Vernon student wins State Dept. scholarship

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Vasilissa Pallis, a sophomore at Vernon Township High School has been selected as a recipient of a scholarship from the U.S. State Dept., the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y).

The program was launched in 2006 to promote critical language learning among American youth. “Critical” languages are languages that the US government considers important for national security.

The U.S. Department of State, in cooperation with the American Councils for International Education, awards and administers merit-based scholarships in locations where the seven critical languages are spoken. NSIL-Y immerses participants in the cultural life of the host country, giving them formal and informal language practice and sparking a lifetime interest in foreign languages and cultures.

Acceptance to the program is highly competitive, with thousands of applicants nationwide competing for the scholarship. Less than 10 percent of the thousands of applicants are accepted. Students are paired with a host family and the scholarship covers room and board, in-country cultural excursions, orientation and support, tuition, round-trip travel from the participant’s home region and the host country, visa costs, and secondary medical benefits. The languages offered by NSLI-Y for 2014 are Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian, and Turkish.

Pallis was selected to study Russian in Narva, Estonia for 6 weeks beginning this June, at the Narva College of Tartu University.

Closer to home, Vasilisa recently (April 2018) won the Silver Medal in in the NJ Olympiada of Spoken Russian, a competition hosted by Drew University in Morristown and sponsored by the American Councils for International Education. She competed against high school students from the region. State/Regional Olympiada competitions take place throughout the United States from February through May. Participants may earn gold, silver, or bronze medals in recognition of their proficiency in Russian conversation, poetry recitation, and Russian civilization at various levels of study.

Pallis is also studying French in high school and is taking German 2 at Sussex County Community College and Conversational German at the German school at Morristown Beard School.

In addition to her linguistic accomplishments, Pallis was recently inducted into the National Association for Music Education’s Tri-M Honor Society for her participation in Vernon High School’s Chamber Music Ensemble. She is a varsity swimmer for Vernon, having placed in the top 10 in freestyle swim at the Tri County Swim Championships in 2018 and in 2016-2017 was the top point earner in her age group for her club swim team, the Sussex County YMCA’s Swordfish.

"As a scholar and athlete, we are confident that Vasilisa will be a fine ambassador for the United States, and her personal kindness and integrity will earn her many new friends abroad," her mother Rita said.

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