Merrell has been selected to participate in the Indiana University Honors Program for Foreign Languages. She is one of about 30 students from across the state chosen to participate in the program, which will entail a seven-week stay in France.
"During the weeks abroad, I will attend daily classes studying grammar, culture, phonetics and conversation," Merrell said. "In the afternoons I will participate in planned activities such as theater, singing and sports."
The cost for the program is $5,400. Merrell has been pounding the pavement gathering sponsorship money, and it was on one of those excursions she met Greencastle VFW Post No. 1550 Commander Steve McMains.
"(Merrell) approached us for a donation of $100," McMains said. "I told her we'd be willing to do that, but that we'd rather do a fundraiser for her so we could get her more money."
A pancake supper will be held at the VFW Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. Music for the event will be provided by the John Wood Combo. The requested donation is a minimum of $5 per person.
In tandem with the fundraiser, Friday will also be a Loyalty Day celebration at the VFW. Loyalty Day was established in 1955 to proclaim patriotism and love of country for United States citizens. Buddy Poppy collection will begin at the VFW on Thursday. The proceeds from that initiative will be used to support veterans' homes, hospitals and other VFW programs.
The VFW is an avid supporter of the academic pursuits of local youth.
"We do scholarships for high school and middle school," McMains said. "There's a lot out there."
Merrell also qualified for financial aid through IU, which will pay a maximum of 25 percent of the total cost of the program.
Merrell will stay with a local family while she is in France.
"The language immersion will be total, as I will not be allowed to speak any English during the entire seven-week program," she said. "This rule is central to the honors program and is strictly enforced."
The IU program is highly competitive.
"The selection process began with the IU language placement test in late October," Merrell said. "More than 600 students of French, Spanish and German took this test."
Merrell scored high enough on that placement test to continue on to the second phase of the selection process. She was required to fill out a detailed personal application, which included an essay in French. She had to gather recommendations from her teachers, parents, an adult friend and a peer.
After reviewing Merrell's application and references, the IU program's selection committee invited Merrell to a personal interview -- a third of which was conducted in French.
That final interview clinched Merrell a spot in the program.
Merrell plans to continue studying French during her senior year at GHS, and to pursue the subject as she moves into college.
Other students in the program will stay in locations in Germany, Mexico and Spain. The program is open to all secondary schools in Indiana.
For more information on the fundraiser, call 655-1733 or 653-3018.