Traveling with the students as a delegation leader this year is Harold Wilson, a 37-year teacher at Fitch who retired in February. Wilson said that even though he is retired from teaching, he does plan to stay involved with People to People.
“This is a great program for the kids,” Wilson said. “It’s a cultural exchange and a real learning experience.”
The road to the trip actually begins with a selection process. Any student can go online and fill out an application, or can be nominated through school officials or staff.
Following the initial paperwork, Wilson said the students will have a personal interview with several People To People leaders. It will be up to them to decide whether or not the student is ready for such a trip. Not every applying student gets to go.
The next step is funding the trip, in which the students have to pay their own way. Wilson said there are ways for anyone to do it.
“Sometimes a parent will simply write the check,” Wilson said. “We encourage the student working for it though.”
Some students will take on jobs or find creative ways to raise the funds needed. Once that is done, the only thing left is to study the destination country. This year, it is Australia and they will be traveling to famous destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Ayer's Rock, the Sydney Opera House and more.
“While serving as ambassadors, they will experience and share American customs as well as learn of the host country's living and cultures, such as learning to throw a boomerang and more,” said Wilson.
The stay will be 15 days, of which at least two will be spent with a host family. Wilson said there would be hotel stays, but when the student shares time with a family, they learn more about the culture than they could possibly imagine.
The students will keep a log of their journey and are encouraged to keep a log prior to leaving. That log can be used to show the Australian hosts what life is like in the United States.
Wilson said other countries can often be very different from what kids are used to. He recalled a trip to England and a stay in a city. The city was very compact and the people walked everywhere they went. It was very different from the wide open cities the students are used in this country.
“There was nobody driving them to the park or store,” Wilson said.
Once the trip is complete, the students will return home and will meet again for a group outing with families. At the outing they will share their stories of what it was like down under.
The trip will be a memory the students can hold onto the rest of their lives. In fact, Wilson said for many, keeping in touch with friends made in Australia is commonplace. With technology like Facebook and the Internet, the students will be able to keep sharing with friends made on their trip.
Wilson also mentioned that friendships are made more locally as well. The Mahoning County group, which includes students from Austintown and Canfield this year, are teamed with kids from Akron and Dayton to make up an Ohio delegation.
Photo special to the Town Crier
Tyler Lefoer of Austintown, Maggie Beistel of Canfield, Patrick Landers of Canfield, Amanda Fisher of Lordstown, Angelo Donadio of Howland, and Raquel Abel of Canfield are preparing to go down under in the People-to-People program this summer.