While most high school students will be enjoying summer break relaxing at the beach or practicing sports for the upcoming school year, 16-year-old Sissonville High School junior Ellie McClung will be traveling to the Middle Eastern nation of Jordan.
During her summer break this year, McClung will travel to Jordan to be immersed in its language and culture. The trip is through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, a program launched in 2006 and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The program sends eligible high school students to other countries to learn languages that are deemed “strategic languages.”
McClung first learned of the opportunity through the international studies program at Sissonville High School, where a speaker was invited to talk about it. McClung is very active in the program and will likely be the school’s International Club president next year.
The application process began last fall. After McClung spent weeks filling out paperwork and eligibility forms, she was selected as a semifinalist. After more paperwork, she was selected as a finalist for the program in Amman, Jordan.
She described the days between learning about being selected as a semifinalist and a finalist as “intense as going to the state basketball finals.” After being notified as a finalist, she received more paperwork and information packets on the country.
McClung feels excited and surprisingly calm about her journey this summer. It begins June 18, when she flies out of Washington, D.C. In order to prepare for the climate and much different culture of the Middle East, she has had to buy clothes that comply with the strict dressing rules for women in that country. She was also given study materials provided by the State Department.
In addition to her involvement with Sissonville’s international studies program, McClung is a starting defender for the class AA girls state championship soccer team and a key post player on the class AA girl’s state basketball runner-up team. She attends Aldersgate United Methodist Church with her family and enjoys listening to a wide variety of music that includes Led Zeppelin, KISS, Five Finger Death Punch and Avenged Sevenfold.