ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Leah Heffelfinger, Vithu Selva, Brandy Green and Cortney Phillips, all of Palmerton; Andrea Drumbore of Lehighton and Lauren Anderson of Northwestern are among the students from local schools who will visit Europe as Student Ambassadors.
A Mediterranean Tradition is the trip to be taken as part of a People to People project. Presently, there are 21 students from schools in the Lehigh Valley, Poconos, Saucon Valley, Palmerton, Northwestern and Lehighton.
They are attending monthly informational meetings at St. John's Lutheran Church, Slatington, to learn what it means to be an ambassador rather than a tourist before the July 10 date to head to Spain, the only one of the three countries they will visit with home stays. The other two countries are Italy and France. The journey will last 19 days.
The program was the idea of President Dwight D. Eisenhower who hoped that People to People International would help promote world peace through understanding. He felt that the personal interactions could do more than governments to make the world a safer, friendlier place.
In January 1956, he met with 100 American business leaders to help form the organization. Two of the most influential men at the conference were Walt Disney and Joyce C. Hall, the founder of Hallmark Cards. Disney's It's a Small World attraction was one direct result of the conference.
The chapter of People to People in which the students are participating is as Student Ambassadors. There are also Sister Cities and Citizen Ambassadors.
At the Feb. 3 meeting there was a quiz on the background of People to People.
"We go over things they need to know to be successful on the trip," said Barbara Campbell, who, with husband Tom, lead the local contingent of students. Helping are Amanda Kimmage and Maria Rousso.
Tom said there is normally a party at the home stay. Participants must wear closed shoes, a lanyard with name and emergency information, and the four Bs - belly, breast, butt and back must be covered. No tee shirts with offensive writing or pictures may be worn.
About the different cultures, he said, "It's not necessarily wrong, it's different."
The group has to do a local service project. They have chosen the Northern Lehigh Food Bank. On Feb. 3rd, each brought in canned soups since it was Souper Bowl Sunday.
To gain speaking skills each student was assigned a country to talk about. They may be asked to speak in front of groups at their host countries and need the practice.
There is a contest to design a tee shirt which will be worn with khaki pants in situations such as when traveling. Meeting groups of people or government officials are also "uniform" times. Last year the shirt for a trip to China said "I am a Student Ambassador. The World is my Classroom, 2012." It had a dragon on the front.
Each team of students had to name four traits of good ambassadors. If they named more they received more points. Some given are to be friendly, respectful, responsible, caring and adventurous.
Civics lessons were held to be sure students knew the United States federal and state officials, and major issues of the day such as the environment, homeland security and the economy. They learned that the Pennsylvania State motto is "Virtue. Liberty. Independence."
Campbell said they would be learning some patriotic songs to sing and each student keeps a journal which has already been started.
Upstairs the parents were discussing methods of fundraising. They also learn the requirements for their students and what to expect.
On March 3 Rep. Gary Day will be the speaker for the informational program at St. John's, Second Street, Slatington. He is scheduled to speak at 1:30 p.m.
Students are still able to join the Student Ambassadors by calling Campbell at (610) 432-3313. Applicants will be interviewed.