2018-08-09 / Life in Leelanau

Northport student well prepared for Rotary exchange with Brazil

By Jen Murphy
of the Enterprise staff


BRAZIL BOUND. Joy Ogemaw (pictured on left) smiles as she thinks about her upcoming adventures abroad. Ogemaw was accepted in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program and is spending this school year in Brazil. BRAZIL BOUND. Joy Ogemaw (pictured on left) smiles as she thinks about her upcoming adventures abroad. Ogemaw was accepted in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program and is spending this school year in Brazil. For one Northport Public School student, the summer of 2018 will end with a different language.

Rising junior Joy Ogemaw traveled just under 12 hours by plane to Brazil to experience the culture and language of the South American country.

As an exchange student, Ogemaw is hoping to develop relationships across national boundaries.

“My goals are acting as an ambassador for my country, making the world a smaller place, developing lasting relationships with each of my three host families, having friends in Brazil and other countries around the world, and the Rotary motto, ‘Making a difference,’” Ogemaw said.

Ogemaw was chosen to participate as an outbound student in the 2018 Suttons Bay-Leelanau County Rotary Club Exchange Program.

“We look for students who are adaptable, curious and outgoing, who will act as ambassadors for our country,” said Rotary outbound coordinator Andrea Seely. “We want students who are active in school activities (such as) sports, in her local community, and (who) have some understanding of world affairs.”

Ogemaw has participated in sports, drama, student council and Youth Advisory Council. She is also a community volunteer. Those activities made her an ideal candidate, according to Seely.

Ogemaw has goals for her time abroad: Come back with a tan and fluent in Portuguese.

The language should be a strength of Ogemaw’s, according to Seely. “She showed intellectual ability as well as interest in languages: Anishinaabe and Spanish,” she said.

Although Brazil wasn’t initially Ogemaw’s first choice, she became more interested after meeting Spanish exchange students.

“At the first Rotary conference in November, there were country presentations that were given by each of the inbounds — exchange students from different countries on exchange to the U.S. — and they had slideshows, their flags, pins, and some had food that they prepared that was from their countries,” she said. “After meeting Bruna, Auriz, and Giovanna and seeing their presentation it made me change my mind.”

Seely explained that Rotary Youth Exchange program participants build goodwill and friendships across the world. Students return with a deeper understanding of their foreign country of choice and a better appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States.

Ogemaw will be transformed by the experience, Seely believes.

“It was evident that Joy wasn’t applying because her parents or teachers thought she should or because it would look good on a college application, but because she truly wanted the experience,” Seely said. “Joy will return from her exchange a new person. She will be more confident, self-assured, worldly, self-reliant and hopefully more interested in long-term peace in the world.”

And that’s what Ogemaw expects as well. She won’t return to Leelanau County until after completing school in 2019.

“It’ll help me grow as a person because of the exposure to new challenges and overcoming the language barrier, homesickness, and other obstacles will help me improve on becoming a better person,” Ogemaw said. “Foreign exchange, especially with Rotary, is absolutely beyond amazing.”

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