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Young ambassadors to set the record straight

Posted: March 25, 2012 - 12:02am
Tiana Horvath, 12, and Gabrielle Scales, 11, are two of six students from Juneau who will visit Europe this summer as youth ambassadors through the People to People program, established in 1956 by President Eisenhower.  Courtesy of Elizabeth LaPierre
Courtesy of Elizabeth LaPierre
Tiana Horvath, 12, and Gabrielle Scales, 11, are two of six students from Juneau who will visit Europe this summer as youth ambassadors through the People to People program, established in 1956 by President Eisenhower.

America, despite or for its greatness, can have kind of a bad rap abroad. But Tiana Horvath, Gabrielle Scales and other Juneau students — along with People to People student ambassadors nationwide — want to change that.

“… There are stereotypes about the U.S. in a lot of countries — and we’re, what I’d be trying to do personally is, ‘we’re not what you think we are, we can be different than what some people that have represented us poorly — we are not those people.” Horvath said.

Scales is worried people think Americans are “…lazy, and we’re slobs.”

Horvath added, “And we only care about ourselves. That’s not true.”

Student ambassadors are recommended by teachers and the girls speculated on why they may have been recommended and hoped that’s what the people they will interact with will come to associate Americans with.

Horvath suggested teachers “were looking for responsible students with really good grades, so they know these kids, they could handle being in another country and they can be mature enough to be there.”

Scales listed getting to school on time, not being tardy and not skipping school.

“I hope countries see us as responsible, respectful, like, kind, and (we) respect their culture and not make fun of it or anything.”

According to the People to People website, “The People to People movement dates back more than half a century to its founding by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Eisenhower was acting on his firm belief that direct interaction between ordinary citizens around the world can promote cultural understanding and world peace.”

Horvath and Scales are definitely interested in world peace, but also in learning about different cultures and, as might be expected with growing kids, food.

Also expected, there were a lot of giggles.

“I don’t want it to be in the paper that I want to go to Italy to eat ice cream.” Horvath said while both girls giggled for at least a minute before she shared her real response.

“I wanna learn more about the cultures because in school we learn about the history but we don’t get to learn about the actual locals that live there and how they live, not just how this big famous person lived.”

Scales agreed.

“I kinda want to learn the same, and it’s just like, other people talk about these countries and their histories, but I wanna experience what goes on in those countries.”

Some things the girls look forward to experiencing in France, Italy and Greece are gelato, “real” pizza, the Parthenon, the Eiffel Tower, the Vatican, the Coliseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

All the People to People student ambassadors have been working hard to prepare for the trip that will take place the first three weeks of June.

Horvath and Scales are learning French.

“Bonjour.”

“Merci?”

“Sil vous plait!”

And they have been working on raising money. Each student must raise $7,300 for the trip. Each girl has made about half of what they need by selling crafts and hosting a chicken dinner, but they’ve got a lot more to go and they are looking to the community for help.

On Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1, restaurants around Juneau will be donating a portion of their days’ sales to the girls for their trip.

On March 31, Fusion Café will donate 10 percent. On April 1, B’s Bistro and Bakery, Chilkat Cones, Domino’s, the Island Pub, Jovany’s, Papa Murphy’s and Zen will all donate 10 percent of their sales. And Bullwinkle’s pizza will donate 100 percent of proceeds from the arcade games “Candy Crane” and “Terminator,” with the girls passing along 25 percent to SSgt. Thomas McCrae and 25 percent to the Bilbrey babies.

It sounds like the girls will also be representing Americans as generous.

• Contact Neighbors editor Melissa Griffiths at 523-2272 or at melissa.griffiths@juneauempire.com.

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