Glen Rose youths spend summer in Italy tutoring cadets, experiencing all country has to offer
Three young Glen Rose women are on the trip of a lifetime that all started with a Facebook message.
Abby Stephenson, a 2021 graduate, along with Vivian LaMure and Hazel Hawkins, current students, were asked to spend the summer in Italy tutoring cadets at a prestigious Italian naval academy high school.
"My high school friend, Tiffany Hogan, teaches intermediate to advanced level English based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages at this high school," said Hazel's mother Patti Hawkins. "Tiffany’s husband is the Harbor Master of Venice and is a two-Star Admiral in the Italian Coast Guard.
"It all started when Tiffany reached out on Facebook asking if I knew of a 17-year-old girl that wanted to spend her summer in Italy tutoring English to another 17-year-old student," Hawkins said. "Hazel said the gig was made for her. Abby and Vivian were happy to join once we learned more cadets were willing to host an American teenager willing to volunteer tutor English three to four hours a day."
All three young women are currently in Italy, touring the country and experiencing all it has to offer.
The cadets are starting their fourth and fifth years of school this fall at the prestigious Italian naval military high school, Francesco Morosini, on Saint’Elena Island in Venice.
The cadets are chosen from a public competition against 1,800 others to enter any Italian military school. In Italy, there are two army high schools, one in Naples and one in Milan; one air force high school in Florence; and a navy high school in Venice.
The entrance exam into the academies includes questions in Latin, English, biology, physics, math and history. The candidates take a psychological exam and then a physical exam.
Sixty students were selected for the naval high school, where the girls are tutoring. Upon graduation, the goal for most cadets is to attend one of the military academies for college and graduate as an officer in the Italian navy.
Hawkins is tutoring Mafalda Buono, a cadet from Naples, for four weeks.
"I wanted to tutor this summer because it seemed like an amazing opportunity to see the world and meet new people," Hawkins said.
"One thing that I have learned about Italians is that they are very warm and welcoming people, who will treat you like you're a member of their own family," she added.
Hawkins said that on a typical day, they study after breakfast and normally go out to see some some of the local sites after lunch.
She has visited Milan, Venice, Rome, Naples and Amalfi, stating that her favorite was Venice "because its roads are water and you have to take boats instead of cars."
Hawkins said there are some challenges to being a tutor in a foreign country, among them, the language barrier.
"The most challenging part of being a tutor is having to find ways to make the people around you understand what you are saying because we are not fluent in the same languages," she said.
Hawkins is a senior at GRHS and in the top 3% of the Class of 2022. Upon graduation, she plans to study engineering.
She is captain of the Lady Tigers basketball team, co-founder of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), plays saxophone in Tiger Pride Band and is on Student Council. She is also a member of National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society and Workforce Industry Training (WIT).
Hawkins also works at The Home Depot.
LaMure is tutoring Leonardo Rodio, a cadet from Genoa, for two weeks. She will then tutor an ex-cadet Giovanni Grisolia and his sister, Chiara, for the following two weeks.
"I wanted to tutor English this summer because I love to travel so this opportunity from Patti and Tiffany was really amazing," LaMure said. "I immediately knew I had to go."
Being kind of a last-minute situation, LaMure didn't have much time to prepare, but was up for the challenge nonetheless.
"I was asked if I wanted to go to Italy about a month before I was scheduled to leave, but I was given instructions on how to approach teaching English to foreign students and then I built a loose curriculum from there," she said.
LaMure said being in Italy has really impressed on her the importance of experiencing independence and growth through culture.
She said there isn't a "typical" day as each day brings a new experience.
"We do something completely different every day," LaMure said. "Most of the time, we go visit nearby towns, cities, monuments or beaches and walk around. We usually eat amazing home-cooked meals or a traditional dish from the place we visited and then in the evenings, it is typical to take a walk through a nearby town."
She was in the south of Italy, in Calabria, for 10 days with Giovanni and Chaira Grisiola, and then will stay for 20 days in Rome.
"I have loved all of the places I have visited," LaMure said. "I am particularly fond of Matera and Maratea so far, but as I just arrived in Genova and have not yet seen Rome, I cannot fully answer what my favorite is. My favorite things to see are the cathedrals. They are gorgeous."
The Glen Rose student said one of the most challenging parts of being a tutor in a foreign country are the "little things that no one really notices, the basic daily confusion of being surrounded by a different language and the cultural differences that make for some awkward experiences."
Overall, however, LaMure said she went into the trip with a very open mind and no real expectations so there have been very few challenges.
LaMure is a senior, who moved to Glen Rose from Dallas in the seventh grade. She is involved in debate-extemporaneous speaking, Spanish honors, WIT, UIL and enjoys spending time with friends.
Following graduation, she plans to take a gap year to travel before starting college.
Stephenson is tutoring Felice Profilo, a cadet from Naples, for two weeks and also Allessandro Cairo, a cadet from Lecce, for the following two weeks.
"I wanted to tutor because it was an opportunity to see the world, gain lasting friendships and experience Italian culture from a local perspective," she said.
When asked how she prepared for the experience, Stephenson said, "I prepared lessons .... and bought a few new swimsuits."
She said a new experience for her on the trip has been learning that she can do things on her own since she is more comfortable being with the people she has known her "entire life."
"The hosts I have stayed with have shown me nothing but Southern hospitality, so being here feels a lot like my hometown," Stephenson said.
On a typical day, she said they wake up to do lessons, but eat breakfast beforehand.
"After breakfast and lessons, we go see beautiful places together," she said. "Most of the places we go, the locals have never been there themselves, so it is new to all of us."
So far, Stephenson has seen Naples, Rome, Bari, Lecce, Copertino, Pompei, Salerno, Campo de Mare and several other places "I cannot pronounce."
"My favorite has been Campo de Mare for the beautiful seaside, cliffs, castles and delicious food," she said.
Stephenson said the most challenging part of being in a foreign country is the language barrier.
"I become very close to these hosts, but I know it would be much easier if we understood each other consistently," she said.
Stephenson was in the top 5% of the GRHS Class of 2021. She was president of HOSA, secretary of NHS, co-captain of Lady Tigers varsity basketball, prom queen, Miss GRHS, a member of the LEAD team at Stonewater Church, in UIL accounting, a WIT member and an Optimist Youth of the Month.