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Traverse City students chosen for fellowships in Brazil

  • Traverse City students Ashley Flees, left, and Katy Bertodatto will travel to Brazil for a fellowship with U.S.-Brazil Connect.

Posted on June 12, 2013

Two Grand Valley students were selected for fellowships by a national organization that strengthens educational ties between the U.S. and Brazil.

Liberal studies majors Katy Bertodatto and Ashley Flees were among a group of students from the Traverse City area selected by U.S.-Brazil Connect for fellowships.

U.S.-Brazil Connect works with Northwestern Michigan College and other community colleges to select students to connect with Brazilian youth via web technology, then live in Brazil for a month-long internship, working closely with the youth to help them improve their English skills. Both Bertodatto and Flees received associate’s degrees from NMC in Traverse City.

They have each spent the last month creating Facebook groups, and using Skype and Google+ to communicate with their assigned Brazilian teens. Bertodatto said she’s enjoyed connecting with her group this way.

“We’re supposed to have fun conversations now,” Bertodatto said. “It creates communication and promotes better understanding of the English language.”

At 28, Bertodatto is one of the oldest fellows in the program. She has two sons, ages 5 and 7, and said she also had lots of excuses not to apply for this fellowship. Family and faculty members encouraged her to do so.

“I look at it as enriching my writing, communication skills, and my cultural experiences, which I will bring back and share with my kids and instill a love for travel in them,” she said.

Flees works as an office manager at NMC’s advising center and said connecting with her group as a mentor is an easy extension of that job. She added that this experience closely aligns with Grand Valley’s liberal studies program.

“This is why I chose liberal studies because I fit under a couple of umbrellas,” Flees said. “This will also add to my soft skills. I’m instructing people, leading them through group work and developing leadership skills.”

For more about U.S.-Brazil Connect, visit


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