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My mother asked me to get the mail – nothing that abnormal. But when I got the mail there was a letter for me from People to People. I opened it immediately out of curiosity, and it said that I had the opportunity to explore England and France. I ran over to the market where my mother was and told her I was going to Europe. She turned and told me that it was a fraud, but I was already smitten with the idea and unwilling to give up on it that quickly. When we returned home, I went straight for the computer to learn more about the organization and found that not only was it real, it was founded by a president! I shouted for my mother to come and see. Grudgingly, she did, but still she was not convinced that I would be going to Europe. Now her excuse was it will be a fortune and we could not afford it. I took it upon myself to learn as much about People to People and convince my mother it was worthwhile. I printed pamphlets about it that conveniently would end up taped to her coffee mug, on a pillow, perhaps the car’s steering wheel. Finally my mother was tired of my propaganda, so she agreed that we could attend an information session.
I counted down every day until the meeting. Once the day came, I was a ball of nervous excitement. Throughout the meeting I was in awe; the itinerary, the people, and the overall experience. My fifth grade mind, though, just glazed over the fact that the trip would cost $6,000. My mother, who was gradually coming around to the idea, halted. We could never afford the trip. Nevertheless, I was obstinate. I told my mom that I was going to raise the money myself.
Looking back, I do not even know how I did all the fundraisers and the sales, but I did. I earned every penny that was due. Of course, I did not do it alone; my mom was my champion, as was my community, which supported me the whole way. Before I began fundraising I typed a letter about my trip and my mother drove me to a variety of local businesses. I marched in with my head high and gave them my spiel. Once I received a positive response from several businesses, I began fundraising. One of my most successful sales was having a school penny drive where students compete to win an ice cream or pizza party. I also sold Smencils, a recycled smelly pencil, which was a hit.
When the trip came, I became terrified. I had never gone to camp or been away from home on my own that long. However, once my delegation was in the airport, I practically forgot about my mother’s existence (sorry, Mom!) and was caught up in the thrill with the other travelers. All of the museums and history and culture flashed by. I was changed.
Knowing what I know now, I do not think I appreciated how blessed that I was, but I can honestly say that my ambassadorship taught me the value of humankind. The trip gave me hope. I learned that I am capable and that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. This trip also cultivated my interest in investigative journalism. I learned first-hand that there is more in the world than my hometown, that we are all a member of the same world, and that I have a role to play in learning more about others and sharing their stories more widely.
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