsed by Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent S. Dallas Dance, ECP is a partnership with the Community College of Baltimore County. ECP allows students to participate in high school and college courses, simultaneously. Students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma, an associate’s degree or up to 60 credits towards a Bachelor’s degree, tuition free.

The Early College Program (ECP) begins its first cohort Fall 2017 at Woodlawn High School and is the first of its kind across the country, according to Principal Georgina Aye.

Woodlawn High School has 220 students enrolled in the AVID program, and plans to welcome 125 new freshmen into the early college program in the 2017-2018 school year.

To date, over 1,000 students have successfully completed the AVID college program at Woodlawn High. Statistics indicate that 80 percent of those students have pursued their education at four-year schools and other programs.

Sophomore Morgan Tate and AVID student president Tatyana Brown both agreed that the AVID program has created a “family-like environment” for them.

“There is no doubt in my mind that I will be college ready when I graduate from Woodlawn High School,” said Brown, Class of 2017.

Brown said the AVID strategies she learned has helped her with organizational skills and academic success.

According to the Early College High School Initiative Impact Study, 86 percent of the students who participated in [a similar] program graduated from high school compared to 81 percent of other students. The study also revealed that two years past high school, 25 percent of the students had earned a college degree compared to only five percent of other students.

Tasked with empowering students to become college ready, Stephanie Little, the AVID coordinator at Woodlawn High School says some of the students never knew college was an option for them. Little also says the program allows the students to have greater opportunities for academic success.

“I believe programs like AVID and the Early College Program create gateways to success,” said Principal Aye. “Our students need exposure to this vast world of opportunities and options.”

Many of the students attending Woodlawn High School will be the first generation to attend college.

“This is exciting because it creates a cultural, instructional and climactic shift,” said Aye.

Randallstown High School Speaker Series Inspires Students

— Imparting knowledge, wisdom and understanding into the minds of teenagers is an ongoing mission and all in a day’s work for Maryland Delegate Antonio Hayes (D-District 40), who engaged 100 students from Randallstown High School in a career-focused dialogue as part of the school’s monthly speaker series on December 21, 2016.

Imani Estrada, a 12th grade student at the Baltimore County School says she has attended about 10 speaking events since her freshman year. Motivated to excel in her academics, social life and to pursue a career in biology and medicine, Estrada says she is grateful for the experiences she has gained since attending Randallstown High.

Maryland State Delegate Antonio L. Hayes from the 40th legislative district (center) with Randallstown High School  students Imani Estrada (left) and Tywon Cox (right). Delegate Hayes addressed 100 Randallstown High students on December 21, 2016 as part of the school’s monthly speaker series.

Courtesy Photo

Maryland State Delegate Antonio L. Hayes from the 40th legislative district (center) with Randallstown High School students Imani Estrada (left) and Tywon Cox (right). Delegate Hayes addressed 100 Randallstown High students on December 21, 2016 as part of the school’s monthly speaker series.

The purpose of the monthly speaker series is to highlight positive student behavior and transform a favorable thought process in others. According to Mike Thompson, coordinator for the Positive Behavior Intervention Support program at Randallstown High School, speakers are strategically identified and selected to interact with the students.

Senator Bobby Zirkin (D-District 11), Farajii Muhammad, radio show host for Morgan’s State University’s WEAA FM, are among the local entrepreneurs and notables who’ve participated in the series.

Delegate Hayes, 39, shared personal accounts about being raised by his grandmother in West Baltimore. The Frostburg State University alumni is now shepherding a piece of legislation to secure healthy vending machines in schools.

“Being an elected official is about service, not about the pay,” said Hayes, who disclosed that $45,000 was the average annual salary for his role as an elected official.

Hayes also discussed topics from college preparation, overcoming adversity and peer pressure to keeping up with the latest fashion trends and technological advances.

“You may not have everything you want, but make the best of what you have,” he said.

Tywon Cox, an 11th grader has attended the speaker series since his freshman year and believes the program has been beneficial to his academic progress.

“The speaker series has inspired me to make positive changes in my academics and social life, too,” said Cox, who struggled through middle school but now has aspirations to attend North Carolina A&T, Clark Atlanta University or New York University after graduation. “Starting off rough doesn’t mean you have to stay there.”

