Climbing the Mountain

Living at a former summer camp in California’s High Sierra mountains may not be the conventional idea of studying abroad. But this is exactly what 2010 MVS scholar Abbi Mleziva, sponsored by Two Rivers, Wis., Lodge No. 1380, decided to do this semester.

Abbi studies English and Spanish at Azusa Pacific University. She decided to vary her classes for the spring semester by participating in a unique off-campus program, offered by her university. Since January, Abbi has lived and attended classes in the High Sierra mountains. The rigorous program focuses on leadership and academic excellence.

“When I first saw the promotional video for High Sierra, I got an excited, butterfly feeling in my stomach,” says Abbi. “This looked like such an amazing opportunity.”

While the classes may be tough and daily life in the mountains an adjustment, the most unique part of Abbi’s semester might be the activities. She has been rock climbing, bouldering, kayaking, and snowboarding. Occasionally, one of her classes is even held in a tree house!

Abbi’s favorite activity this semester was a group backpacking trip in January. For five days she donned snowshoes and trekked to Shuteye Peak. This adventure was complete with waist deep snow and a blizzard to cover up the trail home. It was worth it though. Upon reaching the summit she was greeted by a breathtaking view and a bald eagle.

For Abbi, the largest drawback of this semester was giving up her regular volunteer work. But despite being in the mountains, she and her peers have found ways to continue volunteering. They recently put on a talent show at a nearby nursing home which included singing, poetry reading and conversations with the residents.

The MVS scholarship helps make Abbi’s experiences in the High Sierras possible. And for that she is very grateful.

“It’s encouraging to know I have support from the Elks, and that they are interested in seeing me pursue a college education,” says Abbi. “The Elks not only support my academic efforts, but they also encourage my extracurricular activities and volunteer work.”

Next semester, Abbi will return to Azusa Pacific University to continue her undergraduate studies. Upon graduation, she would like to spend two years in the Peace Corps. We are sure that Abbi’s semester in the mountains is only the first of many adventures to come!

In 2011-12, the Elks National Foundation allocated $2.296 million to fund the Most Valuable Student Scholarships. For more information about the Most Valuable Student scholarship program, including eligibility and deadlines, please visit

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