August 16, 2004
Sixteen-year-old Gabriel Wright of Mesa will head back to school today, but first he needs to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Wright, a Red Mountain High School junior, won a scholarship this spring to attend school for one year in Germany as one of five Arizona participants in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange.
"There’s no better way to learn a language than to live the language," said Wright, who has never been outside the United States.
He flies today to Washington, D.C., and then travels with other program participants to a monthlong German immersion camp in Mollseifen, Germany. He will meet his host family Sept. 11 in a small town along the Rhine River.
Wright’s mother, Melanie Fortney, said she looks forward to her children moving out — but she has mixed emotions about sending Gabriel away for a year because he is so young. Nevertheless, she said she would never stop any of her seven children from pursuing their dreams.
"I want my kids to spread their wings and go as far as they can," she said.
Wright applied for the program with the help of his Red Mountain German teacher, Rodney Cole, who lived in Germany one year as an English teacher. Wright said the application process was extensive and involved essays and interviews.
"They were looking for outgoing, open people who would make good ambassadors," Wright said.