Cox was able to relate to the speakers’ personal testimonies and he believes students at other schools would benefit from a speaker series as well.

“It’s [never] too late to make a change for the better,” he said.

DMV Warriors top American Basketball Association, education charts

— The American Basketball Association (ABA) released its power rankings and the DMW Warriors outpaced 25 other national teams to shine as the leader of the pack. Demonstrating their athleticism on the court is part of the job however, off the court they excel academically.

Approximately 90 percent of the team have graduated from college, according to Andre Vaughn, owner of the DMV Warriors.

The DMV Warriors, based in Gwynn Oak, Maryland, is a ABA professional basketball team sponsored by Dwayne Wade ( of the Chicago Bulls.

The players’ hometowns range from New York City, Florida, Virginia and Maryland. All of the members of the 11-member team have traveled the world to sharpen their skills, strengthen their business acumen and to experience other cultures.

Dylon Cormier earned his degree in public relations from Loyola College. Cormier traveled to the Netherlands for 10 months to hone his athletic prowess. Twenty-four hours prior to the first game, Cormier was notified that he would be part of the team’s starting line opening night.

Andrew Washington participated in a tournament in the Ukraine and returned to the United States as the leading contender, in addition to winning an undisclosed profit.

Baltimore native, Brian Smith earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice from Widener University and a Master’s degree in criminal law from Kaplan University. He graduated from Overlea High School in Baltimore County.

As part of the starting line-up for the DMV Warriors, Smith traveled to China for a year to play basketball. As an impact player on the court, the point guard encourages high school and college players to “keep your head in the books.” As young athletes develop their athletic abilities, Smith says they should “shop their skills and talents.”

According to Frank Jones, president of the DMV Warriors there are three key virtues that make a quality player for the DMW Warriors—integrity, humility and a good attitude. Jones is responsible for scouting for new talent, player development and developing community relationships.

In light of the peaceful protest of professional athletes across the country, “taking a knee” during the National Anthem at games, Jones says the organization would support a player’s position.

“We understand what’s going on and will not turn a blind-eye to it,” said Jones.

At the start of the October 29, 2016 game, no player had expressed their intent to protest. Every player remained standing during the singing of the National Anthem but during the singing of the National Anthem on December 11, 2016, shooting guard Lowell Ulmer took a knee in silent protest.

Head coach for the DMV Warriors is Kevin English and Eric King, Darrin Baker and Sean Brown serve as assistant coaches.

The DMV Warriors home games are played at Woodlawn High School located at 1801 Woodlawn Drive in Woodlawn, Maryland. For game dates and times or ticket information, visit:

Woodlawn High School leading the way through STEM

As industries continue to thrive in the areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), schools around the region are actively implementing programs to prepare students for high-growth career fields.

Woodlawn High School seniors, Elijah Dowell and T’Yona Dobbins, members of the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering Program, are gaining greater insight and problem-solving skills to set them on a trajectory for a steady career and high incomes.

The Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Engineering program at Woodlawn High School introduces students to STEM disciplines, specifically engineering and engineering technology. The program is designed to empower students to step into the role of an engineer and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

“When taking the civil engineering course, we built houses on the computer. We also surveyed the land to ensure the house could be built and the land could hold a sturdy structure,” said Dobbins. Dobbins aspires to further her education and study civil engineering after graduating high school.

Dobbins and Dowell were impressed with the quantity and quality of hands-on activities and educational field trips that gave them greater exposure to science and engineering.

While participating in the program, students create, simulate, and test scientific and engineering projects. The students also participate in mentorship programs with engineers, researchers, and corporate affiliates.

The first level course, Introduction to Engineering Design, prepares students to dig deep into the engineering design process, applying math, science, and engineering standards to hands-on projects like designing a new toy or improving an existing product. The second level class, Principles of Engineering, allows students to explore a broad range of engineering topics including mechanisms, strength of structure and materials, and automation, and then they apply what they know to take on challenges like designing a self-powered car.

Students in their junior year take two specialty courses, Digital Electronics and Civil Engineering and Architecture, held exclusively at the high school. Students learn aspects of development and building and site design. Then they apply what they’ve learned to design a commercial building.

