Weekly Feature

2017-05-18 / Education

Cleve-Hill freshman tapped to study abroad


Lesser Lesser Beginning in the fall of 2018, Cleveland Hill High School freshman Joey Lesser will head to Germany as part of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange scholarship, a yearlong study abroad opportunity that just 250 students nationwide get to take part in each year.

One of only two students in Western New York to have been chosen for this year’s approximately $45,000 award, he will stay with a host family, attend a German high school, and meet with Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, as a student ambassador.

To David Stitt, an area sending coordinator with the American Field Service, who helped evaluate him, Joey deserves to go because his insight, efforts to educate his peers, and participation in school district government make him mature beyond his years.

“He’s like a miniature adult,” Stitt said, noting that Joey was as impressive in person as he was on paper. “He was very put-together, his answers were very precise and very thoughtful — just a remarkable young man.”

Created in 1983 to strengthen relations between Germany and the U.S. through citizen diplomacy, the scholarship has helped more than 24,000 students prepare for success in a global society and is jointly funded by the Bundestag and Congress, according to the scholarship’s website.

Like Stitt, Cheektowaga-Sloan Superintendent Jon MacSwan called Joey exceptional for his several leadership roles on the district level at Cleveland Hill.

“He’s become a quasi-member of our leadership team,” said MacSwan, noting that Joey has served on committees concerning the district’s capital project and commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Cleveland Hill School fire, and continues to provide technological support at Board of Education meetings along with Larry King, the district’s director of technology. “He’s just a very rare and spectacular young man.”

King, who has known Joey for a decade, echoed MacSwan’s sentiments, arguing that the student has been a standout since elementary school, helping his teachers when they experienced technical difficulties.

“When I got here 10 years ago, I discovered who Joey Lesser was,” he said, convinced that Joey’s recent pursuit of the scholarship and a college education in Germany and his interest in protocol at board meetings are part of plans for a career in government. “He’s looking to put himself in a federal-level position someday, and I believe that’s part of his reason for taking a year, and then an additional four or five years, in Europe.”

King said that in addition to clipping coupons and keeping an eye out for specials, the scholarship is one of many things Joey does to help his family save money.

“Joe is a very frugal person, and very economically minded,” he said, explaining that the youth plans to turn his time as a high school student in Germany into free college tuition. “His intention is to go back there and do his undergraduate work, because having been a student in Germany, he will get his college education paid for.”

Joey said that while he’s still not quite sure what his future will hold, Germany will be part of it, and he’s excited to immerse himself in the country’s culture and language, and to meet with its leaders.

“I feel like the best way to learn it is to go there and experience it,” he said, also hoping the experience will help him explore career opportunities and colleges.

In addition to Joey chasing his study-abroad dreams and filming board meetings, MacSwan said he is involved in a variety of activities at the high school, including Jazz Band, Student Council, varsity swimming, cross country and track, and running sound for musicals. He is also an honor student.

email: arizzo@beenews.com

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