By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (March 18, 2016) – Emelin Morales is headed to Europe. Her passport is ready. An itinerary is set – London, Paris, Rome, Florence. Ten days abroad, traveling to destinations most teenagers only dream of visiting.
Until Friday, the Stephenville High School senior knew nothing about her upcoming travels. Her father was aware of the plans. Her teachers and the high school principal had been informed.
Entering an impromptu scholarship award celebration in the school’s library, Emelin was greeted by about three dozen students and a few teachers – most of them she didn’t know. She soon learned those students – holding a banner emblazoned with bright letters, “Congratulations!” – would be her traveling companions.
Shelly Saunders and Maria Ortiz, SHS Spanish teachers, will embark on the journey with the 36 students. Each of them were nominated by their teachers due to academic performance and achievements.
“The trip is merit based,” Saunders said, adding that students are responsible for paying their own way.
All of them except for the single scholarship recipient – Emelin. Preparing for the trip, organizers realized there was opening that hadn’t been filled. Saunders said the slot was typically assigned to an adult, but they had another idea.
“We decided we would use that free spot for a student who would otherwise not be able to go,” Saunders said, adding that a memo was sent to SHS faculty, explaining the situation and asking teachers to nominate a deserving student.
After narrowing the selection pool down to five students, Emelin, whose name “kept coming up,” was chosen.
“We contacted her father, Julio Morales, and he agreed,” Saunders said. “He worked with us to get everything ready.”
At the “big reveal inside the SHS library Friday morning, Emelin was no doubt surprised. She learned Rachel Kammerer, school librarian, had taken her passport photo.
“Remember when I said I needed to test the ID equipment,” Kammerer chuckled. “That’s how we got your passport photo.”
Emelin said her father never told her about the behind-the-scenes planning, but she noticed there were times he asked her to leave the room without saying much.
“He just kept telling me to go feed the dogs,” Emelin laughed.
“I’ve been planning this for the last couple of months,” Julio Morales later said, gleefully admitting keeping the secret wasn’t always easy.
Laughter wasn’t the only emotion filling the library Friday morning.
A tearful Stephanie Traweek, Stephenville High School principal, said the honor couldn’t have gone to a more deserving student.
“She’s overcome a lot personally,” Traweek said, adding she had been at Emelin’s side through the trials and tribulations the student had faced since her freshman year.
Traweek also applauded Emelin’s traveling companions.
“They made all of this happen,” Traweek said, referring to the initial idea of two giving teachers and the other students who held fundraisers to raise the money for Emelin’s scholarship.
“It really is incredible,” Traweek said.
Emelin admitted the idea of traveling around the world a bit scary.
“I’ve never flown,” she said.
“Me either, I have never been to Europe,” her father said. “How often do you get such an opportunity? I feel really good about this. It makes me happy – for Emelin, the school and the teachers. This is really great and I couldn’t be happier about the way they do things.”
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