By Anne Roth
Exploring Beijing's Forbidden City, climbing the Great Wall, visiting the Shaolin Kung Fu School, enjoying a home stay with a Chinese family and marveling at the ancient Terra Cotta Army of Emperor Qin (222 B.C.) in Xi'an -- all this and much, much more awaits four Skaneateles teens when they embark Saturday as Student Ambassadors through People to People.
Longtime Skaneateles teacher CarolAnne Smith, now retired, who led the Horizons Program at the high school, is credited with acquainting some of the students with People to People. A veteran of the program founded in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Smith continues her interest in fostering contact with people internationally.
President Eisenhower believed that ordinary citizens of different nations, if able to communicate directly, would solve their differences and find a way to live in peace. Since its founding, thousands of people -- young and old -- have visited other nations where they participate in daily life and experience their culture.
"Mrs. Smith told me about the program and said it was a great opportunity," recalled Eileen Ford, 16, the daughter of Patti and Steve Ford. She said that about 40 students from Central New York schools will comprise the delegation led by Mike Emmi, a teacher at Solvay High School.
Teens interested in participating in the program attended a trip planning meeting at the Dewitt Town Hall. "We had to complete quizzes on culture, learned about packing for the trip, travel advice, safety, passports and visas," Eileen said. Some students do fund raising to help pay for their trip. Eileen contributed money she earned giving piano lessons while Alec Osiecki, 16, used money he earned working last summer at Rosalie's Cucina.
Alec's reason for going to China was spurred by his interest in martial arts. "When we were gathered (at the meeting) and learned about different events that we would participate in I became interested because we will go to the Shaolin Kung Fu School. I have a black belt in karate and I'm interested in the different styles and what it is like where it originated. One of my friends did People to People for sports; he went to Holland for soccer; that is how I learned about it."