Posted: Dec 24, 2013 8:00 AM
 
People to People sends children in grades 5-12 abroad — without their parents. While some can't fathom their kids flying alone internationally, many can, and do. We spoke with parents of People to People alumni about why they sent their young kids abroad, how it went and if they'd do it again.

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Could you imagine putting your baby on a plane to travel abroad? Without you? Many parents' answers to this question come fast and definite: No. But some are drawn to the idea.

Enter: People to People Student Ambassador Programs.

People to People sends kids in grades 5-12 and college abroad. Thirty or so kids, four leaders and an experience of a lifetime. The benefits of traveling abroad are many. They start with broadened horizons, incomparable experiences and the chance to stretch and grow in a way that only traveling allows. Joe Osborne, Senior Manager of Alumni & Partnerships for People to People Ambassador Programs, has observed longer term effects as well. He says, "As the head of our alumni team, I regularly hear from alumni and their parents. Whether they stepped behind the Iron Curtain with us in the '60s or recently returned from their first program as a 12-year-old, the consistent feedback is that this program broadens a young person's worldview, expands their network and hones critical 21st century skills. I recently read that 75 percent of our alumni work their way into honors classes; four or five nervously open a letter from their dream university only to find that they've been admitted! This academic success not only reflects the intelligence of our students, but the whole-person development that occurs on program. Alumni emerge primed to apply themselves in new ways and realize their full potential. Beginning down this path early in life only strengthens that foundation for success."

Alumni emerge primed to apply themselves in new ways and realize their full potential. Beginning down this path early in life only strengthens that foundation for success.

Shawn Achor, The New York Times bestselling author of Before Happiness and CEO of GoodThink, agrees. Achor's research is based on the concept that happiness precedes success and that a foundation of happiness can be built. Achor says, "Happiness isn't the belief that we don't need to change, it's the belief that we can change. In The Happiness Advantage I define happiness as the joy we feel striving for our potential. That means that we, and our children, are happiest when we feel like there is potential that we can still achieve and that we're moving in the right direction."

For some parents, the possibilities of happiness and success that are found via travel trump the gut reaction to keep our kids close by our sides and do, indeed, send their young children abroad, alone. We spoke with parents of several People to People alumni to find out why they made this choice and, importantly, if they would again.

Lizabeth and Cailey Beth Frasier

Lizabeth and Cailey Beth Frasier

Cailey was a young lady that always stood back and was very shy. When we picked her up at the airport after her trip, I ran right past her looking toward the back of the group. Cailey was at the front of the group and has since not stopped there.

Cailey Beth traveled with People to People three separate times. Her first trip was to France, Italy and Spain. Her mom Lizabeth says, "It was hard to let Cailey go when we had never been away from her for so long, but we decided it would be a growing experience for her. Boy did she ever come out of her shell! Cailey was a young lady that always stood back and was very shy. When we picked her up at the airport after her trip, I ran right past her looking toward the back of the group. Cailey was at the front of the group and has since not stopped there. Cailey is now a very active public speaker, President of her FFA Chapter, 4-H Chapter, a District FFA Officer, member of Leadership, Link Crew, National Honor Society and other clubs. So if I was asked if I would send her on another People to People experience the answer would be absolutely! In fact, Cailey has traveled two more times with P2P. If anyone was to ask me about the program, I would highly recommend it. We are so proud of our daughter and the leader that she has become."

Sherri and Dylan Bowman

Sherri and Dylan Bowman

My son has some mild Asperger's tendencies and I think he came back with more of a sense of pride and confidence in himself. This trip showed him that he can be responsible for himself and also how to be part of a larger picture.

Dylan traveled with People to People on the Celtic Heritage trip. His mom Sherri says, "This program has been around for many years and I had no problems sending my son off with them. My son has some mild Asperger's tendencies and I think he came back with more of a sense of pride and confidence in himself. This trip showed him that he can be responsible for himself and also how to be part of a larger picture. Where he had to be independent to get himself where he needed to be and when. It also taught him how the group relied on each other. The fundraising that we did for many months prior to his trip also showed him how much hard work can really pay off. He got his own bank account and was in charge of depositing and withdrawing money and saw the effects of 'money comes, and money goes!' For him, this trip was a good kick start to his own independence. He now knows how to handle certain things on his own and has the confidence to do them. Since his trip, I have felt comfortable giving him more and more responsibilities. He is turning into a fine young man!"

Karen and Bob Walters

Karen and Bob Walters

Bob's eyes have been opened to other cultures in a way we could have never provided ourselves.

Bob traveled with People to People to Western Canada. His mom Karen says, "My husband Mike and I chose to pursue the People to People trip because I teach with someone who previously led six high school trips. She spoke so highly of the organization and felt Bob would really be a good candidate to go and get all he could out of the trip. We felt the informational meeting was a good first step as well. We appreciated the orientation meetings that covered any possible concerns we had or questions Bob had. He was well-prepared and had an amazing time. Bob's eyes have been opened to other cultures in a way we could have never provided ourselves. He would love to travel with People to People again in the future."

Suzanne and Jeff Loy

Suzanne and Jeff Loy

Jeff has decided that he wants to be a real part of global change and it is reflected in his choices as he chooses his secondary school classes he applies for college.

Jeff traveled with People to People seven times! His mom Suzanne says, "When Jeff got an invitation to apply, I thought it looked like the chance of a lifetime. I always tried to offer him opportunities that would allow him to be aware of the world outside the family and school and this seemed perfect. There was no way that I could have foreseen the changes that would occur and the path it would set him on. Jeff has decided that he wants to be a real part of global change and it is reflected in his choices as he chooses his secondary school classes he applies for college. Would I do it again? Jeff has traveled with People to People seven times so far and his preparing for his eighth program, making it to all seven continents before graduation!"

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