July 22, 2010 at 8:45 a.m.

Area students Explore Europe

Area students Explore Europe
Area students Explore Europe

Chisago Lakes area students Hanna Post, daughter of Arlie Post; Mackenzie Dornseif, daughter of Sara Dornseif; Carly Vail, daughter or Ronald and Tammy Vail; and Joy Lida, daughter of Doug and Linda Lida traveled on a People to People Student Ambassador high school program earlier this summer. The trip was 18 days and was led by Mary Peters, Janet Peterson, and Maria "M.J." Savaiano; and included delegates from Wisconsin, Michigan and other parts of Minnesota.

While in France, students were honored to participate in a flag-raising ceremony at historic Omaha Beach and to visit the American Cemetery. Student Ambassadors next explored the magnificent Chateau de Versailles built by Louis XIV, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. In Paris students visited the principal areas of the Musee du Louvre. The most dazzling view of Paris was from the top of the Eiffel Tower (899 feet), built for the 1889 World's Fair to Commemorate the French Revolution. Day stops at Caen, Lyon, Orange, Aix-en-Provence, Cannes, and Nice gave students further historical background and the chance to experience France. The final stop before heading to Italy was an afternoon in Monaco.

The "Cinque Terre" villages on the west coast of the Italian Riviera cling to the cliff face and are concealed in miniature inlets perfectly blending into this unique and unspoiled landscape. The public can access this charming area by boat and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage National Park. A train connects the five villages. This was Vail's favorite day. Delegates took a boat ride from La Spezia to Manarola. They hiked along a "Via del Amore" footpath, dedicated to lovers with their names etched into padlocks hung on wire fencing along the path. This walkway with its panoramic view was cut out of the sheer rock along the sea linking Manarola to Riomaggiore. After hiking, the delegation caught a second boat to Monterosso, the largest of the five villages, and spent the rest of the day on the beach swimming and jumping off a high platform.

There were two days in Assisi, Italy where they learned from a Franciscan friar about St. Francis, who lived there in the 12th century. They also participated in an environmental service project cleaning up a park in the Foligno area, showing real ambassadorial spirit and helping to make this world a better place. The second day involved "Full On" indoor and outdoor challenges, adventure and learning, and the opportunity to scale off the top of a castle wall. Lida remarked, "Repelling the castle wall was a natural high!" Post liked the "Full On" day and she commented, "Students learn more about themselves, get over their fear of heights, and work as a team."

This delegation had many opportunities to look at Europe's past and present as they moved from England to France and on to Italy where students had three-night home stays with local families in the Rimini area. Dornseif commented, "It was a different experience to live in someone else's culture. I've always wanted to go to Rome-a rewarding and unforgettable memory." While in Rome students had a guided tour through the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Vatican. On the final day students received maps and worked in groups starting at the Spanish Steps to find the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Navona.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower founded People to People during his presidency in 1956 with the belief that ordinary citizens of different nations could make a difference where government could not. Families are invited to attend free information meetings September 11 and 12 to learn more about the summer 2011 travel itineraries. Elementary, junior high and high school delegations will be exploring Australia. These programs are a nice mix of learning and doing. Please call Maria "M. J." Savaiano, People to People Student Ambassador Program Area Director, at 651-257-1944 for more details.

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