Are you looking for an opportunity like no other? Do you want to make a difference? People to People Ambassador Programs offer opportunities of international travel for students from grades five to 12.

The programs were established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. He founded the programs with the purpose of "peace through understanding." The Student Ambassador Programs, which create lasting memories for students, focus on improving self-confidence, leadership skills, global awareness, cultural understanding and forming lifelong friendships.

Students are invited to participate in the program. After receiving an invitation, students are encouraged to attend a meeting that explains the program and everything that the students and their parents need to know before going through an interview process. The interview process includes a group interview.

After the interview, students will receive letters with their results. If a student is accepted, he or she must attend every meeting before the trip. These monthly meetings help prepare students for the trip. Each meeting provides the opportunity to get to know the other students before traveling together as a delegation. A delegation usually consists of around 40 students.

The leaders, appointed teachers that work with the program and supervise the trip, offer safety precautions and other tips.

It's normal for students to feel anxious during the time between meetings. However, the monthly meetings ease the anxiety while giving the students a chance to socialize.

"When you leave for 19 days with a group of almost total strangers [other than those monthly meetings], to be worried is a natural feeling," said Andrew Tock, a student from Starpoint High School. "The friendships formed will stand the test of time ... I still talk to tons of the friends I made on the trip."

The student delegations generally travel during the months of June, July or August.

Along with Andrew, Judith Brennan, Alex Detlef, Kevin Liu and Amanda McNally traveled with the same delegation to Europe last summer. Their delegation had the opportunity to explore Italy, France and England. The lessons learned in history class came to life when they visited the Colosseum, Chateau de Versailles and Notre Dame.

In addition, they stayed with a French family for a few days.

"Supposedly, my parents said I've changed," said Kevin of Canisius High School. "I'm not sure I notice much of a difference, however, I view things with a much more critical and practical eye now. The sense of freedom and unfamiliarity in Europe sort of inspired me to take initiative in similar situations here."

Through People to People Ambassador Programs, students gain confidence and better communication and social skills. Students often also become willing to try new things.

"I'm actually less shy than I was before, and AP Euro is a lot easier," said Judith of Clarence High School.

Students who travel with People to People also gain high school credit and it opens doors for possible college credit.

"It made feel like I was a part of the entire world," said Alex of Hutchinson Central High School. "I benefited by making lifelong friends with a lot of people. I would definitely recommend the program to everybody. It's simply amazing."

People to People Ambassador Programs give students an opportunity to grow. As People to People leader Barbara Capozzi once said, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, but when life hands you opportunity, make a difference." This is what People to People is all about -- making a difference!

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Hannah Gullo is a junior at Depew High School.