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Willmar girl planning trip to Europe with ambassador program, seeking donations

Angelique Martinez, a student at Willmar Middle School, discusses how she feels about being chosen for the People To People program. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — She may be just 12, but Angelique Martinez of Willmar knows what she wants to do with her life and is taking steps to get there.

“I want to be a marine biologist, and I already found colleges I’m interested in,” she said. Her top pick right now is Hawaii Pacific University.

Angelique and her parents Albert and Angelita talked at their home in Willmar recently about her involvement in the People to People Ambassador Program, a leadership and travel program for young people. It’s something they believe could broaden her experience and help open doors for her when it’s time to choose a university.

She traveled to Canada with the program for 12 days last summer, visiting parliament, going whale watching and learning about Native American culture.

“Overall, it’s a really nice experience for them,” Angelita said.

“I learned a lot,” Angelique said, especially about native cultures and, at the Vancouver Aquarium, about sea life.

Students involved with People to People travel as ambassadors to other countries, meeting people from other cultures and talking with government officials. At home, they speak to community groups about their experiences.

To be selected for the program, students fill out applications and submit letters of recommendation.

They go through interviews, with the top students selected for the limited number of slots on each tour.

“She’s what People to People is looking for, kids with a strong head on their shoulders,” Albert said. Her 10-year-old brother Albert recently started the interview process.

Her teachers have been supportive of her involvement in the program. “They were maybe more excited than her,” Albert said.

It wasn’t easy to let their daughter leave the country without them. “At first, we were kind of nervous,” her mom said, “but they are very much in good hands.” Chaperones and leaders on the trips are teachers, and the program has a 24-hour line for parents to call. Chaperones send frequent email updates.

In addition to People to People, Angelique has been student of the month and is involved in after-school activities. She received the principal’s award for academic achievement at Willmar Middle School last year.

Next summer, she plans to travel to Europe with People to People. Students chosen for the trip participate in webinars, take quizzes and do homework before they leave.

She’s working to raise money to help pay for the $7,000 20-day trip chaperoned by teachers. Anyone who wants to help her pay for her trip may send donations to the Angelique Martinez Fund at US Bank in Willmar.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the organization in 1956. He believed that people from different cultures could come together in peace and friendship, and those relationships could help bring countries together. Since its founding, People to People has launched many international programs, including Sister Cities and Project HOPE.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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