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The following biography was originally published in Homeschooling Teen Magazine.

Amy Burritt: America Through the Eyes of a Student

Born on January 19, 1983, Amy Suzanne Burritt was raised in northern Michigan in a close-knit homeschooling family. Many homeschool families incorporate the educational benefits of travel into their lifestyle. Nevertheless, 12-year-old Amy Burritt at first thought her parents had gone crazy when she was told that they planned to sell their share of the family business, rent a motor home, and roam the country for a year. But later she would recall, “It’s hard to put into words the way homeschooling has shaped me. Homeschooling provided the opportunity to do these things. Being able to spend the time with my mom, dad, and Jon has been great.”

In the summer of 1995, the Burritt family – consisting of Amy, her younger brother Jonathan, and parents Kurt and Emily – started out on the adventure of a lifetime. They would leave their Traverse City home, drive from coast to coast, and fly to Alaska and Hawaii on a 50 state/50 week tour of the United States … from the forests of the Great Lakes, across deserts, over twisting mountain passes, through urban jungles of the east, past Southern battlefields, and among giant redwood groves of the Pacific coast. To focus their travels on learning about American history, geography, and government, they set a goal to meet the governors of all 50 states.

Amy’s favorite subjects were reading and writing. While on the nationwide tour, she studied interviewing and public speaking to prepare for meeting with the governors. Besides being an interviewer and gatherer of information, Amy was the official trip documenter and faithfully recorded daily events in a journal each night. In addition, by writing down ahead of time all that she hoped to accomplish along the way, Amy learned that “if you can dream it, you can do it.” Amy’s learning journey also taught her about compassion for others and the value of persistence.

As a result of the trip, Amy realized that she had learned a lot of valuable information about America. Upon arriving back home, Amy wrote a book about her adventures with the help of her mom and a writer friend. In May 1998, when Amy was 15 years old, the Burritt family self-published “My American Adventure: 50 States in 50 Weeks.” It was soon republished by HarperCollins/Zondervan as My American Adventure. Adapted from the journal she kept on the road, her book is a travel guide, history text, and personal memoir that provides a firsthand account of the people and places she discovered on her American odyssey. Her story is interesting and heartwarming, imbued with a spirit of adventure that makes readers want to go out and do something themselves. It will also inspire teens to set high goals and keep reaching to achieve them.

Amy’s sojourn reads like a series of extremely well-written “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essays. She cruised through the streets of New York City in a jeep, and walked the path of George Washington at Valley Forge. In Vermont, she narrowly escaped falling down a waterfall. She made friends with homeless children at a Rhode Island campground. She watched bighorn sheep butt heads in South Dakota. She swam with dolphins in Hawaii, and saw the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. Besides describing her many adventures, Amy also reflects candidly on personal struggles and relates amusing incidents, such as when her dad knocked off the 34-foot motor home’s television antenna.

Amy’s meetings with the governors provided some of her most vivid memories. The governors were as diverse in temperament as the states they came from. A few refused her request to meet them. Some curtly offered little more than a handshake. Others warmly granted interviews in which they reflected on their lives and work. Governor David Beasley of South Carolina invited her to his Christmas Open House at the governor’s mansion. Amy personally met 44 out of 50 governors, and she was able to get all 50 governors to sign her and her brother’s sweatshirt mementoes of the trip.

“I’ve learned that if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” Amy said. “But I didn’t know just what I was getting into at first.” The trip’s low point was a gloomy Easter in Alaska. Amy was tired of living on the road and interviewing governors; she just wanted to go home. But when her mom reminded her that “we aren’t quitters,” Amy resolved to keep going because she didn’t want to have to tell her friends that she had given up. Rather than admit failure, Amy decided to take charge. “That’s when it became MY project,” she said. “I saw real purpose behind it.” Her father adds, “That was the real turning point. She made a determination to finish what she’d begun and from then on you could see a change in her. We left with a girl and came home with a young lady.”

For her next adventure back at home, Amy switched from writing to music. She worked on expanding her vocal ability, knowledge of the guitar, and songwriting talent. She led her youth group worship band for several years, and was involved in a second church band. Amy also played with other musicians, picking up tips and tricks. At age 17 she recorded a demo CD and began playing in small venues, sometimes picking up paid gigs. Since then, Amy has written hundreds of songs and performed in a wide variety of venues. Her style is an original combination of folk, blues, jazz and pop combined with soothing vocals and engaging lyrics.

Amy attended Michigan State University and graduated in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications. The day after graduation, Amy moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where she started her own graphic design and creative consulting business called Carbonated Creative. Since then, Amy also has been performing in coffehouses around Asheville, where she always enjoys meeting new people. She released her own album in September 2008, and is currently working on turning her garage into a recording studio. Many of her lyrics reflect upon themes of driving, camping, and homelessness, harkening back to her travel experiences: “And we’re heading down the highway / I’m still trying to find my way / home.”

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