By Amanda Hatfield
MELBOURNE -- This summer, a local high school senior will travel to the south of France, all expenses paid.
Sounds like the ultimate vacation, doesn't it? But this trip will be filled with studies on local culture and the French language.
Marley Butcher, a senior at West Shore Junior/Senior High School in Melbourne, received a study abroad scholarship from the American Society for French Academic Palms, from a pool of thousands of applicants from across the nation.
"The American Society for French Academic Palms is an organization of American residents who have been recognized by the French Government for outstanding contribution to French Culture," said Jennifer Walker, Marley's French teacher. "The organization promotes education and offers a study abroad program each year for a deserving student to study the language and culture in France."
A student of Mrs. Walker's for five years, Marley is currently enrolled in West Shore's Advanced Placement French Language and Culture course.
Students eligible for the scholarship are seniors in high school with an exceptional command of the French language.
"Marley had to select a four-week long, summer study program in France, then submit a lengthy application, with an essay in French that outlines her proposed plan of study," Mrs. Walker said.
Ms. Marley also had to receive recommendation from a member of the ASFAP society along with a letter of recommendation from her French teacher, Mrs. Walker.
"Marley also had to be interviewed via Skype -- while speaking in French --by the recommending member of the ASFAP society," Mrs. Walker added.
This July, Marley will reside for four weeks with a host family in Montepellier, the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillion region. She will take French language classes during the day, while attending cultural excursions on the weekends.
"I believe Marley was awarded the scholarship because of her involvement in French activities at our school, her outstanding awards and accomplishments in French, her excellent communication skills and her aspirations of becoming a French teacher," Mrs. Walker said.
Marley certainly has the resume to back up Mrs. Walker's high praise. The current President of La Societe Honoraire de Francais -- or French Honor Society -- Marley is also the winner of the 2013 American Association of Teachers of French Outstanding High School Senior in French Award.
Marley was also named the 2012 winner of the French Government's "Green Connection" Scholarship to study abroad in the French Alps.
"Marley has been a true role model for younger French students at our school," Mrs. Walker said. "She's served as an officer of our French Honor Society for three years, and has been competing in many different events at the state French Congress competition.
"Mrs. Walker has inspired me so much with enthusiasm and love for the French language and culture," Ms. Butcher said. "I hope to, one day, inspire students of my own in the same way Mrs. Walker did me."