Alder student will spend senior year in Brazil

Erinn Jackson will spend next school year in Brazil as Rotary Exchange student.

(Posted May 23, 2018)

By Lori Smith, Staff Writer

Plain City’s Erinn Jackson is preparing to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, and she’s not even out of high school yet.

Jackson, who just finished her junior year at Jonathan Alder High School, will spend the 2018-19 school year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Brazil.

“Of course, I’m excited, but I’m a little nervous, too,” admitted the 17-year-old. “I have never been out of the country before.”

She will leave in late July and return in approximately a year, so she will miss the traditional senior activities. “I knew when I decided to go I’d be missing out on a lot of those things, and that’s OK,” she said.

Jackson decided to apply for the Rotary Youth Exchange scholarship after a group of French exchange students spent some time at her school.

“That kind of got me interested in exchange in general,” Jackson said. After that, she started attending monthly meetings with the Rotary Youth Exchange program and decided to apply.

“Originally, I was really interested in going to Europe, but then I decided I liked the really strong sense of family and culture in South America,” she said. “You technically don’t get to choose where to go. Brazil was my No. 1 choice, so I was very lucky to get that.”

Initially, she said, her parents Pat and Kim Jackson said, “No way!”

“At first they were a little apprehensive,” she admitted, “but then they realized what a great opportunity this is.”

Eventually Jackson’s parents warmed up to the idea, and they will even host a student from Finland while their daughter is abroad.

The scholarship, from the Rotary Club of Columbus, is valued at over $24,000 and covers room, board, tuition and a monthly stipend for one year. Jackson will stay with three host families in the city of Taruma, which has a population of about 14,000 and is in the state of Sao Paulo.

“I’m really excited to be there,” she said. “It seems like a great community.”

Jackson has been working with a tutor to learn the Portuguese language, and once school is out for summer she plans to ramp up her lessons.

“I’d like to learn the language and get as fluent as I can,” Jackson said, “as well as gain a perspective on the world I wouldn’t find in Plain City.”

Jackson, who plays on the school’s varsity softball team, said she is hoping to teach her host families about the game, while hopefully learning more about soccer, the sport of choice in Brazil. She also anticipates spending a lot of time with her host families learning about the culture and will attend full-day of classes at the local high school, all of which will be taught in Portuguese.

“It will be a challenge but I’m looking forward to it,” she said.

Jackson is a member of the French club, math club and National Honor Society at Jonathan Alder. She serves as treasurer of her class and volunteers as an after-school tutor at the local community center. She also has a part-time job at Target and enjoys reading and hanging out with her friends. She will be heading to college after returning from Brazil, although she is not sure which college she wants to attend, and may consider majoring in international business.

Annually, 8,000 students participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange program worldwide. The program began in the 1920s and its primary mission is to bring peace and understanding to the world.

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