Model Sophomore Accepted into State Dept. Language Immersion Program, Headed to South Korea

photo of Lydia Coleman

A Model Laboratory School sophomore will spend seven weeks in South Korea this summer in a language immersion program sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

Lydia Coleman, daughter of Eastern Kentucky University faculty members Dr. David Coleman and Dr. Elizabeth Underwood, will participate in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). Out of approximately 3,000 applications nationwide, only about 15 percent of applicants are selected for the program. The merit-based NSLI-Y scholarship covers most costs associated with the program, including round-trip travel, tuition and academic materials, in-country support, cultural activities, and more.

Coleman, who will stay with a South Korean family, is not exactly a stranger to the Korean peninsula. She developed a strong interest in the country when she spent five months there in 2012, when her mother was a visiting professor of sociology at Yonsei University. During that stay, she completed her eighth-grade year at a Seoul Foreign British School.

Actually, her family has a very long history of involvement with Korea. Lydia’s great-great-grandparents Horace and Lillias Horton Underwood were among the first Protestant missionaries in Korea in the late 19th century. Horace also was the founder of Yonsei University and Lillias the personal physician to the Queen of Korea. Her grandfather, Richard Underwood, was one of the principal translators at the Pammunjom peace negotiations in 1952-53 that brought an end to the Korean War.

Ernest McClees, the Model Lab teacher who supported Coleman’s application with a letter of recommendation, said Coleman has “time and again demonstrated … true intercultural competency,” which, he said, would make it “easy for her to transfer to any language she chooses to master in her life. Her mindfulness of humans, their commonalities and their differences alone make her a great candidate to learn a critical language. Her drive to immerse herself in all things Korean will no doubt allow Lydia to flourish in the NSLI-Y program.”

The U.S. State Department initiative is designed to encourage development of strong skills in critical languages that are rarely studied by American students, yet important to the U.S. for strategic and economic reasons; spark a lifelong interest in foreign languages and cultures; and develop a corps of young Americans with the skills necessary to advance international dialogue in the private, academic or government sectors, building upon foundations developed through person-to-person relationships.

Coleman is a varsity cheerleader, dance team member and softball player at Model, which she has attended since kindergarten, except for the three months in South Korea during her eighth-grade year. She also directs Youth Chimes at First Presbyterian Church.

Published on April 21, 2014