Experience of a lifetime – Keys students to travel abroad with EIL program


Canoeing down the Dong Nai River in Vietnam, learning about anime in Japan, and volunteering at an orphanage in South Africa are some of the unique experiences three different Florida Keys students will have this summer. 

Out of 450 essay submissions from Monroe County students to the Experiment in International Living, a nationwide cross-cultural program, 37 from Monroe County will travel abroad. 

“We have a long-standing partnership with Monroe County,” said Heather Beard, director of admissions and financial aid. 

In their essays, students had to identify a global issue and write about it, such as climate change or racism, and describe how they would make a difference in Monroe County if selected as a global leader. Thirty-seven students received scholarships and are traveling abroad. Those who are not traveling will do other projects in the Keys.

“We are still accepting students into our summer programs,” Beard said. Visit www.experiment.org to apply. 


Coral Shores High School
Berkley Wolgamott – Japan
Area of study: anime and manga

“The culture in Japan really fascinates me and I just want the experience of leaving the country and seeing somewhere else,” said Coral Shores High junior Berkley Wolgamott.

For a month, she’ll be learning about anime and manga, two forms of art unique to Japan. 

“For the first part, we’re going to be taking college courses. We’ll learn how to animate and draw and how the process is done in Tokyo, so we’ll be able to see around the city. That’s the first two weeks.”

For the second two weeks, she’ll stay with a host family outside Tokyo and is looking forward to learning about everyday life and culture.

“I’m just really interested in anime. It started when I was around 11, and I’m more into American cartoons but anime is definitely a big inspiration because it shows animation can be serious.” 


Marathon High School
Hannah Ziels – South Africa
Area of study: leadership and social change

“I didn’t want to just go and take a free vacation and eat my way around. I wanted to go and help,” said Marathon High School junior Hannah Ziels. 

For five weeks, starting in early July, she’ll be in South Africa and wants to take from her travels an eye-opening experience to “realize how lucky I am to live where I do live and not take for granted what I have now.”

First, Ziels will fly into Cape Town and stay with a host family for 10 to 15 days. 

For the final weeks, she’ll be in Johannesburg doing community service projects. 

“I really love meeting new people and I feel like I can bring the knowledge I know from living in a small town,” she said. 

As for her focus, leadership and social change, she said it’s important that people educate themselves about life in other parts of the world. 


Key West High School
Jefflyne Desilme – Vietnam
Area of study: ecology and conservation

Key West High School junior Jefflyne Desilme wants to learn about “current challenges to the natural environments” in Vietnam. 

For a month, she’ll explore mangrove forests, do community service projects, see some of the country’s white sand beaches and even canoe down the Dong Nai River. 

She said her witty personality and ease of meeting new people will help represent the EIL program. 

“I believe it is an important characteristic to have new experiences. Also, my experiences from living in Haiti and in the Keys are completely different,” she said. 

For example, Desilme said she had to adjust from farming for food to shopping at Publix. 

“This will help me adjust to the different cultures and lifestyle in Vietnam,” she said.  

As for her area of study, Desilme said she chose it because “not everyone thinks about what our daily activities are doing to our terrestrial and aquatic biomes.”

“I want to go to Vietnam and discover the threats to their natural environment and the steps they have taken to prevent future damages,” she said.  “I want to bring all that I will learn back to the Keys and make a difference; one person CAN make a difference.” 


EIL scholarship winners

Coral Shores High School: 

Tara Amador: Argentina

Cresaria Del Pino: The Netherlands

Natalie Dixon: Thailand

Cara Erickson: Tanzania 

Peyton Kerry: Ecuador 

Zybo Marchetti: Costa Rica 

Shannon McCormick: Vietnam

Rachel Medina: Spain

Hailey Pacyna: France

Valente Reynoso-Heaton: Mongolia

Berkley Wolgamott: Japan 

Alison Woltanski: Tanzania


EIL scholarship winners

Key West High School: 

Weedmide Alexandre: Morocco

Ciara Barrett: Tanzania

Meghan Barter: South Africa

Aneisy Betancourt-Marrero: Brazil

Nicolas Concepcion: Argentina

Daniel Davila: Tanzania 

Jefflyne Desilme: Vietnam

Eileen Ellington: The Netherlands

Madilyn Flores: Japan

Daniel Gvili: Spain

Margaret Iarrobino: Costa Rica

Erik Jutte: Italy

Sydney MacDougall: Thailand

Jessica Nitti: Spain

Marionica Noel: India

Adreanna Otero: Spain

Harrison Simmons: United Kingdom

Savannah Smith: Mongolia

Linsey Wilkins: Germany

Sarah Valdez: France


EIL scholarship winners

Marathon High School: 

Aydan Child: Costa Rica

Coral Purcell: Japan

Taquoia Walker: France

Charles Williams Lopez: Japan

Hannah Ziels: South Africa 

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