Teen hopes to gain sharper focus through Senegal adventure

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A recent homeschool graduate moved with her family to the 109 in June but doesn't plan to stay for long.

That’s because eighteen-year-old Alisa Nelson has her sights set abroad.

“I just graduated from high school this year and will be going with a program called Global Citizen Year to Senegal,” Nelson wrote in an email. “I will be living with a host family, learning French plus a local language and having an internship.”

As part of the program, Nelson is raising $2,500 which goes into a fund to provide scholarships to those who otherwise could not afford to take a gap year.

Nelson, who is considering a career in international studies, said she has received some support from friends and family, and about 20 friends attended her first fundraiser.

“I got some friends together, and we watched a World Cup soccer game, and I sold food,” she said. “It was just like hotdogs, cookies and chips. They’re not too hard to make.”

Nelson’s 20-year-old sister, Mara, said she has a job but will help with the fundraising when possible.

“I’ll help my sister any way I can,” she said.

Besides Senegal, Nelson said the program also offers opportunities in Ecuador and Brazil to learn new cultures, languages and how to be global leaders.

“I’ve been studying French so going to Senegal where they speak French, I’ll be able to practice that,” she said.

Nelson said she hopes to increase awareness about the program as well as the benefits of taking a year off after high school. She said one of the benefits would be to become more focused.

“If you know what you want to do, it is easier to do it. I think also it’s good just to have experiences,” she said. “Just getting out of high school, I don’t have a lot of commitments, so it’s a good time to take time off and travel and learn about new places while I can.”

Nelson’s mother, Laura, said because of the growth that comes from being away from home, she thinks the experience provides a lot of maturity.

“Alisa is very independent, so I wasn’t too shocked that she wanted to do something a little unusual.”

Nelson said although none of her friends will be going with her to Senegal, she anticipates making new ones.

“I think maybe living without my family,” she said, will be the toughest part.

As of Aug. 12, Nelson has nearly reached her $2,500 goal at www.stayclassy.org/alisanelson, where she said she also plans to post blog updates about her adventure.

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