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Youths raise funds for ambassador trip with People to People program

By Staff | Feb 4, 2009

In 1956, then President Dwight D. Eisenhower gathered 100 of the top American minds to discuss an alternative to the wars he witnessed as a soldier, general and Allied commander.
The result of the meeting was the formation of People to People, a USA-based ambassador program that would eventually move from the public to private sector, teaching students how to interact and learn from cultures abroad.
Three North Fort Myers students who reside in Cape Coral are looking for funding for their own ambassador trip, in which they will visit seven different European countries, including Russia, Germany, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Two freshmen, Jenn Prichard and Morgan Wilder, and one sophomore, Mitchell Daniels, are trying to raise the money by their own means, instead of relying on their parents to supply the cash.
“It’s really a neat program,” Prichard said. “You don’t do stuff that’s on a regular vacation. It’s very educational.”
Indeed, students are required to learn, not just play, as they visit these communities, often visiting families and providing community service, all while gaining a deeper understanding of the different cultures they find themselves in.
Before setting off to Europe or Asia — there are several different experiences offered for the kids — students must endure a rigorous application and interview process.
Often students do not make the cut after the initial stages, making those who are selected special representatives of not only their schools or their county, but the entire country.
Prichard, Wilder and Daniels represent three of the 45 possible Southwest Florida delegates in the Student Ambassador Program.
The upcoming trip is the first for Wilder and Daniels, but a whopping fourth trip for Prichard.
Her previous experience has earned her the distinction of junior delegation leader, having already visited Australia, France, Italy, Greece and China.
With the trips carrying a total cost of $7,449, the effort to raise the cash has not proved daunting for the students, merely an added challenge to the overall experience.
Morgan’s father, Marty, said that is was what really drew him to program, and the opportunity for his daughter to learn about new cultures in the flesh.
“I really like the educational aspect of this trip,” he said. “I love the preparation they have to go through, and they really have to earn it.”
The students have already tried their hands at fund raising, having thrown a spaghetti dinner and setting up a Web site where businesses and individuals can sponsor students for the chance to advertise.
Prichard said sponsors are “actually getting something back, it’s not like they’re just giving us money” for advertising on the Web site.
In the spirit of the original meeting called by Eisenhower, the students are trying to visit other cultures on the strength of their efforts, hoping that a great fund-raising idea — the Web site for example — will push them over the top and help them reach their goals.
Great ideas apparently sprung from that meeting. Walt Disney, one of the original 100 called to order by Eisenhower, received inspiration to create “It’s a Small World” in 1956.
For Daniels and Wilson, who have never had the chance to experience a trip like this, they just want to expand their horizons as they move toward adulthood.
“It will help me grow as a person,” Wilson said. “It will help me get to know people and how to communicate … and not think selfishly of myself.”
For more information on sponsorship or fund-raising opportunities, visit: www.swflp2p.net or call Robin at 699-8631, or Ron or Jenn at 540-8201.