Through digital electronics the students explore the foundations of computing by engaging in circuit design processes to create combinational logic and sequential logic (memory) as electrical engineers. Similar to what is used in the music industry. The capstone course, engineering design and development, is where students identify a real-world challenge. The students then research, design, and test a solution, ultimately presenting their unique solutions to a panel of professional engineers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, civil engineer jobs are projected to grow to by 8 percent from 2014 to 2024. The need for repairs to roadways, bridges, building and levees will increase as the infractures deteriorates, which explains the importance of STEM education.

An entry-level civil engineering position with a bachelor’s degree had a median annual salary of $82,220. That was in May 2015.

In identifying why STEM education is a national priority, the Council of Foreign Relations asserts that 60 percent of US employers are having difficulties finding qualified workers to fill vacancies at their companies.

In spite of the increasing demand, not all schools consider STEM an educational priority. Arlington Baptist Elementary School, a tuition-based program on Rolling Road in Baltimore County didn’t provide a STEM curriculum or afterschool program during the 2014-2015 school year. And it only provided one robotics elective during the 2015-2016.

Conversely, there are other schools who believe it is essential to a student’s educational maturation and to be globally competitive. Mays Woodson Christian Early Learning Center in Windsor Mill implemented components of STEM into its curriculum this school year, starting as young as two years old.

In a report produced by the STEM Education Coalition in Washington, DC, Executive Director James Brown asserts, “The future of the economy is in STEM.”

Dobbins says she would recommend STEM programs to elementary and middle school students because of the hands-on activities and career preparation. “If you like designing and building new things, science and electricity, this program is for you,” said Dobbins. She credits the program for increasing her interest in civil engineering and college aspirations.

As the school year progresses, Dobbins and Dowell will continue to learn about the engineering design process along with 89 other student members who participate in the PLTW Engineering Program.

“We learn skills that are applicable in the work place,” said Dowell. “Even if we don’t go into the engineering field, we are still preparing for life after high school.”

Photo: T’Yona Dobbins (left) and Elijah Dowell (right) learn about the engineering design process during a session of Project Lead the Way Engineering Program, which is part of Woodlawn High School’s STEM curriculum.

Baltimore County Public School welcomes new principal

Georgina Aye focuses on creating 21st century leaders

For many students living in Baltimore County, new school supplies, uniforms and shoes are the norm, however this year Woodlawn High School students will have one more new thing— a principal.

Georgina Aye (pronounced “A”) is the new principal at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County. On Monday, August 22, 2016, while standing at the entrance of the building, she welcomed 420 freshmen to their first day of high school.

“We’re going to work together to create 21st century leaders who are engaged in rigorous coursework and believe we have a civic duty to make our Woodlawn community a great place to live and go to school,” Aye said.

Aye believes that all students can succeed and will stop at nothing to provide equitable opportunities for student success. In spite of the negative comments the school’s reputation has endured over the years, Principal Aye and the administration are poised to make favorable changes by increasing graduation rates, college readiness and student attendance.

The new administration includes: ninth grade academy Assistant Principal James Gordon; tenth grade Assistant Principal Phil Popielski; eleventh grade Assistant Principal Jamel Jernigan and twelfth grade Assistant Principal Kelly Barr. Their goal is to prepare students to embrace a culture of excellence while focusing on the school’s motto, “Enter to Learn, Leave to Achieve.”

According to Aye, the teachers and the administration are commissioned to prepare students to leave Woodlawn High School ready for college or a career in a desired profession.

During back-to-school night, nearly 50 parents and guardians attended the “Meet and Greet” on August 18, 2016. Aye introduced new staff and highlighted the implementation of a new webinar for parents to increase communication and share class assignments, projects and school activities.

Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) President Ricardo Ramsey invited parents to join the organization and to become active members as well. It was emphasized that a successful partnership consisted of constant communication between the school and home. Parents were encouraged to continue to be supportive and remain optimistic for a successful school year.

“She [Principal Aye] seems like she’s grounded and will make some positive changes in the school,” said Dee White who has a son attending the school. “The things I’ve heard today, I pray will override the negative things that have happened in the past.”

Devita Porter, the parent of a 10th grader, is optimistic about the implementation of the new ideas and addressing safety issues that had once plagued the school in the past.

“I’m excited for the future generation,” Porter said. I’m not trying to give up hope now.”

