By Ayse Eldes, executive opinion editor

For junior Ashna Alex, hard work payed off. She immediately called her FCCLA advisor, Lisa Curtin, to let her know she was one of the 14 students in the country to win the Youth for Understanding scholarship, winning a free educational trip to Japan this summer.

“I found out during eighth period Physics,” Alex said. “It was the funniest thing because I started freaking out, and then the whole class started freaking out.”

With the help of Curtin, Alex applied for the scholarship through the Prospect FCCLA program. The scholarship, sponsored by the Kikoman Soy Sauce company, was awarded to her at the recent FCCLA state competition on April 7. The Prospect team was also surprised when Curtin was awarded FCCLA Honorary Advisor of the year for her contributions to the program.

Alex had applied for the scholarship her sophomore year, but after completing an online application, submitting a teacher recommendation, writing short essays, and going through a long interview process, she was unsuccessful.

“In Ashna’s case, you learn how important it is to keep trying,” Curtin said.

Despite the disappointment of her initial attempt, trying again was rewarding. Alex’s trip is fully covered financially by the Kikkoman/FCCLA scholarship. It covers the round-trip airline travel, student placement with a host family, preparatory materials, and a three-day mandatory Japan specific orientation at the beginning of the program.

Alex applied for the scholarship because of her deep admiration of foreign culture and language. Her background of Indian culture is what stimulated an interest in diversity. Already ahead of the game, Alex knows Malayalam, English, Korean, Spanish, Tamil and rudimentary Japanese. She hopes to complete the her Japanese knowledge during her 6 week stay with a host family, when she will be attending school and also touring.
“I’m really interested in all of the differences and similarities among the languages and just the culture itself,” Alex said. “I like to have an open mind.”