Meet A People to People Teacher Leader

written by Julie Cohn

This trip will change their life.

I’ve heard this phrase several times over the past few months, a reference to how the People to People student ambassador program would change the lives of the students going on the trip, including my son, Nick.  Certainly, I understood the trip would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I had so many more questions, so set out to find out more.  I talked to a parent who sent her daughter on a People to People trip to Europe several years ago, and then talked to her daughter, Holly, a student alumni who experienced the trip.  Finally,  I interviewed the teacher leader who would be leading my sons trip, Julie Donick, to gain her first hand perspective on how a People to People trip can really impact a family.  Meet A People to People Teacher Leader!

Meet A People to People Teacher Leader

Teacher Leader:  Julie Donick

Julie has been working with the People to People Ambassador program since 2004; she has also been a Geography/World Cultures and American History teacher since 2001, in a public school in Arizona.  Julie began her journey in global travel as a student traveler herself, going to Ireland when she was in 7th grade.  As she learned more about the world around her, while traveling and teaching children, she longed to see and experience the places she taught.  Since her first trip to Ireland, she has traveled to Tunisia, Saipan, Italy, Australia, Canada, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and spent a year living in Japan with her husband and twin daughters.

For Nick’s trip, Julie has been more than a teacher leader.  She’s been the group organizer,  Facebook updater, parent soother, tour guide, and cheerleader.  She has worked step-by-step with both parents and students to prepare them for their journey.  I often see her working long hours into the night on correspondence with parents and students, keeping us updated on schedules, activities, project work, and so much more.  I honestly don’t know what we would do without Julie and the other teacher leaders to help us prepare for this trip-she’s kept the students on task and the parents sane.  With only nineteen days remaining before the students depart, this is crunch time for Julie, so I kept my questions short.  I was pleasantly surprised at the time she took to respond to me, and found her words comforting.  I know Nick and the other students are in good hands with Julie, and will have the time of their life.

Meet A People to People Teacher Leader2

Favorite Part of Traveling

I asked Julie what was her favorite part about traveling with her students.  Julie said:

“I love how close our group becomes by the end of the program.  I also love the little moments where I see a student’s reaction (often with intense emotion involved) and we are able to have a discussion about what they’ve learned and what they’ll take away from that moment in time.   The learning NEVER stops!”

Hardest Part of Traveling

I asked Julie what was the hardest part about traveling with her students.  She said:

“Before program, the difficulty for a primary leader is all of the organizational pieces that we juggle in preparation.  While on program, it is usually watching the students say goodbye over and over — to their homestay family, to the school we visited, et cetera, and most importantly to each other at the end of the program.  It often involves some tears!”

Her Beliefs As a Teacher Leader

Julie had this to say about being a teacher leader with People to People:

“I believe that to touch, shape, and grow the mind of a student is a privilege and a responsibility.  As a teacher leader, I want my delegates to learn as much as they can while abroad.  Nothing changes a student’s perspective than actual experience and so I do everything I can to make every experience that we have count.”

Favorite Moment

I asked Julie about her favorite People to People moment…

“My favorite People to People moment was watching the student delegation explore the Outback in Australia.  For city kids from Detroit, the 42,000 acre ranch we were on was truly another world.  The students took every moment of our time on the ranch – practicing their boomerang skills, wading in the river, milking cows, touring around the property looking for wild wallabees, posing with the termite mounds that were larger than anyone on the trip, and enjoying the pristine and beautiful night sky away from any city nights.  It was truly a part of the trip to remember forever!”

Words of Advice

I asked Julie if she had any words of advice for students who would like to be a People to People student ambassador…

“Being a People to People ambassador is a special opportunity.  Jump in and immerse yourself fully.  Before traveling, actively participate with the delegation and get to know everyone; they will be your “family” while abroad.  While traveling, seize every day and enjoy every moment.  This might be your only chance to see this part of the world.  Leave with no regrets, many stories to tell, and a changed person.  The world will have changed you, and now you can use that experience to change the world!” 

Thank you!

What I discovered by getting to know Julie was that not only does a People to People experience change the lives of the students going on the trip, but the lives of everyone around them, including teacher leaders and parents.  Thank you Mrs. Donick for all your hard work, and for taking such good care of our kids while on the trip.

{Disclosure:  People to People Ambassador Programs is sponsoring my son’s trip and I am serving as a Special Ambassador Correspondent to share his experience. Photos are courtesy of Julie D. and People to People.  Opinions expressed here are my own.}

For more information about the People to People Ambassador programs, please visit their website and their blog.  You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Please read more about Nick’s People to People journey here and here.

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2 comments

Brittany C. @ Mom. Wife. Busy Life. 05/22/2014 at 11:55 am

I would love to be able to do something like this one day!

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diane 05/22/2014 at 1:37 pm

What an amazing experience! I hope my kids get to enjoy something like this when they get older!

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