Aye is a former advertising executive and television commercial producer. She decided to change careers and fulfill her desire to empower students. She believes that her advertising background has helped in selling ideas and creative concepts to high school students in Baltimore.

“The goal is to get the students to “buy-in” to the reality that academic excellence is possible,” she said.

“There is always a right time to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to making education exciting for students and adults,” said Aye. “Investing in a growth mindset with all stakeholders will have high impact results for the students, the school, and the community.”

Over the years, Aye has served in several educational capacities in the Baltimore City Public School System including as an English teacher, instructional coach, professional development coordinator and an administrator. She is experienced in a myriad of programs including CTE (career and technical education) and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). Aye is experienced on how to increase AP (advance placement) opportunities as well.

As an alumna of West Virginia University, she obtained advanced graduate degrees from Marshall University and John Hopkins University. Currently, she is in a doctoral program at University of Chicago, Concordia with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

Having completed research about the high school prior to becoming the principal, Aye commented that students and teachers are excelling in many areas. The administration’s mission is to dispel the myth and enhance the school’s image. She noted there will be opportunities for members of the community to visit the school and learn more about the students’ achievements.

For more information about Woodlawn High School, visit:

Former NFL player writes children’s book

Tavon Mason, a former National Football League wide receiver for the New York Jets hung up his cleats and embraced a new position. In stark contrast to his former position on the field, Mason is now the author of a children’s book.

Mason is also CEO and Founder of Tavon Mason Loves the Kids Foundation, which focuses on promoting health, physical fitness and education.

Mason’s first children’s book in cooperation with Ashlee Henderson titled, “Tavon Does it All,” debuted in December 2015. The book is now featured in 20 Enoch Pratt Free Libraries throughout Baltimore City. Already featured in the Towson Public Library, the book will be featured in all Baltimore County locations later this year.

Tavon Mason, a former National Football League wide receiver for the New York Jets hung up his cleats and embraced a new position. In stark contrast to his former position on the field, Mason is now the author of a children’s book.

Tavon Mason, a former National Football League wide receiver for the New York Jets hung up his cleats and embraced a new position. In stark contrast to his former position on the field, Mason is now the author of a children’s book.

The inspiring children’s story is a mix of fiction and non-fiction infused with autobiographical undertones. The main character is a third grader named Tavon who aspires to be a professional athlete. The story features a ‘talking’ report card and a pair of ‘talking’ slippers requesting to be donated to children who are in the hospital.

After retiring from two seasons in the NFL and one season with the Baltimore Mariners in the indoor league, Mason continued his quest to make an impact on the lives of youth and young adults across the region.

On and off the football field, Mason challenges others to reach their potential. “Dare to be great,” he said. During his book tour, Mason encourages children and adults to,“Believe, succeed and reach for the stars. Only you can stop your dreams from being real.”

The Baltimore native graduated from Woodlawn High School in 1998 and accepted a full athletic scholarship to attend the University of Virginia. Currently, he serves as an assistant football coach at Stevenson University and a para-educator with Baltimore County Public Schools.

This year, Mason has participated in a variety of community events including, the annual East Coast Slipper Drive, Liberty Parks and Recreation Sports Fit Day, Back to School Drive at Leonard Hicks Community Drive and the annual summer reading initiative with Baltimore City and Baltimore County libraries.

For more information about Tavon Mason, his foundation and his local appearances, visit:

Baltimore City youth gain career and life skills

School is back in session for students in Baltimore City and the surrounding counties. While some teenagers splashed in the pool and played basketball, there was a group of students who gained life skills, explored career opportunities and earned high school credits.

Eighty-five area youth successfully completed a seven-week internship program coordinated by the Y in Central Maryland New Horizons II summer initiative. The students were recognized during a closing ceremony at the Druid Hill location on July 29, 2016 in Baltimore City.

“This is exactly what I wanted to do this summer,” said Ciree Ballard, 15. “I learned new skills in television production during my internship and made money too.”

During the ceremony, Ciree introduced a video presentation that she and her peers were featured in. She was instrumental in writing, producing and editing the video that focused on the social injustices that plague many impoverished communities in Baltimore City.

