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People to People
Student delegates from central Ohio pose with Greek students after a dance presentation. Pickerington students traveled along with 33 other students to Italy, Sicily and Greece June 22 through July 10 as representatives of the People to People Student Ambassador program.
Italy, also known as “The Beautiful Country,” is known for its beautiful coasts, alpine lakes and mountains as well as its cuisine. Students from Pickerington Schools received a first-hand experience with the views and diverse regional cultures as participants of the People to People Ambassador Program.
“It is these types of experiences that help students become global citizens,” said Carley Fontana, a Spanish teacher at Ridgeview Junior High. “To truly understand another culture is to experience it first-hand. It is the ultimate hands-on learning that you cannot get in the classroom.”
Fontana, along with fellow Ridgeview teachers Patty Morgan, who is an instructional coach and Dennis Wade, who teaches English, traveled with Pickerington High School students Jessica Robinson, Tony Varda and Michael Highman to Italy, Sicily and Greece.
The program provides students with a unique, personal experience with access to people and places and preparing them for success in the globalized world by making friends internationally.
“There was a vast variety of different people,” sophomore Jessica Robinson said. “Some were like us, but there were many who were not. It was interesting to see that America is so very different from over there. The buildings were really different. A lot of them were artistic and showed more history than ours.”
People to People, started in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was created to build friendship and understanding between different cultures. Pickerington students traveled from June 22 through July 10 with a delegation of 35 student ambassadors from across central Ohio. The group visited schools, experienced homestays and absorbed world culture through exploration. They also conducted community service activities in Greece and interacted with elementary students in an international school in Naples, Italy.
“Traveling with People to People is a constant learning experience,” Fontana said. “It was wonderful to see our American students interact and find common bonds with the Italian students.”
The group helped build habitats for sea turtles while in Greece and had a home dinner in Italy.
“The ability to meet and talk with people their own age is something that students have a great appreciation of,” said Fontana. “Seeing the famous sights of the Coliseum, the Acropolis and the Pantheon were great, but the most impact made on students is when they can interact with the people in those countries.”
Robinson said the trip was exciting and gave her a chance to be independent from her family. Her mother, LaGrieta Holloway said the experience has definitely matured her daughter.
“Jessica shows more independence,” Holloway said. “She’s not afraid to venture out to do new things. She’s more mature.”
Fontana said one of the group’s favorite places was their climb of the volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily.
“It erupted twice after we arrived back in the United States,” she said. “It’s always a thrill when we see places in the news that we can say we’ve been to.”
“I truly believe they learn more in three weeks overseas than anywhere else,” Fontana said. “During travel, students communicate interactively, develop personal responsibility, and gain global awareness. These are all aspects of the 21st century skills that are necessary for students to succeed as both citizens and workers.”
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