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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 4, 2006

Persistent teen gets to study in Chile

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

Brooke Parker

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Age: 16

School: Mililani

Grade: Junior

Who helps you? "My mom. She really helped me a lot. She came to meetings with my counselor, talked to my principal, found money and ways to afford this. She's really been a big support," Parker said.

What advice would you give to kids who want to follow your example? "Definitely start working on it now," Parker said. Also, she said, be well prepared with research to present to counselors and principals.

Finally, she advised: Don't give up, even when told your idea isn't possible.

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Before Brooke Parker started at Mililani High School three years ago, her family hosted a couple of students from New York on a student exchange program.

One of the students spoke about her student exchange experience in Germany, which got Parker thinking about possibly doing an international exchange of her own.

Now 16 years old, Parker is about to embark on a six-month stay in Chile. But it wasn't easy for her to persuade school officials to allow her to miss an entire semester of her senior year and still graduate with her class.

"This was something that I really wanted to do. I knew that it was possible," Parker said.

But after her first meeting with a school counselor to discuss pursuing an exchange opportunity, Parker said she felt discouraged.

"She said, 'I don't think we do that here. We've never done that,' " Parker said. "I decided that I should at least go get as much information and I could and go back and tell her how it could be done."

While scouring the Internet, Parker stumbled across an organization called American Field Service, which helps students line up exchanges to different countries. Upon reviewing the information with the counselor, the teen was told that she could take part in an exchange program, but she would not earn credits toward graduation while abroad.

"She said there would be lots of classes that I would be missing," Parker said.

Before Parker's junior year, she and her mother, Debbie, sat down with a list of the Hawai'i high school graduation requirements and figured that she could take summer school classes to compensate for the missed semester. Parker had already completed a summer school physical education class before her freshman year.

"We fiddled with the numbers and figured with three summers of summer school and two after-school drama classes, Brooke would have enough credits to miss the entire first semester of her senior year," Debbie Parker said.

Armed with that information, Parker was able to persuade both her high school counselor and her principal to let her go to Chile.

"I'd like to learn about the culture and maybe about where I fit in to the world," Parker said.

She urges other teenagers who want to do the same thing to be persistent.

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.