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Turlock students to represent region on overseas trips
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Matthew Heffe will be visiting England and France this summer through the People to People program. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Julien Elementary sixth grader Megan Vanhoogmoed and Denair Middle School sixth grader Matthew Heffe will be among a group of about 25 exceptional young people who will represent the region as ambassadors during a two-week visit to England and France this summer. Turlock Junior High seventh grader Whitney Perry will be part of another delegation bound for England and France, as well as Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland

Vanhoogmoed, Heffe and Perry were nominated by their schools for the People To People Ambassador Program, a non-profit organization founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to promote peace through facetoface interaction by ordinary citizens around the world, including young people.

Since its inception, P2P has enabled over 400,000 delegates to experience the richness of other cultures in support of President Eisenhower's goal. The handson educational travel programs combine unique cultural experiences with personal interaction to create a global impact on how people view and appreciate other cultures.

All three Turlock students were nominated by their respective schools for the program and they underwent a diligent acceptance process that included meetings, an application, reference letters and a sit-down interview.

Heffe’s mother, Judy Agnew, said the opportunity to travel to other countries and actually visit the places her son has learned about in the classroom is a rare opportunity.

“Turlock is a great place to raise a child, but this is a great big world full of different people and places to see,” she said. “I’m so happy for him. He is a good student and he has maturity.”

Perry’s mother, Susan Perry, praised the P2P program for its rigorous preparation period leading up to her daughter’s trip.

“The program is very impressive. The kids have to show lots of responsibility — fundraising, attend monthly meetings, complete assignments and research on countries they are going to visit,” she said.

One of the ambassadors’ projects is to create a postcard depicting the various aspects of life in Turlock, undoubtedly a challenging undertaking — even for the most loyal Turlocker.

While on their trip the students, depending on their age, will meet members of parliament in England, visit Normandy, meet a holocaust survivor and actually live with a family in the country they visit.