Way to Go: Alison Ortiz, Commack
Alison Ortiz is spending her summer months preparing for a unique learning experience.
The Commack High School sophomore is one of 50 students in the Northeast United States to spend her entire junior year serving as a youth ambassador in Germany after winning a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship funded by the U.S. State Department.
The scholarship is for U.S. teens who want to learn about German culture first hand by living with a host family and attending a local high school.
"We have to be well prepared for what lies ahead," said Ortiz, 16, who said she came across the scholarship online. "Once we get there, we'll be totally immersed in the culture."
To get selected for the scholarship, Ortiz said she submitted six essays and engaged in two interviews with scholarship officials earlier this year. She said she has no prior experience speaking German, but she is studying the language this summer with a tutor.
At Commack, Ortiz is a member of the varsity dance team, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Student Council and Best Buddies, which pairs students with disabilities in one-to-one friendships with high schoolers.
She also volunteers at the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack.