Garrett Tech student wins trip to Europe

Charleston-area rising high school senior Shawaunna Middleton won an all-expense-paid European vacation for her essay about racial barriers.

As one of 10 students chosen to receive the EF Tours Global Citizen Scholarship, Charleston area student Shawaunna Middleton will take her first trip abroad on an all-expense-paid European vacation.

The students, who all wrote winning essays about racial barriers, will leave from Washington, D.C., on Monday headed for Berlin, Prague and Lucerne.

In a 1,000-word essay, the 17-year-old rising senior at Garrett Academy of Technology dis- cussed racial barriers in the U.S. Shawaunna described the discrimination many immigrants and African-Americans have faced historically, and she reflected on her own experiences to describe the racial barriers that still exist today. At her high school, Shawaunna said, she has witnessed a lot of discrimination, and that "people from different races stick with the people they know."

"I don't see people by their color I see us all as one," she wrote in her essay. Despite the racial cliques she experiences at school, Shawaunna is passionate about breaking down racial barriers, and she thinks it is important "to have friends from other cultures so people can have a broader idea of life."

The group's itinerary includes a three-night stay in Berlin, two nights in Prague, one night in Munich and two nights in the Lucerne region. While in Berlin, the students will go sightseeing, visit a local high school and participate in a workshop painting blocks that will be used to re-create a portion of the Berlin Wall in November.

Throughout the trip, the essay winners will experience different cultures and languages as well as encounter people from all walks of life. The students will visit museums, tour cathedrals and have the chance to meet citizens who lived through the division of East and West Germany and the Berlin Wall.

While abroad, Shawaunna said she hopes to get a better understanding of world cultures as well as pick up a few souvenirs along the way. She added that she is excited about her first trip out of the country, but is nervous about the flight and foreign food.

She was one of two students from her high school nominated to enter the essay contest by her physics teacher, Cerasella Garaiacu, who is from Romania but teaching in the U.S. through the Visiting International Faculty Program.

Although she won a previous writing contest in middle school, Shawaunna said she entered the contest just because she "really had nothing to lose. I never expected to win, though." For the time being, she said she has no plans to pursue a writing career.

Following her trip, she plans to spend the rest of the summer at her home on Johns Island.

As a senior next fall, she will continue to play on the school's soccer team and said she hopes to go to college after graduation, possibly somewhere in North Carolina.