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Updates From Our Presidential Scholars

Photo Credit – Laura Goydich: Children on the way to school in the Berber Villages of Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains
Photo Credit – Martha Groppo: Schoolchildren in Accra, Ghana


The first class of Semester at Sea Presidential Scholars features nine fantastic students, each conducting diverse projects along the course of the voyage.  In our first week they discussed the plans they each had, and this week we have updates from each.  Below are the objectives achieved and goals still to be reached in the words of each scholar:

My exceptional and unique experience around the world has influenced and established my passion for global-sustainability. Thus far my knowledge about the subject and the ways in which people from around the world conceptualize and practice recycling has increased. I have learned many things. For instance, it seems like people from around the world recycle in different ways and for different purposes. Therefore, the interpretation to what recycling is varies from country to country. I am looking forward to new data and trends about the subject. Go Green! – Natanael Burgos

My conversations with Moroccan and Ghanian teachers and students have given me valuable insight into the village education systems. One of the trickiest issues in both schools has been balancing the liberal arts and technical facets of education. The former empowers students to study at the university level if desired, while the latter equips them to put food on the table in the emerging national economies. In addition, lowering the teacher to student ratio and increasing the quality of instruction is vital to harnessing each student’s full potential. As I continue my research in Asia, I encourage those at home to also think about the challenges to, and consequences of, improving education worldwide. – Laura Goydich



My project corresponding home to increase interest in traveling abroad has been incredibly rewarding thus far. My blog has garnered a larger readership than I anticipated, my correspondence with some young classrooms is going well, and I have been able to publish several newspaper columns about my experience. Much more exciting than anything else, however, have been the many letters I receive from young readers wanting to know about everything from religion in Morocco to what it feels like to sleep on a ship. Writing to an invisible readership can be tough, but hearing from individual kids about how reading about my adventures makes them want to travel too reminds me of what I am trying to accomplish. – Martha Groppo

I based my Presidential project on visiting orphanages to analyze how I could create projects that assist these children in my future.  Thus far, I’ve visited Senase village in Ghana and Operation Hunger in South Africa. The Senase village was a great opportunity for me to find out what it was like to be Ghanaian, while emulating the life of Ghana’s citizens for three days. I visited schools where many children were orphans. I discovered that in the western part of Ghana there are no institutional orphanages therefore leaving most children homeless, forced to live on the street.  Operation Hunger produced the amazing prospect of meeting locals in Cape Town. Just 15 minutes away from a shining Cape Town, the reality for 2.5 million of South Africa’s citizens is wholly different. A lot of orphans get food from Operation Hunger, but not all of them. In addition, Operation Hunger cannot afford accommodation for all these kids. I am planning on making this project larger in the future with the help of SAS people so we can provide food and accommodation for all of the people in this township. – Natasa Kurucki

Photo Credit – Natasa Kurucki: A child at Operation Hunger of South Africa


Each country has its own way of dealing with unaccompanied youth, some countries are truly unable to accommodate this population because the economy is so bad. What I have learned is that many countries make sure that shelters are available and that healthcare is free. – Kamel Lovejoy


Operation Global Swap has had some really good entries from Africa and there have been some very moving stories coming from them. Students and lifelong learners alike have been able to make differences firsthand in the lives of others and in just reading about their experiences, one can be easily inspired. The smallest sacrifices have made the biggest difference in the lives of others and it is so rewarding to be a part of the ship community’s contributions. The shipboard crew has been very helpful in creative rewards for the weekly winners including ice cream cake, a swedish massage and extra internet time to keep the community motivated. Looking forward to Global Swap Asia! -¬† Brian P. Morris SrA, Combat Weather Forecaster, US Air Force, VA Nat’l Guard

Photo Credit – Darrell Palmer: Exchanging a frisbee for Global Swap (organized by Presidential Scholar Brian Morris) in Casablanca, Morocco


For my service project, I founded and lead an interfaith group on the ship every Sunday at 1700, the purpose of which is peer education and tolerance development. So far, my interfaith has been incredibly successful in fostering cross cultural and religious understanding. The most meaningful part of my work is showing my peers how the incredible diversity in our collective belief systems brings us together into forming a stronger shipboard community, instead of forming a wedge that drives an ideology of hate and exclusivity. My group is and always has been open to everyone and anyone with a story to share, whatever belief or background.  I hope to see more people participate in the coming weeks! – Mobasshir Poonawalla

After receiving IRB approval for my project from my home university I was able to begin my project. I conducted interviews in South Africa. I’m looking forward to doing more interviews once we get to India in a few days and Vietnam in a few weeks! ‚Äì James Wykowski

During my time in Accra, Ghana I visited Global Mamas and was able to both see the merchandise and speak with the owner. Due to this visit, I now have access to a contact through which I can discuss my motivations and potential involvement with the organization. My next steps are to continue contact with Global Mamas and use this relationship to help them with increasing distribution channels back in the United States. – Jenna Zerker

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