Preparing To Be A People to People Ambassador

by Julie Cohn
Preparing To Be A People to People Ambassador5

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It’s been two months since we found out Nick was accepted as a People to People student ambassador, and in that time, we’ve discovered that not only does People to People have high standards for the students they accept into the program, but they have high expectations for what the students will do to ready themselves for the trip, to be the best student representatives of the United States they can be.  Preparing To Be A People to People Ambassador will give you a look at what Nick and other People to People student ambassadors and their families do to prepare for a trip.

Preparing To Be A People to People Ambassador

The People to People student ambassador program is more than just a trip. Students work with teacher leaders to prepare for every aspect of the trip, including thorough knowledge of the history, culture, and customs of the countries they will be visiting, plus so much more.  Nick came into the program a little later than most kids, who are usually accepted in the fall/early winter before their trip.   By the time he came into the program, he missed five orientation meetings, with only one remaining.  This put him at a disadvantage because he did not get a chance to meet the other students in the program until much later, and had less time to complete all the required assignments as part of the program.   Still, as we were so grateful he was accepted, we made the conscious decision, as a family, to do whatever it took to have him be as prepared as the other student ambassadors.  We met with his teacher leader (Julie) to come up with a strategy for success and hit the ground running!

People to People Pre and Post Assignments

As part of the People to People Ambassador program, all students are required to complete both pre and post-trip assignments, as part of the Washington School of World Studies.  Students can earn a high school elective course credit called Ambassadorial Studies through this program.  The course is designed to take six or more months to complete….and Nicholas had less than four months.   Although Nick’s high school does not accept elective courses, we still chose to have him complete all the assignments, so he would be on the same playing field as the other students in his delegation.  Students can also earn university credits through Eastern Washington University, but we decided it was best to start with high school credit.  There were several sections of this course, with lessons in civics and critical literacy, including:

Course Structure

  • Lesson 1 :  Geography
  • Lesson 2: History and Government
  • Lesson 3: Current Events
  • Lesson 4: Religion and Customs
  • Lesson 5: The Arts
  • Lesson 6: Daily Life and Foods
  • Ambassador Exchange Meetings:  Students meet and interact with other students within their delegation, to get to know them before the trip.  Students are required to meet with at least three different students, in three different settings.
  • Civics Worksheet
  • Local Civic Engagement Inquiry Project (800-1000 words)
  • International Civic Engagement Inquiry Project (800-1000 words)
  • Three mini-essays (300-500 words each)
  • Pre-Travel Final Project (PowerPoint or Poster)
  • Ten Journal Entries (Three completed pre-travel)
  • Photo Share Assignments (Completed mid-travel)
  • Post-Travel Multi-Genre Project

All assignments, except for seven of the journal entries, the photo share assignment, and the post-travel multi-genre project are required by the final orientation meeting.  Because Nicholas (and another student) started later, they were given more time to complete their assignments, but as of his last orientation meeting this past Sunday, he completed all assignments except for the Local and International Civic Engagement projects, and one of the mini-essays.

People to People Service Project

In addition to this course, the students are required to complete a service project.  Nick, along with several other students, worked at the Scottish Highland Games in Phoenix as volunteers, assisting people with games and information booths.  They also took down tents, carried tables & chairs, and lifted heavy boxes to pack up after the games finished.  I was so proud of him for working so hard.

People to People Ambassador Meet-ups

One of the requirements of the program is to meet up with some of the other delegates outside of the regular meetings, to get to know each other.  For his ambassador exchange meet-ups, he met with other students for a Celtic music concert.  He went with another group to the movies and finally met with a group at a local college, before their final meeting.

Pre Trip Project

His final pre-trip project was a PowerPoint presentation on the differences in dining etiquette between the United States and the British Isles.  It was interesting to discover the differences in how a fork is held, how one should drink and eat, and what is acceptable etiquette even within the different countries of the United Kingdom.  His teacher leader (Julie) was awesome about tracking his work, guiding him to complete everything, and helping him prepare for the trip.

Is All the Work Worth It?

To say it has been stressful in our house is an understatement.  We’ve sometimes been a little “edgy” with each other, but we all know we are doing this for a great goal.  In addition to his People to People responsibilities, Nick juggles five honors classes and a music theory class at school.  He is also Editor of the school yearbook (with a final deadline of April 1st), Vice President of the Latin Club (with a state competition coming up), student leader with the Student Life team (with a community service project coming up), commitments to the Electronics and Geometry Club, and is a bass with the school Elite Choir (with several choir events throughout March, April, and May).  We’ve raced to 3-4 events every weekend for the past eight weeks, but he has definitely learned time management completing all these activities!  Whew!

Throughout all this craziness, whenever I asked Nick if he was doing okay, or if this has all been worth it for him, he always responded with a resounding “yes!”   That is the key here.  Despite all the early mornings and late nights, the juggling of school work with People to People work, plus his other community commitments, every single moment has been worth it for him.  This program challenged him in ways he’s never been challenged before, and he is succeeding.  People to People brings out the best out in our kids before they even set foot in the countries they are visiting and shows them that by their commitment to excellence, they can be leaders.  Throughout this program, Nick learned a lot about the countries he is visiting, but he also learned more about himself and what he is capable of.  As a student who will be going to college in two years, this has been an important achievement for him. Find out more

{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. Opinions expressed here are my own.}

Meet one of the teacher leaders on Nick’s trip!  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.

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Jen 05/07/2014 at 1:16 pm

What an exciting adventure for him! I admire your ability to let him test his own wings out with a great program! I am looking forward to reading about it.

Karin 05/07/2014 at 4:24 pm

Wow, what an incredible opportunity! Thanks for the information, I had heard about the program – my daughter got something in the mail about it last year – but really didn’t know much more than that. I look forward to following along!

Chrysa 05/08/2014 at 7:29 pm

I know several people who were ambassadors many years ago. They thought it was a GREAT experience!

Mickey 05/08/2014 at 3:49 pm

What a wonderful opportunity! One of my daughter’s best friends has a sister going to Europe with People to People. I’ll definitely be interested in it when my kids are older.

Jenny 05/08/2014 at 5:44 pm

This is wonderful. Congrats to your son. What a wonderful opportunity. You must be so proud. And I have Celtic heritage. 🙂

CathyS 05/11/2014 at 10:50 pm

The kids I have known have spent a lot of time holding fundraisers and worrying about the cost. Travel is always a great thing and I hope he has a wonderful experience. I just wondered what the cost is these days and what families do to afford it?


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