A Portland-based nonprofit is giving $1.5 million in scholarships to high schools this year to help students study overseas, officials said.

“It’s very exciting,” said Christina McAnuff, director of the high school study-abroad program at the Council on International Educational Exchange, or CIEE.

The company is awarding the Global Navigator Scholarships to 50 high schools – primarily in California, Illinois, North Carolina and New Jersey – that show a commitment to language and global education programs.

Deering High School in Portland got a $20,000 scholarship as part of the program, in recognition of the school’s 2-year-old switch to an international curriculum, including offering classes in Mandarin and Arabic.

Spanish teacher Carlos Gomez, the faculty leader for the global focus at Deering High, said the gift would make a difference for the students.

“We have a global focus at Deering,” Gomez said. “This sort of real-world authentic learning opportunity has the ability to bring the curriculum to life and transform our students.”

The Global Navigator Scholarships can be used to participate in any of CIEE’s 30 high school programs in 16 countries, from studying Arabic in Morocco to studying environmental science in Botswana. Some are language programs, while others are service programs or academic study opportunities.

Scholarship winners will be selected by CIEE based on merit and financial need. The scholarships are funded by donor Sheron Long of California, who founded the Hampton-Brown Co., publisher of education materials, and later sold it to National Geographic.

In 2013, Deering High began integrating an international focus into all of its course work as part of the International Studies School Network, a project of the New York-based nonprofit Asia Society. Deering is the first New England school in the network and one of 34 nationwide.

Deering junior Sofia de Oliveira, who went on a CIEE trip to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, last year, said she’s glad the school got the scholarships.

“There are some things you just can’t learn in a classroom,” said de Oliveira, who gave presentations about her trip to fellow Deering students.

The high school scholarships are part of a larger global initiative launched last year aimed at doubling the number of American college students who study abroad by 2020. CIEE contributed more than $20 million, the largest pledge from about 450 commitments, toward the five-year Generation Study Abroad initiative launched by the Institute of International Education in New York City.