A group of girls gathered Thursday at the Community Foundation on Market Street and showed off their work. Japanese characters. Pictures of tart desserts and stuffed chicken. Pennsylvania State University memorabilia.
The girls, who were given scholarships to attend enrichment programs to study what they wanted last summer, showed their parents and each other the things they did. Two girls took classes at Penn State; two more learned to cook at a Massachusetts college; one girl took vocal classes at a boarding school in Vermont.
The Passport Scholars Program, operated by the Public Education Foundation, selected nine sophomores from public schools to go to a summer enrichment program of their choosing. The students were selected from about 40 applicants based on their GPA and other academic qualifiers, and each girl had to show that she couldn't go to a program like this on her own.
"We're looking for people who can survive the academic environment," said Stacy Lightfoot, the director of the program.
Each placement cost about $5,500 in tuition, plus the Passport Scholars Program paid for airfare, and the program will help the girls pay for college tours in their senior year, according to Lightfoot.
Two girls went to the Julian Krinsky camp at Haverford College in Pennsylvania to learn how to cook. Angie Vega, who holds strongly to her Hispanic roots, and Haley Long, who holds to her Southern roots, both said they learned how to cook other cultures' foods in classes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
"I learned how to not only cook, but also how to be open and converse with other people," Angie said.
Both said they love to cook Japanese foods for their families.
Haley's favorite part, she said, was doing freestyle cooking during her one-on-one sessions with a teacher. During that time, they'd spontaneously cook whatever they wanted.
The other thing Angie said she came away with were scars "from the cooking oil."
Haley's mother, Michelle Long, said she's glad her daughter can prepare fajitas and sushi.
Keyawne Dillard came home from a language immersion program singing in Japanese. She had a before-meal song, an after-meal song and songs for every type of weather.
She had wanted to learn Japanese since she and her older sister, Ja'Keena, learned to count to five in Japanese at a summer camp in elementary school. Since then, her sister, who went to Smith College with the Passport program last summer, would buy her Japanese graphic novels, animated shows and movies.
During the parts of the camp when she couldn't speak English, Keyawne said she stayed mostly quiet and mimed a lot.
Applications for next summer's programs are due by Nov. 4.