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Clements Global Studies Academy

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Foreign studies program molds Fort Bend ISD students into world citizens

Written by Tonya Ellis | Photos provided by Global Studies Academy students

Sugar Land, TX News - Hola! Bonjour! Guten Tag! Ni Hao! Konnichiwa! You may hear these greetings as often as “Hi!” at Clements High School, home of the Global Studies Academy (GSA). Started in 2008 as the Global Language Academy, GSA’s mission is not just to teach students to speak to people of other cultures but to become world citizens. Students take part in a rigorous curriculum, volunteer in the community, and travel the world.

Five students from the program took time to talk about their experiences and future plans – today, GSA, and tomorrow, the world. “You hear people say all the time ‘I don’t know about this generation,’” says Anne Beckman, GSA program coordinator. “But when I look at this generation, I know that there is definitely hope for the years to come.”

Chris Dennis riding a camel while studying in Morocco

Chris Dennis riding a camel
while studying in Morocco

Chris Dennis – Spain
GSA took Chris Dennis on his first ever plane ride – across the ocean to Spain. “We started in Barcelona, and went to Grenada and Madrid,” the junior recalls. “We went across the Strait of Gibraltar and to Morocco.” Dennis decided to apply for GSA after he saw he had an aptitude for Spanish in middle school. “I wanted to learn different languages, and that was the only high school that offered them,” he explains.

Since then, he has also learned Chinese and been selected as the Chinese representative on the GSA student council. “My grandmother was Korean, and I wanted to learn that language,” he says. “I chose Chinese because I figured there were a lot of basics that might be similar.” Besides his language studies, Dennis also serves as an officer in a club called Invisible Children that works to stop human trafficking in Africa. He’s not sure where he will attend college, but knows he would like to do something that involves international travel.

Michelle Egbuna – Taiwan
Sophomore Michelle Egbuna is excited about making a positive change in the world around her. As a freshman in the GSA program she organized an African American cultural presentation at Clements. “I wanted to create something for incoming freshman so there can be a place where you feel you belong,” she says.

Egbuna studies Chinese, and took a five-week trip to Taiwan and South Korea this past summer. She spent three weeks taking university classes and studying Chinese in Taiwan, and did a two-week tour of South Korea.

While in Asia, she felt very comfortable in South Korea. “We stayed in Seoul, so it was more modernized and very diverse,” she says. Egbuna is also learning Spanish and hopes to take a school trip to Spain as well. “Because of GSA, I’d like to be a humanitarian,” she says.

Kabir Karnani had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain through GSA

Kabir Karnani had
the opportunity
to study abroad in
Spain through GSA

Kabir Karnani – Spain
Teaching math and English to underprivileged children led Kabir Karnani to GSA. “I volunteered in India before I went to high school, and I wanted to know how to speak to them in their language,” he says. “They didn’t want me to leave. It taught me how not to take education for granted.”

Karnani, a senior who is also learning German, is president of the GSA student council and has taken a trip to Spain through Clements. “The architecture was beautiful,” he says. This summer, Karnani studied international relations and neurobiology at Harvard University and received college credit for his work. His dream is to attend New York University and major in pre-med and minor in urban development. He hopes to combine the two fields of study by providing healthcare for people who are impoverished.

Harmonii Odinga – France
An interest in learning about other cultures attracted Harmonii Odinga to GSA. Being able to make a difference as a GSA student keeps him hooked. “I like the sense of community the academy breeds,” the GSA student council member says enthusiatically. “We are not just sitting around. We’re actually going around and helping the community.”

Through GSA, Odinga has volunteered at various community events and fundraisers that promote learning about various cultures. His focus is French, and he hopes to travel to France through Clements in 2014. He is also studying Arabic.

Before he joined GSA, the junior was interested in a career in medicine, but now his sights have expanded. “I’m actually looking into more global business, maybe diplomacy,” he says. “I’m reconsidering my plans for the future.”

Worstell was not only able to immerse herself in the German language, but also developed a genuine love for the culture

Worstell was not only able to
immerse herself in the German
language, but also developed a
genuine love for the culture

Bonnie Worstell – Germany
Bonnie Worstell applied to the GSA to study German. Four years later, she has not only learned the language, but come to love the culture, and gained valuable leadership experience. Last summer, Worstell, a GSA student council member spent six weeks in Germany. For three weeks she lived with a family in Cologne, Germany and attended classes. During the other three she traveled throughout the country.

What surprised her? “In Bavaria, an area in Southern Germany, they are more cultural than you would think,” she remembers. “They had a lot of people in their traditional outfits. Normally, the only time people wear it is during carnival.”

This summer Worstell was selected to attend a week-long diplomacy program at Mercy College in New York City. She toured the United Nations, met the Czechoslovakian ambassador, and presented a paper she wrote.

“GSA has opened so many opportunities,” says Worstell. “It is one of the best choices I’ve made in my life.” SLM

TONYA ELLIS studied French in college and spent a year-and-a-half studying abroad.


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