- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2014


Pay attention, Dear Readers. Here’s the story of a teenager whose life is moving, as the saying goes, in all the right directions.

This story is about Ellice Ellis, an 11th grader at Wilson High in the nation’s capital. Next week this time, with God’s speed and the wings of the ancestors, Ellice will be in Ghana, where she and a host family will share not just a roof and walls, but a home to discover and appreciate their similarities and differences.

Only 16, Ellice is embracing a life of learning, faith and family, and she already has learned a lot.

She plays saxophone, piano and violin, and she’s athletic, playing volleyball and lacrosse. A potential newspaperwoman, she also likes graphic design and fashion, and, ta-da, she has a 3.7 GPA.

And Ellice, who already has visited Europe, loves “to travel and discover new things.”

All of those interests and accomplishments helped Ellice garner one of 65 merit-based scholarships awarded by the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Abroad program.

An immersion program begun after 9/11, the winners get to spend an academic year in a host country, and they had several to chose from, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Morocco, South Africa and Turkey. Ellice preferred Morocco or another nation of French speakers, although Ghana was No. 5 on her list. Having visited Ghana and spent time with Ellice, I think they’re a perfect pairing.

Even if others don’t point her in a certain direction, you get the sense that Ellice is the type of teenager who follows her inner compass.

“I wanted to step into a new environment,” she said of applying for the scholarship. “I’m comfortable being around the same people [while growing up and going to school], but I also wanted something new and different, out of the ordinary.

“I want to see what it’s like living in someone else’s shoes and show them what’s it’s like to live in the U.S.,” Ellice said.

She’ll be living with a family of mom, dad and several children.

Is she nervous or downright scared about being so far away from family and friends for such a long stretch of time?

“Excited,” Ellice said.

She is, of course, anticipating Ellis family time.

Her mom, Dawn Ellis, says the family, including sisters Eboni and Eve and brother Ellis Jr. (affectionately known as EJ), is planning to visit. And Ellice, who also blogs and Facebooks, plans to keep interested parties abreast of her new Ghanaian home away from home and how her schooling is fairing at Ghana National College, a coed boarding school and one of the top educational institutions there.

Ellice’s Ghanaian home is Christian, as is her home in the District, where she was born and is being reared.

“I’m a Christian,” said Ellice. “So I’m looking forward to attending services with them.”

As you might imagine, Ellice is going to miss her siblings. Eboni, the oldest, attends Spelman College in Atlanta, and in a sense that meant Ellice became “the older sister” by default.

Now it’s brother EJ’s turn to step in and step up.

“I’m going to really try my hardest [in school in Ghana,]” said Ellice, who has been diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss.

“We are blessed,” said Mrs. Ellis, a former faculty member at Gallaudet University for the deaf and hard of hearing.

There you have it: A teenager who is balancing a life of learning, curiosity and travel, and faith, family and a hearing loss that many would consider a handicap.

Ellice, who takes flight for Ghana on Sept. 3, is a world traveler and far more than an observer of life — things far too few youths who live in dense urban areas merely read or hear about.

We can do a better job of showing them that the world is their oyster, too.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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