How Relocation Impacted Me: Scholarship Recipients Share their Stories

The Worldwide ERC® Foundation awarded $1,000 scholarships to 12 high school students in 2019; the application process for 2020 is underway.

Brittany Contreras knows a lot about relocating to remote global destinations. The self-described military brat moved every two to three years and sometimes every four months as a child. Through her time in places like Belgium and Nambia, she learned multiple languages, helped change archaic mindsets in the schools she attended, and saw poverty in underdeveloped nations firsthand. She plans to use her experiences to help her pursue a career as a diplomat for the United Nations. 

Brittany is one of 12 high school students who recently received $1,000 scholarships through the Worldwide ERC® Foundation for Workforce Mobility and participating regional relocation groups.

Each year, Worldwide ERC® and participating Worldwide ERC®-recognized regional relocation groups invite high school students with relocation experience to submit essays sharing their personal stories, what they learned from their move (or moves), and/or what advice they might have for other young students going through the same process. Regional groups select an award-winning essay, and the students receive funds in support of future endeavors. In 2019, the Foundation and participating regional relocation groups granted a total of $12,000 to 12 high school students around the country.

2019 scholarship winners and their supporting organizations include:

  • Maria Sanchez Acosta – Metro Atlanta Relocation Council
  • Lucy Adams – New Jersey Relocation Council
  • Madison Birmingham – Austin Relocation Council
  • Brittany Contreras – Greater Richmond Relocation Council
  • Jonathan Dinh – Houston Relocation Professionals
  • Ericka Foster – North Texas Relocation Professionals
  • Valentino Herrero – Southeastern Regional Relocation Council
  • Ethan Kist – Minnesota Employee Regional Council
  • Beulah J Lee – Chicago Relocation Council
  • Rofiat Olasunkamni – NYCORP
  • Madeleine Osborn – Tennessee Relocation Council
  • Ashton Simpkins – Charlotte Metro Area

Each recipient’s relocation story is unique, personal, and inspiring. Here are excerpts from more of their award-winning submissions.

          Jonathan Dinh, a student at Clear Lake High School in Texas, recalled, “My unexpected relocation from Chicago to the bustling city of Houston took away a community that will forever be a part of who I am. As someone whose parents are originally from Vietnam, I know firsthand the many challenges encountered during relocation. Though my parents' reason for moving was much more of a lifetime decision, we all faced a reality of loss. The places where we grew up and the friends we made at school were left in limbo with the puzzling question on whether we would ever see them again.”

          Finding acceptance in a vastly larger school was challenging. But through his involvement in the school orchestra, Jonathan found acceptance and friends – and has thrived. “Through the discovery of new experiences, I learned to appreciate what is given. Change is always going to be difficult, especially for teenagers like me who are just trying to find their place. What matters is how we respond to this type of adversity,” he says.

          Valentina Herrero moved to Florida at the age of 16, after the tragic natural disaster Hurricane María hit her hometown of Puerto Rico. “Moving to Florida has helped me learn new things about myself, introduced me to new people and even presented me with new passions. I was going from a school of 700 people to a school of almost 5,000. I was in a new place, where I had to start my life all over again. I became more fearless and I started talking to new people and building relationships with them.  I was not in a place anymore where everybody knew me and hung out with me, so I had to go and meet new people. This meant that I had to take control of my social life, if I wanted to make new friends.” 

          An opportunity to attend a music academy opened up a new passion – singing – and a group of people that welcomed and supported Valentina. “I know that life always has its ways to surprise us and do things we would’ve never expected, but in order to survive and live a happy life, you should focus on the present and what you can do today in order to achieve happiness. This relocation was difficult, but I can’t be grateful enough, because I’ve met amazing people from so many different places and backgrounds that have helped me become who I am today. I can easily say that this was one of the best things that has happened in my life.”

          Lucy Adams was born in Washington, D.C. “With the nation’s capital as my birthplace, could I be more American?” she asks. But when she was 11 her family moved to London “for a life-changing adventure on a different continent.

          “I built a life for myself in London. I attended the American School in London, where my best friends hailed from the US, Norway, Palestine and India. I joined the cross country team, which became my favorite sport and my second family,” she says. “I was even lucky enough to travel to Switzerland and France for competitions. During these trips, I met students from other international schools and stayed with their families.”

          So when her parents decided to return to New Jersey after several years, she says, “Everything was unsettling and terrifying.” It took a two-week Outward Bound backcountry expedition to remind Lucy of her determination and resilience. “Moving has deepened my understanding of other people, places, and cultures. I have realized that despite my shyness, I yearn for adventure and thrive in unfamiliar environments. I have been across the pond and back, and I am eager to discover what’s next.”

Regional Group Scholarship Partnership Applications are now open for 2020. Regional Relocation Groups with scholarship programs are encouraged to submit the Scholarship Application to the Foundation no later than close of business (EST) on 15 March. 

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