2024 Bridging Cultures Scholarship Winners


ICES is pleased to invest in our future by providing scholarship money to globally-minded, college-bound teens.  This year, we award $17,000 to seven worthy students through the Bridging Cultures Scholarship. 

This year's essay topic was: Describe specific ways you can help exchange students integrate into your school and community to provide opportunities for cultural sharing.

We are very pleased to introduce this year's scholarship recipients and share their winning essays.


First Place - $4000 Scholarship Recipient

G Blackshear2

Graylon Blackshear - Brandon, Mississippi

Rooted in a desire to effect change and save lives, Graylon plans to pursue a major in Medical Laboratory Science at either Mississippi State or the University of Mississippi.

I have always been intrigued by the idea of becoming an exchange student and participating in an exchange program. I have a strong passion for learning, exploring, and understanding different cultures, and I would be thrilled to share my own culture with others. Exchange programs offer unique opportunities for cultural exchange and mutual understanding.

Read More . . .


Second Place - $3000 Scholarship Recipient

A HinkleyAustin Hinkley - Stanwood, Michigan

Austin is headed to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with a major in Mechanical Engineering with an energy concentration.  He also plans to pursue a minor in entrepreneurship.  His goal is to work in the energy industry with a focus on innovation and efficiency of alternative or renewable energy.


“Vamos!” the varsity tennis team yelled in unison. Alvaro turned his head to look at the large group of us standing by the fence cheering him on in his tight one singles match. He cracked a sly smile.

Read more. . .


Third Place - $2000 Scholarship Recipients

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Madysen Leiterman - Manitowoc, Wisconsin 

This fall, Madysen will attend Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  Her future plans are to be an ICU travel nurse.

Getting to know exchange students and their cultures is an extraordinary way for us to grow personally, both emotionally and intellectually. Without exchange student programs, we would be missing out on cultural experiences that can't be taught in books. By meeting and interacting with exchange students, we grow our connections and cultural understandings of people.

Read more . . .


A PearsonAlyssa Pearson - Oakville, Washington

Alyssa is headed to Eastern Washington University to pursue a degree in Chemistry with a focus on forensic science.  Her long-term career goal is to attend medical school and become a forensic pathologist.

As a passionate advocate for cultural exchange and diversity, I believe there are numerous ways in which I can facilitate the integration of exchange students into my school and community, fostering an environment of inclusivity and mutual understanding.

Read more . . .



K GriggsKaylah Griggs - Madera, California

This fall, Kaylah will enter the University of California, Riverside where she intends to pursue a major in Education, Society, and Human Development.

Allowing opportunities for foreign exchange students to share their culture and integrate into schools allows both foriegn exchange students and local students to build cultural awareness throughout both their school and community. I believe programs such as the foreign exchange program, helps to tie together students with not only bonds of friendship between those that might never have had a chance to meet, but also allows for their traditions and customs to transcend their borders into ours.


E HowellElisabeth Howell - Leavenworth, Kansas

A rising junior, Elisabeth plans to attend Wichita State University and earn a degree in Education with the intention of becoming a high school teacher.

Loneliness can occur without being completely alone; even when surrounded by chatter, smiles, and laughter, one can still feel lonely.

I have a military teen background, so I’m no stranger to changing neighborhoods and schools, having nine of each under my belt. Despite all the differences in people, geography, and activities, I still know I’m a part of the larger, American community. 

Read more . . .



O OkonkwoOnyinyechi Okonkwo - Richmond, Texas

Headed to Wellesley College, Onyinyechi intends to double major in Neuroscience and Data Science on a pre-medicine pathway, with the goal of becoming a Neurourgeon.

When a student from another country arrives at our school as an exchange student, it can be an intimidating experience for them. They are plunged into an entirely new environment, culture, and language. As members of the student body and community, we have an important role to play in making these exchange students feel at home and helping them integrate smoothly. 

Read more . . .


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Getting involved in youth exchange gives you the opportunity to think globally and act locally at the same time.  And ICES can help you do just that.  How might you get involved?  

Become a Host Family– ICES is always looking for caring families to open their hearts and homes to high school students from around the world.  Learn more here or browse profiles of students coming this fall here

Become an Exchange Student– ICES offers semester, and academic year programs to various countries around the world. You don’t have to wait until college to study abroad!  Learn more here.

Become a Global Ambassador – High school students can promote cross-cultural understanding in their own communities by volunteering as an ICES Global Ambassador to increase program awareness and provide peer support to exchange students in your area. Learn more here.



Tags: Scholarships, cultural understanding, Think global act local

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