JACKSON Wyo. — Two local Jackson High School students – identical twins, Avery and Kaitlyn Sullivan have received National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarships.

According to a press release from the American Councils for International Education, NSLI-Y is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) that promotes critical language learning among American youth. The program was launched in 2006 as part of a multi-agency U.S. Government initiative to increase the number of young Americans with language skills necessary to advance international dialogue, promote international prosperity and innovation worldwide, and contribute to national security by building understanding across cultures.

Kaitlyn competed with thousands of applicants from high schools across the country and is one of over 80 students selected to participate in the NSLI-Y academic year program.

“I became interested in studying and speaking Arabic as I was exposed to Arabic-speaking refugees in a refugee center I volunteered at in Athens, Greece a few years ago,” said Kaitlyn. “Hearing the language frequently and becoming passionate about the Middle Eastern region and culture inspired me to pursue learning Arabic to my greatest ability.”

Kaitlyn, in Luxor, Egypt is studying in Morocco for her senior year of high school. Photo: Kristen Sullivan.

Kaitlyn’s twin sister, Avery was awarded an NSLI-Y scholarship to study Chinese (Mandarin) for eight to ten months in Taiwan.

“I started learning Spanish and Arabic because I wanted to connect with people in their native language,” Avery said. “Through studying those languages, I learned how important learning critical languages are and decided to start Mandarin. I had been to China and Taiwan as a child, and it’s been an amazing experience to come back to Taiwan and study the culture and language on a deeper level. In the future, I hope to continue all of my language studies by working in the foreign service.” 

Avery, who will be studying Mandarin Taiwan for her senior year of high school, is pictured here in Ghent, Belgium. Photo: Kristen Sullivan.

 Many NSLI-Y alumni go on to pursue education and careers vital to U.S. national security and credit the program experience with helping them improve their academic, leadership, and cross-cultural communication skills. The U.S. Department of State conducts study abroad programs for over 1,000 American high school students and approximately 3,000 foreign high school students each year.

To learn more about high school exchange programs click here.

Buckrail @ Toby

Toby Koekkoek is a Community News Reporter, and a recent resident of Teton Valley. He enjoys writing about our region's community events and the movers and shakers that make up the culture of this unique mountain town. He enjoys deep powder, and deep thoughts, skateboarding, playing racquet sports, riding his bike, and nerding out on music. Toby also coaches freeride skiing for the Jackson Hole Ski Club and runs skateboard camps in the summer.