Hilltopper to participate in travel aboard program

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By Kirsten Laskey

Exploring new places and cultures can be alluring to many people; for Kristina Parrack, a freshman at Los Alamos High School, the attraction of traveling is about to be experienced.

Parrack will be stepping into her traveling shoes as a participant in the People to People Student Ambassador Program.

She will be taking the Celtic Cultures Tour, which will begin June 8 and finish June 26. During those 18 days, Kristina will visit England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

 Highlights of the trip include seeing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace in London, getting to the know the guards at the Tower of London and receiving an insider’s perceptive from members of Parliament, Kristina’s mother, Cari, said.

Other activities include repelling down a castle wall in Wales and participating in a home stay in Ireland, she said.

“We do a lot of activities that help build self-confidence, Kristina said.

Kristina became aware of the program after she found out that someone had nominated her to be a participant. She said she does not know who was the nominee.

After learning about her nomination, Kristina attend an informational meeting on Aug. 7, 2008 and learned she had been accepted Oct. 15, 2008.

To be accepted, Kristina had to take part in an interview and evaluation process. Even now that she has been accepted, the work has not ended. Kristina said she meets with adult sponsors once a month for four months and she had homework assignments as well as a community service project to perform.  

In return for the work, students can receive either high school or college credit.

Kristina said she became interested in traveling aboard, particularly to these countries, while participating in Irish dancing.

The People to People Student Ambassador Program, Cari said, “(is) learning about other countries, other places (and) becoming aware of different cultures, other governments to promote peace through understanding and knowledge.”

Kristina said she is eager to travel outside the U.S. for the first time to “learn about the heritage of other countries” and become aware of the different ways they live.

Dwight Eisenhower started the program in 1956, she said. The program takes students throughout the world such as China and Australia. The travel destinations depend on where participants live and what is their delegation.

Adrianne Fox, executive assistant for the marketing department, said the organization tries to offer the same destination to a particular geographical location.

He explained through meetings and other communications, this allows the students in the area to get to know one another before they leave.

He added the destinations are rotated around every year. He explained the travel locations vary year-to-year but People to People brings students to all seven continents.

This year, between 20 and 30 programs are being held.  

About 23 students from New Mexico are participating in the nation-wide program.

Fox said students stand to benefit a lot from the program.

“Most of the students we see participating in these programs, often it is their first time out of the country (or) out of the country without their parents,” Fox said. “They often come back with a greater understanding of the world.”

These experiences are enhanced with homestays with families as well as unique and specialized access to different areas.

For instance, Fox said students who travel to Washington, D.C., have the opportunity to meet with a senator.

In order to cover the costs of the program, a fund has been established at Los Alamos National Bank, called Kristina Parrack Trust. Donations can also be sent to the Parracks at 197 Chamisa in Los Alamos. For more information, call 661-8888.