About the Speedwell AFS Study Abroad Scholarships

2014 Speedwell AFS Scholars and Alumni

Speedwell AFS Study Abroad Scholarships are offered annually to up to 20 high school and gap year students from 19 counties in central Pennsylvania. The scholarships and study abroad program are adminstered by AFS-USA and funded by the Speedwell Foundation.

Scholarships are awarded based on academic merit and quality of applications/essays, as well as presentation of self and motivations to participate in a person interview event. Scholarships are also limited to countries where English is not an official language. Scholarship recipients enjoy the opportunity to master a foreign language, immerse themselves in a new culture and expand their personal horizons. While students may request a particular country, there is no guarantee that they will be placed in the country of their choice.

A young Jenny Messner with with Brazilian soccer star Pelé during her 1970 AFS year abroad in Brazil

A young Jenny Messner with Brazilian soccer star Pelé during her 1970 AFS year abroad in Brazil

Mike and Jenny Messner created the Speedwell Foundation scholarships based on their own experiences with the AFS study abroad program, with both Jenny and their daughter Rebecca having studied abroad. For Jenny, a junior year spent in Brazil was instrumental in dramatically widening her horizons and steering her college and graduate studies that ultimately led to her successful career in international banking.

When Rebecca was considering her AFS trip (to Italy in 2002) the Messners were shocked at the pressure she received not to study abroad. This sparked an interest in promoting study abroad as an important alternative to the pursuit of advanced placement (AP) courses, sports and other extra-curricular activities that have, until recently, dominated college guidance. Hence, the Speedwell AFS Study Abroad Scholarships were born.

Since starting with one scholarship to Iceland in 2007 for a student from Warwick High School in Lititz, Pennsylvania, 183 students have gone abroad on Speedwell AFS Study Aboad Scholarships, including 20 scholars in 2017.  Recipients include students from both public and private schools, as well as home schooled students.


AFS (formerly the American Field Service) offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS Organizations, including AFS-USA. Each year, AFS-USA sends more than 1,500 U.S. students abroad and places international students with more than 2,800 U.S. families. More than 370,000 students have gone abroad with AFS. More than 100,000 former AFS students live in the U.S.

About the Speedwell Foundation

The Speedwell Foundation was founded by Mike and Jenny Messner and named after their farmhouse in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. In addition to funding up to 30 study abroad scholarships for high school students in central Pennsylvania each year, the Speedwell Foundation champions efforts to restore and expand public parks and green spaces in the nation's cities.

Projects have included the production of Olmsted and American's Urban Parks, a one-hour documentary that examines the formation of America's first great city parks in the late 19th century through the genius and foresight of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822 – 1903), visionary urban planner and landscape architect. In addition, Speedwell funded "Red Fields to Green Fields," documentary on the Georgia Institute of Technology program to identify and plan for the conversion of distressed real estate into urban parks and greenways in 11 cities. The Speedwell Foundation also recently funded the Conservation Carousel at the National Zoo, one of the first solar-powered carousels in the world.