Student will be Australian ambassador

Amanda Kearney, a student at Piñon Hills Elementary School, is going "down under" this summer.

The 11-year-old is traveling to Australia for 19 days with People to People, one of 41 fifth- and sixth-graders representing the U.S. as student ambassadors from Northern Nevada.

The adventure teaches the children first-hand about what things are like in another country. The students will visit Melbourne, Australia's largest city from one of the city's famous trams, they will view wildlife, such as the smallest penguins in the world, hold koalas, see kangaroos and wallabies, snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef and ride the Kuranda Scenic Railway through the tropical forest. They will also learn about the government, by visiting the Parliament House in the Australian capital, Canberra. They will visit an Aboriginal tribe and attend a local school.

"I probably want to see the kangaroos the most and go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef," said Amanda.

Amanda was nominated to be an ambassador by someone, but she wasn't told who. Her mom, Penny Kearney, thinks maybe she was nominated because of her love of travel. The family has vacationed in Hawaii, Mexico and Florida. Penny said she hopes the family can visit Australia in the next couple of years so Amanda can show them what she learned.

After nomination, the students have to go through a process before becoming an ambassador. Amanda had to fill out a resume, go through an interview process and get three letters of recommendation.

This is the first time People to People has picked elementary school children from Northern Nevada, according to Amanda.

"It's the first time they've done this age group in this area," she said. "They've done middle school and high school here, but never fifth and sixth graders."

The cost for each student is $5,100, which includes all travel, lodging and meal expenses, but doesn't include spending money. Scholarships and donations often help pay for their expenses.

Amanda has never been on a trip without her parents except with other family members or at church camp.

"I'm very nervous, it's a long time, 19 days," said her mom.

But, she said she decided to go with Amanda to the first meeting to see what it was all about.

The group of students has met monthly since December so they can all get to know each other before they leave, June 15. Amanda said she didn't know any of the children going until the meetings began.

While in Australia they will stay in four different hotels, four to a room, changing roommates at each destination. Four teachers from Reno will go with them, and they will be met by a teacher from Australia who will act as their guide. The students are scheduled to return on July 3.

"I think this will be a great learning opportunity for me and a chance to share information about our community and school with kids from another country," Amanda said.

Thousands of U.S. students travel to different countries each year with People to People, a program founded by the 34th president, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

"He founded People to People back in 1956 because he believed that young people and one-to-one cooperation were the keys to global understanding," states information provided by People to People.

For more information about People to People, visit

n Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 210.


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