Gatton seniors offered national scholarships

Henderson native and Gatton Academy student India Blasser, 18, recently received the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, or NSLI-Y, scholarship to study the Russian language abroad in Moldova for six weeks over the summer. The program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department allows students to fully immerse themselves in the language of their choice. “I’m hoping to become fluent,” India said. “I figure language immersion is the fastest way to learn.” (Luke Franke/Herald)

Jessica Voorhees

The U.S. Department of State offered four Gatton Academy seniors National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarships, which provide complete funding for immersive language study in foreign countries over six to eight week periods in the summer. 

Derick Strode, assistant director of Academic Services for Gatton Academy, said this is the largest number of NSLI-Y scholarships ever awarded to Gatton students. 

He said Gatton Academy marketed the program to students for four years and partnered with the WKU Office of Scholar Development to prepare applicants for written submissions and interviews. 

Gatton Academy senior India Blassar, from Henderson, will further her studies in Russian at a university in Moldova. 

Blassar studied Russian for two semesters through the modern languages department. She said she chose Russian for her foreign language study because of its career marketability.

“I wanted to learn a critical language and increase job competitiveness,” she said.

Blassar said she learned about the scholarship opportunity from her roommate who participated last year. 

“I’m excited about the immersion aspect,” she said. “I hope to become fluent.”

Blassar said she hopes to continue her language studies in the future while staying at WKU to study biological anthropology.

Strode said participants in the program will live with a host family to learn about culture and take “language immersion classes” during the week.

Strode said students will also have the opportunity to travel on the weekends with their host families. 

He said the U.S. Department of State will fully fund all housing, tuition and travel expenses.

According to the NSLI-Y website, students can choose to study Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Tajiki, Russian or Turkish in 12 different countries. 

Sam Booth of Owensboro will use his NSLI-Y scholarship to further his Korean studies in South Korea this summer. 

Meredith Bickett, who is also from Owensboro, will study Arabic in Morocco. 

Blassar, Booth and Bickett all previously studied abroad with Gatton Academy, as well as conducted research in various fields with WKU professors. 

The U.S. Department of State also awarded the scholarship to Rena Ryumae of Union, but she will decline to instead travel to Pusan National University in South Korea to collaborate with researchers to develop a point-of-care diagnostic for pathogen detection through a National Science Foundation Grant.