Kaua‘i ambassadors visit Australia through ‘People to People’ program

Fourteen Kaua‘i teens acted as student ambassadors for the state of Hawai‘i in Australia last month.

The teens were part of People to People International, a 50-year-old national program created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. He believed people could make a difference where governments could not. With the assistance of Olympic champion Jesse Owens, entertainer Bob Hope, as well as Walt Disney, the 34th president of the United States developed a program that still unites different cultures today.

“We had kids from all Kaua‘i high schools this year,” said Kaua‘i student leader Daniel Nicholson. This is Nicholson’s second year as an escort for the program.

“You have to be a DOE employee to be a student leader,” he said. Nicholson has been teaching fifth grade at King Kaumuali‘i in Hanamaulu for 17 years.

To be considered for the program, students are nominated by a teacher. After letters of recommendation and a series of information sessions and interviews, a small contingent of teenagers take a two- to three-week trip abroad.

Last year a delegation went to Europe; this year, Australia, and next year will travel to China. A delegation is made up of 40 students. Since Kaua‘i had only 14 ambassadors, they joined an O‘ahu group in order to meet the 40 student minimum.

This year’s team visited Sydney for a tour of the opera house, the Vision Valley where they did a ropes course and ziplined; the Gold Coast; Tamworth, where they had a two-day home stay; as well as Brisbane, Cairnes and the Great Barrier Reef.

“The homestay is always the highlight,” Nicholson said. “It’s where the kids really get immersed in culture.”

Families that host a student have a child around the same age in the household.

“One to two of kids stay with each family,” Nicholson said.

The homestay was in Tamworth, a town known for its country music festival.

“The homestay was through the music conservatory,” he said.

While is it true that People to People provides monetary compensation to host families, Nicholson said all the families donate their money to the music conservatory.

“The stay turns into a fundraiser for the town,” he said.

People to People began as an adult exchange, then in 1963 the program expanded to include youth. The first student delegation went to Berlin. Today the organization journeys into 34 countries on all seven continents.

The purpose of People to People International is to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities,” states the Website. “It involves the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures.”

Ultimately, the program was developed to promote peace.

“As ambassadors travel under the banner of People to People, they represent the best characteristics of (the United States): hope, courage, openness and a love of peace,” the Website states.

To learn more about the program visit ptpi.org

• Pam Woolway, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or pwoolway@kauaipubco.com

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