SoHi/Gonzaga grad heads to New Zealand as Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar...

They are the next generation of world leaders and they are part of a program that has been sponsored by Rotary International since 1947 during which time $532 million dollars has been awarded to 41,000 men and women from around world. Now Soldotna High School and Gonzaga University graduate Kaitlin Vadla is among that elite group thanks to the members of the Soldotna Rotary Club that nominated her for the prestigious scholarship. "I'm really excited! I'm going to be studying at the University of Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand with a professor who is doing graduate research in the field of auto-biographical memory. What I am really interested in is story telling, specifically the convergence of narrative identity and authenticity. Simply put when cultures connect on our stories, even a fish story, it's impossible to deny each others humanity bringing people together in ways that do amazing things in building communities and healing issues within communities like what happened in South Africa with the Truth Forum," Vadla told Soldotna Rotarians at her farewell address.

Like Alaska, New Zealand has a very high rate of domestic violence and Vadla hopes to gain insights to ways of reducing those rates, "There are certainly links between the indigenous populations in New Zealand, the Maori people and native Alaskans, in addition to high domestic violence rates New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate per capita in the world. These are devastating statistics and I hope through this exchange that I may somehow create some positive change around these issues," said Vadla.

The process of Vadla becoming an Ambassadorial Scholar was three years in the making she says, "Soldotna Rotarian Sarah Riley suggested I apply and so many other club members encouraged and shepherded me along the path and it was with their support that it turned out to be a wonderful fit for my life and an amazing opportunity for which I'm really grateful." Vadla said she'll be in New Zealand for at least a year, but doesn't have a return ticket, "Who knows, maybe this will turn into a seven year PhD program and a trip around southeast Asia. Alaska is my home and the place I will always come back to again and again because I'm excited and thankful to be part of this community," she said.

Rotary Ambassadorial scholarships are awarded to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as qualified professionals pursuing vocational studies. While abroad, scholars serve as goodwill ambassadors to the country where they study and give presentations about their own culture to Rotary clubs and other groups. Back home, scholars share with Rotarians and others the experiences that deepened their understanding of another culture. In addition to Ambassadorial scholarships local Rotary Clubs offer many scholarships for high school seniors seeking higher education and vocational development, to learn more about Rotary's scholarship opportunities contact any one of the six clubs on the Kenai Peninsula from Seward to Homer.