The program was designed to encourage academic success, cultivate personal development and provide career-readiness opportunities for homeless youth between the ages of 14 and 19 from Baltimore City and Baltimore County. The students are considered homeless based on the Federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act’s definition of the term: “Individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”

The internships provided high school students with a combination of training and work experience for eight hours a day, five days a week. The activities included college campus tours, etiquette training, resume writing and portfolio building.

“Our goal is to provide cultural enrichment, life skills, financial literacy and college and career training,” said Derryck Fletcher, vice president of youth development for the Y in Central Maryland. “We’re hoping to break the cycle of poverty among our students.”

Fletcher says the program is intended to bridge the gap between where the students are today and their desires for a brighter future in life. As a youth, Fletcher says he was once homeless, based upon Federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act guidelines.

During the ceremony, eleventh grader Asia Yoon shared her personal testimony about her internship experience. “I enjoyed the program,” said Yoon who worked in a daycare center and helped 20 first and second graders increase their reading and comprehension skills and develop an

affinity for arts and crafts. Yoon also completed an online health education course for which she gained credit toward high school graduation.

“Over the course of the internship, I learned how to take constructive criticism that will help me in the long run, versus everyday criticism from others who may not have my best interest at heart,” she said. After graduation, Yoon plans to attend Johns Hopkins University and pursue a career as a neurosurgeon.

“We are poised to help our students create an action plan so that their dreams can become a reality,” said Fletcher. “The wonderful thing about our students is that they are very resilient.”

STEM showcase spotlights achievements of Baltimore City School students

With the advancements of overlapping disciplines— science, technology, engineering and mathematics— also known as STEM- has opened up exciting career fields for elementary school students.

Students from nine Baltimore City Public Schools participated in a STEM Showcase at Coppin State University on May 4, 2016. With over 50 different projects and nearly 800 attendees, the event celebrated the educational STEM achievements and student-driven projects during in-school lessons and after school programs.

Sponsored by STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES), a partnership between Baltimore City Public Schools and Johns Hopkins University, SABES is a five-year grant funded program that hopes to bridge the gap and improve educational outcomes for nine targeted schools: Arlington Elementary/Middle School, Barclay Elementary/Middle School, Dallas F. Nicholas Sr. Elementary School, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary/School, Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School (#215), Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School (#237), John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School, Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School and Pimlico Elementary/Middle School.

“We recognize the amount of time and support that’s required to spotlight the STEM projects of our SABES students, and we applaud their achievements,” said Alisha N. Sparks, Elementary School SABES Program Manager at Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering.

Fourth graders Ayana Colbert, Ellen Griffin and Krrish Strestha from Pimlico Elementary School presented their STEM projects— a rubber band powered car and a rocket foot launcher. They created their projects in an after school STEM program with the US Dream Academy. Ayana’s presentation highlighted the engineering design process. She simulated the steps that an aerospace engineer would take while designing a rocket and launching it. Ayana says this was her first time participating in the STEM Showcase and had a great time presenting to both adults and her peers.

Krrish and Ellen showcased their rubber band powered car. With a piece of cardboard, small paper plates and two rubber bands – they designed a car that worked! They discussed how force, created by the rubber bands made the car move. They both attended previous STEM Showcase activities and said they looked forward to attending more events. Both Ellen and Krrish are interested in studying engineering.

According to Sparks, the SABES staff and partners have been collaborating for the last six months to plan the annual SABES spring STEM Showcase which incorporated the nine partner schools from three communities— Greater Homewood, Park Heights and Greektown/Highlandtown. One of the organization’s goals is to expose the students to

STEM careers so that they are globally competitive.

The event organizers were pleased to see the knowledge base of the students and their level of confidence in presenting their STEM projects. “The SABES STEM Showcase is a visual reminder to our students that they can do anything they put their minds to,” said Sparks.

Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering partnered with several community organizations to coordinate the event: The Baltimore City Public Schools, BELL, Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore, Child First Authority, EBLO, Park Heights Renaissance, Southeast Community Development Corporation, Strong City Baltimore, US Dream Academy, and Village Learning Place.

Sparks says the STEM Showcase dispelled the myth that it’s ‘uncool’ to be smart.

“The SABES STEM Showcase shows students that everyone can succeed in STEM and bring innovative solutions to solve problems in their local communities,” said Sparks.

Young woman inspired to study law to effect change

It was the one college course, “Criminal Law: Theory and Practice,” which most sparked the interest of 23-year old Ashley N. Richardson, but the National Diversity Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair fueled her aspirations even more.

