How One Scholarship Exchange Changed the Lives of Three Young Floridians

In an effort to strengthen German-American ties and to celebrate the 300th year anniversary of the first German immigration to the United States, the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag created the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) scholarship in 1983. This scholarship involves several different programs, including a vocational scholarship, which provides 25 U.S. high school graduating seniors the opportunity to spend one year in Germany immersing themselves in the culture by living with German families, attending schools and interning in their chosen career field. Several years after their experience abroad, three of Florida’s CBYX alumni share how the program has shaped their lives.


University of Florida (UF) graduate, Jason Boes, participated in the CBYX program from 2000 to 2001, after he graduated from high school. Jason believes the program was beneficial to the success of his career.

“The experience gave me an understanding of how to interact with individuals of other cultures and backgrounds in a way that I never would have experienced otherwise,” said Jason. During his stay in Germany, Jason completed a two-month language training program, lived in Hamburg with a host family of four siblings, and found an internship in business operations.

Since his return to the states, Jason has completed a BA in Finance, and an MBA from Arizona State University. He began his professional career at Intel, and in 2013, moved to Jacksonville, Fla. to work for CSX railroad.

The CBYX alumnus attributes his success to the German language skills he acquired and the leadership experience he gained when he traveled to Austria and Switzerland during his internship to train teams on the implementation of new software.

Animal-loving, Palm Bay local, Meghan Wolfgram, ventured to Germany for the program in 2008, where she interned at a breeding, boarding and training stable working with Dressage horses. Today, Meghan is the founder and co-owner of Swift Paws, a manufacturer of dog lure chasing equipment and operator of lure chasing events.

She also works closely with her local 4-H horse program, where she trains and rides horses. Meghan describes her experience in the CBYX program as an invaluable learning opportunity that put her ahead in her career. According to her, the exchange was an “unparalleled experience that has put me above and beyond (what) anyone my age could hope to achieve without such a program.”

Designer Melinda Alderman got her start by interning at a small independent theatre in Cologne during her stay in Germany as a CBYX program participant in 2006. Additionally, she was able to learn about the rich and unique culture of the city.

Upon returning to the states, she enrolled in UF’s theatre program, but later transferred to the University of South Florida where she specialized in costume design and graduated with a BFA in Theatre Design. Meghan went on to design wedding gowns while she lived in Tampa and now lives in Nashville where she is developing a “made-in-America” clothing line.

“After living in Germany, a county which still has a thriving and high-quality production culture, I am inspired to work toward opening a factory where I can design and produce quality clothing with American-made fabrics,” said Melinda.

All three CBYX alumni continue to have close relationships with their host families, speak fondly of their year in Germany and attribute a great part of their career success to this experience.

To get more information on the scholarship program they participated in, go to To learn more about all the CBYX programs, visit

Author: Claudia Claussen serves as the public information specialist in the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Communications and External Affairs.

Making Connections to Boost Classroom Instruction

pamstewart-smallLong before I began my teaching career, I worked as a switchboard operator at vending machine factory in Aurora, Illinois. Through the summers after high school, I worked a number of odd jobs, including driving a forklift and packaging textbooks.

Part of the time I was a relief switchboard operator and my sole job was to use electrical cords to connect one caller to another on a giant, high-back switchboard. I had to make sure that when a caller dialed the switchboard he or she was connected to the right person.

After almost 30 of years working on behalf of students, I still think about that job and how today’s teachers are often tasked with helping students and their families make important connections. Whether they helped a student understand a real life application of what they’ve learned, sent home information to parents, or even helped the entire family receive additional services, teachers are a vital link for students.

Last week I had the pleasure of announcing the finalists for the 2015 Macy’s/Florida Teacher of the Year Award. I can tell you that each one of these talented educators has helped students make connections between classroom knowledge and future goals and I know there are many more outstanding educators inspiring students to find their passion. I hope that all of Florida’s teachers were able to spend this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week doing what they love and knowing that we truly appreciate them for it.

On behalf of the Florida Department of Education, I want to thank Florida’s teacher for being the invaluable link between students, their families and a lifetime of success.


Pam Stewart

Commissioner of Education

Celebrate Florida College System Month


Randy Hanna

Chancellor of the Florida College System

Florida Department of Education

April is national community college month, and here in Florida, we’re celebrating the impact the 28 institutions in the Florida College System have on students, families, communities and the state.

I was a first generation college student from rural Gadsden County. The Florida College System was designed for students like me to be able to access high-quality education and job training at affordable prices.

I know first-hand the iImagempact going to college can have on someone’s life. And I’m proud to represent the nation’s best college system.

Our system is comprised of 28 colleges, community colleges and state colleges with locations all across the state. Colleges offer a variety of programs, including
certificates, associate degrees and, in some cases, bachelor’s degrees. They have an open-door admissions policy, meaning anyone with a high school diploma (or its equivalent) can enter. And our 2+2 system guarantees Associate in Arts graduates admission to upper-division at state universities or colleges offering bachelor’s degree programs.

But it doesn’t stop there. Our colleges are committed to ensuring that students succeed. Fifty-four percent of juniors and seniors in the State University System are Florida College System transfers. Almost 82 percent of our graduates are employed or continuing education within one year of graduation. The average starting salary is $46,186. And 93 percent of our graduates remain in Florida to work, ready to fill the needs of local business and industry.

I believe the state has a responsibility to help Floridians succeed in college and careers. As we celebrate Florida College System Month throughout April, I encourage you to visit our website for more information about how our colleges are fulfilling their mission to improve lives through education.

Just for Parents Newsletter March Issue Available Online

Have you signed up for the Florida Department of Education’s Just for Parents newsletter? Send us an email at to sign up.

This month’s edition features information on Florida standards, Individual Education Plans (IEP) and recent student accomplishments.


Florida Recruits Top STEM Students

scholarsCommissioner Pam Stewart

Even before I took the stage to welcome attendees to the 2014 Sunshine State Scholars Conference, I realized that this year’s scholars were quite possibly the most talented group we have ever invited.

The conference, a joint project between the department and the Florida Education Foundation, invites each district’s top 11th grade STEM (Science, Technology,  Engineering, Mathematics) student to be recognized and encouraged to begin their postsecondary career in Florida.

I think it is important to know this year’s attendees were not only the state’s top STEM students, but many were also talented writers, musicians, athletes and leaders. For example, Michael from Okeechobee County recently finished his first solo flight and is completing requirements for a private pilot’s license.

Savannah from Charlotte County recently placed in the Florida Girls Weightlifting State Finals and Vivek from Broward County developed a mobile app to help middle school students prepare for the MathCounts competition.

Chyanne from Marion County started a project called “Stockings for Shands,” where she collects coloring books, crayons and other items for children receiving infusion treatments at Shands Hospital.

I wish I had time to highlight each scholar, but I am confident that you will begin seeing all of their names as they become our state’s next generation of leaders.

For more information on Florida’s Sunshine State Scholars program, visit the Florida Education Foundation website.

A special thanks to the conference sponsors who made the event a success, including AT&T, Helios Education Foundation, Universal Orlando Resorts, Atkins, Gulf Power Company, The Florida Lottery and The Mosaic Company.

Florida Honors Outstanding Principals and Assistant Principals

Mickey Mouse wasn’t the only one having a magical time last week, just ask the 37 Florida principals and assistant principals who were honored as the best school leaders in the state.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was serving as a Marion County school principal, so you can imagine how exciting it was to recognize the hard work and dedication of these wonderful leaders. Each of the attendees was nominated by their district to attend the 2014 Commissioner’s Leadership Academy, acknowledging the critical role their leadership plays in student and school success.


Florida’s 2014 Principal of the Year Finalists

I felt very fortunate to know and have worked with several of the district winners. In fact, one of the honorees, Principal John McCollum, was my mentor while I was an elementary school principal in Marion County.

Like John, most of the principals attending the summit came from schools where almost all of their students are on free- or reduced-price lunch plans. What inspires me about these principals is that they do not let a student’s circumstances get in the way of the school’s ability to provide a first-rate education.

When it was my turn to address the attendees, I thanked them for being on the front lines with students, teachers and parents every day. Although the work can be overwhelming, Florida teachers and principals are truly making a difference in the lives of children, ensuring they are prepared for the future…and hopefully having a little fun along the way.

Commissioner Pam Stewart

Florida Department of Education