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CPCS student readies for 15-week semester in Africa

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COLTON - Colton-Pierrepont Central School junior Maia Knight will begin her final year of high school this fall halfway across the world.

Maia will join 15 other female high school students from across the United States from Aug. 20 to Dec. 5 with the Traveling School, journeying through southern Africa and learning about various subjects.

Maia noted that while she has not yet decided she is leaning toward studying biology in college and hoping to have a career in the medical field.

During her semester abroad, the junior will be learning about ancient tribes, the fundamentals of six local languages and reading works by acclaimed southern African writers among other topics.

“A lot of the courses are focused on where we’ll be in Africa. The science courses will have to do with our surroundings,” Maia said. “I know that we will be going to an orphanage and doing something like that. I think we will go scuba diving and stuff like that. I am looking forward to that and the list just goes on and on.”

The group will be making stops in South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique during their journey.

The Traveling School, which is a non-profit organization, includes a curriculum that “connects rigorous standards-based academic content, overseas exploration, community development and service projects, and outdoor activity to create a culturally diverse and academically sound program.”

Maia’s mother, Debbie noted her daughter has been very active in order to gain enough funds for her trip.

“Maia has raised approximately $5,000 by asking for money for her birthday and Christmas instead of gifts and by saving her money from babysitting and other various jobs,” Ms. Knight said. “She was just hired as a temporary waitress through Penski and has applied for a job for the summer.”

Those interested in contributing to Maia’s semester in southern Africa may visit http://www.gofundme.com/5q9t8c.

Maia noted that of the other students joining her for the experience, one is from New York City and one is from Pennsylvania. Other than that, the group is scattered throughout the country.

“I didn’t know anyone beforehand, but they set up a Facebook group and I have been getting to know them through that,” she said.

Her parents said that given the exclusive acceptance rate for this program, they were unsure if their daughter would make the cut.

“My initial response was that if 16 girls from the U.S. are applying for 16 positions, that it wouldn’t be likely that she would be accepted. When she told me she wanted to apply, I definitely encouraged her to do so,” Brent Knight said.

“She had to fill out an application and get references and things like that. That was this past summer. They accept 15 or 16 girls from the U.S. They don’t base it on whether or not you can pay and they don’t base it on which economic group you are in,” Ms. Knight added. “I think we were kind of surprised but she followed through with it. This is quite a big step.”

Ms. Knight explained that Maia’s guidance counselor had a daughter who previously was involved in the Traveling School program, leading to Maia’s research into the possibility.

Both of her parents are well aware of the once in a lifetime opportunity that their daughter will take part in during the fall.

“We just traveled to Florida recently and just that whole atmosphere of flying is scary. Just that whole experience of her being out there on her own is nerve-wrecking, but I know that she will do great,” Ms. Knight said.

“Of course I’m concerned about her safety and traveling across the world, but I think my main thought is that this will be a life-changing experience for her and it is something that I am very happy that she is doing,” Mr. Knight said. “Of course I’m concerned about her safety and traveling across the world, but I think my main thought is that this will be a life-changing experience for her and it is something that I am very happy that she is doing. We’re very proud of her in taking the initiative on her own in applying and being accepted.”

Just 15 other female students in the entire United States will get the experience that Maia will this fall, and given her small, tightknit community, the teenager admitted to a combination of nerves and excitement leading up to the adventure.

“I have been to Canada and have traveled around the U.S. I’ve been to Washington state and Florida every year and stuff like that,” Maia said. “I always wanted to travel, but I didn’t think I would be able to do it during high school. I only have 20 kids in my class and a really tiny school, and I just wanted something to enhance my high school experience.”

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