Friday, January 22, 1999

Student envoys eager to learn abroad




BY LEW MOORES
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MOUNT HEALTHY — Jill Ernst traveled to central Europe last summer, and now she's hoping to head back overseas.

        The 14-year-old freshman at Mount Healthy High School again has been selected to participate in the People To People Student Ambassador Program and will travel to the British Isles this summer if she can raise the money from sponsors.

        “I'm going to represent the United States and tell everybody I meet what a neat place it is,” said Jill, whose 3-week trip will take her to England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

        Molly Woodrow, area director for People To People, which is based in Spokane, Wash., and has sponsored these trips for 6th-graders through senior high school since the 1950s, said Jill will be one of between 150 and 200 students from Greater Cincinnati who will participate this year in the program.

        All are chosen, said Ms. Woodrow, based on recommendations of teachers and an interview process.

        “They're expected to share their experiences,” said Ms. Woodrow, who lives in Glendale. “That's what we're hoping they'll do.”

Reside with families
        In addition to meeting and talking with officials of the countries they visit, another component of the itinerary includes staying in the homes of people who live there.

        “They're not just traveling around and going up in the Eiffel Tower,” said Ms. Woodrow. “They're actually staying with a family and learning a little bit about the culture. They're real interesting itineraries. They include meetings with politicians and business leaders, lectures at colleges. It's definitely a study tour.”

        Last year, Jill visited countries in central Europe, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic. She and about 40 of those she traveled with stayed in hotels, dorms and peoples' homes. She handed out postcards of Cincinnati. Scenes of Cinergy Field, the Ohio River, downtown, aerial shots of the area.

        “They'll show me Scottish ways and Irish ways,” Jill says of the upcoming trip. “We'll see what their countries are like, what towns and cities are like.”

        Ms. Woodrow said the program has grown over the years, and has been involved in the Cincinnati area since 1987. About 150 schools throughout the area have been represented on the trips. They have visited countries in Europe as well as Russia, Australia and New Zealand.

        “The numbers grew each year,” said Ms. Woodrow. “The word begins to get out.”

Students given freedom
        Matthew Reedy, 15, who lives in Middletown and is a freshman at Monroe High School, plans on going back to Europe this summer. Like Jill, he spent three weeks in central Europe last summer, an experience he shared with others — students, teachers — when he returned.

        What Matthew was especially taken with was the freedom and responsibility allowed the students.

        “They let you go out in the city,” said Matthew. “They didn't go with you. It was a real good experience.”

        Last year was the first year Jill has traveled anywhere without her parents, a source of some trepidation. That won't be so intense this summer, says her mother, Linda Ernst.

        “I worried about her,” said Mrs. Ernst. “But she knows how to take care of herself.”

Sponsors are needed
        Jill is looking for eight companies to sponsor her, contributing $500 each to cover the $4,000 expense.

        She kept a journal of her three weeks last summer, shared her travel experiences with teachers, fellow students, people at her church.

        “She's very energetic, very positive,” Ms. Woodrow said of Jill. “I'm impressed with how enthusiastic she is. She's one of those kind of students.”

       



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- Student envoys eager to learn abroad
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