When Allison Crowell arrived at Susquehanna in 2004, the middling Spanish student, who grew up on a rural orchard near Gettysburg, Pa., would have laughed at the notion of becoming an award-winning Spanish teacher in Washington, D.C.
During Susquehanna's pre-enrollment, language-proficiency exam, Crowell didn't even place out of the basic-level Spanish course. Yet she discovered she loved Spanish thanks to Associate Professor of Spanish Amanda Meixell, who kept encouraging her to take more and more classes. Crowell took as many as 26 credits a semester to ultimately earn two bachelor's degrees—one with a major in Spanish, the other with dual majors in music and religion.
Susquehanna's SU CASA service trips to Nicaragua and Costa Rica and a semester studying abroad in Mérida, Mexico, sold Crowell on Spanish and urban life. Then a last-minute application to Teach for America led to a two-year assignment—and ultimately a permanent position—at Ballou High School, one of Washington's poorest public schools.
With Crowell's help, the school went from offering just two years of Spanish to offering four years with an advanced placement class. The AP class was implemented after Crowell helped raise $25,000 to fund an eight-student trip to Spain. That was followed by a 2011 trip to Costa Rica that she partially funded with a $5,000 grant she received for winning the Linowes Leadership Award from the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.
During the seven years Crowell spent teaching in our nation's capital, the Ballou International Education Program funded 13 different international study and service-learning trips through crowd-sourcing and grassroots fundraising efforts. It was so successful, it's no longer needed.
The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) now offers fully-funded international service and educational travel to all eighth- and 11th-grade students. This summer, DCPS will take more than 400 students to 18 different countries.
Crowell, who married in 2015 and moved back to her hometown, now works as the human resources manager at her family's fifth-generation fruit tree nursery, which has a predominantly Spanish-speaking employee base. In addition to more traditional HR responsibilities, she provides free Spanish instruction to the office staff and ESL classes to Hispanic employees.
The move back to her hometown and the family business may have been more unexpected than the seven years she spent teaching in DCPS, but the new start has provided her with an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to the rural community where she grew up-and more specifically, a demographic of that community that is often on the margins.