A Payson eighth-grader hopes to take advantage of "the chance of a lifetime" but she needs help to do it.
Rim Country Middle School student McKenzie Stevens has been selected to visit Europe for 21 days this summer as part of the People to People Student Ambassador Program. If she can raise about $5,000 between now and then, she'll leave Phoenix June 28 for three weeks in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.
The People to People program was founded by former president and World War II hero Dwight Eisenhower.
"He was concerned about being known only for his war exploits, so he started the program to promote peace," McKenzie's mother, Tammy, said.
McKenzie, who wants to pursue a career as a fashion designer one day, hopes to use the experience to make a difference in the world. She can also earn high school and university credits through her participation.
"I'd like to teach people about the United States, while learning about other countries myself," she said.
Her mother believes it will also be an educational opportunity.
"Europe is filled with history and art and museums," she said. "Besides going over there to share our culture and learn about their cultures, this is really a learning experience with her interest in art."
Stevens will travel to Europe with a group of 30, including the only other student chosen from Arizona. While there, she'll see Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, take in da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" at the Louvre, visit the cathedral where Galileo studied gravity, experience the exhilaration and terror felt by gladiators as she enters the Colosseum, examine a wealth of art at the Vatican Museum, feel the power of Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel, and much more.
Also included is a four-day stay, where McKenzie will actually live as a member of a local family in Salzburg. Host families include their American guests in everyday activities so they gain a firsthand understanding of the ways people live and work in other cultures.
As a student ambassador, she will also learn about the governments, economies and cultures of Europe through activities such as briefings at embassies and ministries, discussions with industrial and trade officials, site visits to the headquarters of international organizations, and meetings with youth clubs. Delegations will also receive an overview of the cultural heritage of each country during visits to major historical sites and performances of ethnic music and dance.
But between now and then, a lot of money has to be raised.
Saturday, April 20, American Legion Post 69 is hosting a barbecue dinner, cake walk and auction to raise money for Stevens. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs $6.
Stevens, who does a lot of volunteer work in her spare time, is a junior auxiliary member of American Legion Post 69, and helps that organization by working at its weekly fish fry and other events.
One of the items up for auction will be a collector's item stuffed "Unity Bear." Created for the introduction of the new Euro currency by the European Common Market, it can only be purchased overseas.
Other events and fund raisers are in the planning stages. A special account has also been set up at Bank One, where donations can be made.