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Sophia Toback '21 Participates in Prestigious State Department Program
Sophia Toback '21 Participates in Prestigious State Department Program

Rising senior Sophia Toback '21 has immersed herself in the Russian language as part of a prestigious program, run by the U.S. Department of State, that promotes world language learning among American students.

The National Security Language Initiative for Youth Virtual Summer Intensive scholarship is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The 2020 Virtual Summer Intensive program was created as an online alternative to the annual overseas immersion program due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about international travel.

Sophia is one of 500 students — selected from approximately 3,000 applicants from across the United States — who will spend the summer studying languages identified as critical to national interests. In addition to Russian, langauges offered include Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian and Turkish.

Sophia said she became interested in the language program because she recognizes the increasing importance of communication in a globalized economy.

"It is extremely important we are able to communicate with others around us," she said. "By learning the Russian language fluently, I hope to be able to step into a role where I can be a successful communicator who facilitates trade and foreign policy between the USA, Russia and other Eastern European nations."

The online program runs July 1-Aug. 7, although Sophia started preparing for her Russian studies back in early June. She said math teacher Karen Carroll helped shape her interest in global issues because "she showed me how math connects to all other aspects of study and the 'real world.'"

"Ultimately, I hope the NSLI-Y program will give me the skills to connect my love for math, economics and the Russian language to my natural skills as a communicator," she added.

"Sophia is such a wonderful student and leader, combining a fascination with theoretical concepts in math with a passion for understanding and grappling with societal problems," Carroll said. "She makes a difference in our community with her work in SPEAK [Students Pursuing Equity And Kindness] and her leadership with our remote tutoring program. Her intellectual curiosity and engagement in the classroom make her a joy to teach."

According to program information, NSLI-Y is part of a multi-agency federal initiative launched in 2006 to improve Americans' ability to communicate in select critical languages, advance international dialogue and provide Americans with jobs skills for the global economy. Many NSLI-Y alumni go on to pursue education and careers vital to U.S. national security and credit the program with helping them improve their academic, leadership and cross-cultural communication skills.

The U.S. Department of State conducts study-abroad programs for over 1,000 American high school students and approximately 3,000 foreign high school students each year. Visit for details.

Congratulations to Sophia on this exciting opportunity!