In the summer of 2015, Elise Harwell participated in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program in Rabat, Morocco. Through this program she had the, “amazing opportunity to get firsthand knowledge about not only Morocco, but also the Arab World and Islam.” Inspired by this experience, Elise founded and serves as the president of the Arabic Culture club at her high school, where she shares Arabic language and culture with her classmates. She has also worked to increase cultural understanding in her community, giving Arabic lessons to kindergartners at a local private school, and presenting on her exchange experience at various high schools in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
Elise is an active member of the exchange alumni community. She is a second year Alumni Representative for the NSLI-Y Alumni Association. In this capacity, she works with fellow alumni to hold events related to professional development, continued language and cultural learning, as well as program outreach. Some of her achievements include organizing a career-focused networking dinner with the local Diplomat in Residence and a presentation on conflict resolution with Hrair Balian of the Carter Center. Elise also recently presented on her exchange experience at the Department of State. Our team had the chance to hear her story, and we were inspired by her confidence and eloquence.
In addition to her alumni efforts, Elise is actively involved in school activities serving as the youth committee secretary for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, president of the International Club, and team leader for her high school’s Model Arab League team. Her passion for international relations and public diplomacy is evident. She continues to study Arabic, and has made the continuation of Arabic studies important in her college search. In the future, she “plans on studying political science and Middle Eastern studies, as well as pursuing a career with the State Department or an international non-governmental organization.”
Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Elise Harwell is this month’s outstanding alumna, and her work will be recognized throughout January on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official website which serves more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.