Carley Adams and Breanna Gleason are both sophomores at Washington & Jefferson College. Both hail from western Pennsylvania and neither have ever traveled outside the United States.
Now, for both recipients of scholarships from the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership, that is about to change.
A graduate of Peters Township High School, Adams is leaving in May for Cartago, Costa Rica, to work in clinics—helping to treat and educate people with HIV and AIDS.
An alumnus of Ambridge High School, Gleason is leaving a month later to study at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Adams is a studio art and communication arts double major active in theater and Gleason is an international studies major, member of the softball team, and a long-time competitive Irish step dancer.
“I am not exactly sure what I want to do after college, but I know it has to involve working with people,” said Adams, who has experience teaching sex education in local high schools. “I want to help people, educate people, and help them get over the stigma associated with AIDS and HIV.”
While in Costa Rica, Adams will work with Cross-Cultural Solutions, a nonprofit organization working to address critical global issues by providing volunteer service to communities abroad.
“I just know I want to do what I can to help,” Adams said.
In high school, Adams discovered her passion for the theater. She said the most rewarding aspect is the cast camaraderie that comes along with it.
“Each member of the cast is unique in some way, and when the combined talents of every man and woman result in something beautiful, there are few places in the world I would rather be,” Adams said.
Gleason, with an eye toward graduate school in international studies, said she is focused on gaining a better understanding of world affairs.
“I am excited, yet terrified,” she said. “I know that it is really going to be a great experience. I am truly blessed to have this experience," she said. "I would not have it without the Heinz Foundation. I also would not have been able to do it without the support of the Office of Global Education at W&J.”
Gleason added that, with international studies being such a broad field, she hopes her experience abroad helps narrow down her options for after graduation.
“I do see myself going for a master’s degree, but for now, I am looking forward to the summer. I am always envious of students who study abroad. I see how people grow and step out of their comfort zone. This is my opportunity,” Gleason said.