Hosted by Howard University School of Law, the conference attracted nearly 200 participants to the nation’s capital on April 1 and 2, 2016. The national outreach, networking and empowerment event was designed specifically for a diverse population of aspiring lawyers from across the country.

The National Diversity Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair offered attendees seminars in diversity leadership, coalition building and collaboration and cultural competency. The aspiring law students were granted access to a myriad of tools and strategies that would groom them to take on leadership roles in the area of diversity and inclusion. The attendees were also encouraged to utilize their law degrees in the continuance of service, advocacy and social justice.

“Everyone’s voice needs to be heard. When you have a voice, you have power,” said Richardson, who believes the pre-law conference is channel to build a network and gain resources. “This is an opportunity for all of us [conference attendees] to make a positive impact in the lives of others.”

Richardson graduated from Rutgers University with a double major in criminal justice and sociology and a minor in Africana Studies. She has been accepted to the Howard University School of Law and plans to attend in the Fall 2016.

Natalie Morales, a Northern Virginia native and a graduate of James Madison University also attended the conference says that the law is the foundation behind every concept, belief and movement.

“Our legal system is constantly evolving towards a doctrine that embodies that ‘All men are created equal’ but we still have economic and racial disparities on a global level. What inspires me to study law is that I will have the tools to efficiently combat the disparities that are not allowing our nation to move forward in an effective and thriving manner,” Morales said.

Participants had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with representatives from a variety of law schools interested in recruiting them. All of the pre-law programs recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion at American law schools and the legal profession.

The conference presented guest speeches by thought leaders, practicing lawyers and panel discussions led by professionals. The event connected students with law school admissions advisors. Participants also gained information about career success they otherwise might not received from websites and other forms of media.

The keynote address was delivered by the Honorable Arthur L. Burnett, a retired senior judge from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and currently, serves as the National Executive Director for the National American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc. Judge Bennett shared career highlights and interactions with Thurgood Marshall and James Madison Nabrit.

“The law is intertwined into every fiber of our existence, from education to healthcare, the food we eat and the water we drink,” Richardson said. “It is imperative that we are well-versed in the law, so that we can serve as ambassadors to effect change.”

Baltimore County student’s education enhanced by cultural immersion

The educational process varies and it has evolved over the years from chalkboards to smartboards and smartphones.

There are layers to the educational process and cultural immersion is at the top of the list. For Jasmine Parrish, a Baltimore County teenager, international travel has enhanced her perspective about education, countries, cultures and cuisines.

Parrish participated in the People to People International (PTPI) Program, which allowed her the opportunity to travel overseas.

The program creates cross-cultural connections through the process of educational immersion. The program is designed for citizens around the world. Youth and adults are engaged in a myriad of cultural experiences, cuisines and historical landmarks. They also have the opportunity to serve in diverse communities by volunteering and developing leadership skills.

During a 20-day cultural exploration, she traveled to France, Italy and Greece. She visited historic landmarks including the Athens Coliseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The cultural exploration gained her several stamps in her passport and an affinity for international travel.

“I highly recommend for people to travel abroad to get a greater appreciation of the world,” Parrish said.

Her first stop on the excursion was Greece. She learned how to prepare a traditional meal. Parrish visited the lost city of Pompeii, an ancient town located near Naples, Italy.

During her excursion, Parrish lived with an Italian family for three days to experience the culture, living conditions and the language. She recalled that the children in the family were familiar with American culture, music and language. The children speak English and are able to translate for their parents.

“Knowing some Spanish words helped me to comprehend and join in on the conversation when they spoke Italian,” said Parrish who has a working knowledge of Spanish and American Sign Language. “We already use our hands when we talk. Let’s make it mean something.”

A visit to the Eiffel Tower in France was one of the many highlights of the tour. Parrish and several others went to the top of the structure, which stands at 984 feet tall.

“We were so high up in the air that the people on the ground looked like ants,” she said.

According to the United States Department of Commerce, more than 68 million Americans traveled abroad in 2014. The Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs reported 15,556,216 (includes 1,647,413 passport cards) were obtained in 2015.

To learn more about how to apply for a passport and travel abroad for an educational exploration or leisure, visit: