SFMS student eyes northern adventure

Bollenbacher set to tour Canada as People to People ambassador
by Jeff Pederson
Sheboygan Falls News Editor

NICOLE BOLLENBACHER, a sixth-grade student at Sheboygan Falls Middle School, will be taking part in a People to People Student Ambassador trip to British Columbia and Alberta, Canada this June. 
Falls NewsphotobyJeffPederson NICOLE BOLLENBACHER, a sixth-grade student at Sheboygan Falls Middle School, will be taking part in a People to People Student Ambassador trip to British Columbia and Alberta, Canada this June. Falls NewsphotobyJeffPederson Just as any other curious 11-year-old might do, Nicole Bollenbacher of Sheboygan Falls has sometimes found herself daydreaming about what it would be like to journey outside of the United States and experience the culture and traditions of another country.

Thanks to an anonymous recommendation presumably from one of her teachers, support from her classmates at Sheboygan Falls Middle School and the generosity of the entire community, Bollenbacher is on her way to take in the sites, sounds and everyday ways of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada this summer.

Bollenbacher will journey to the Great White North as part of a group of approximately 25 fifth and sixth-grade students from throughout northeastern Wisconsin as part of the People to People Student Ambassador program.

The 12-day trip takes flight Tuesday, June 13 and wraps up Monday, June 24.

The educational tour features stops at several key cities in the British Columbia and Alberta provinces, including Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary.

“It is the first time that I will be riding on a plane, traveling out of the country and going away from my family for a long period time,” Bollenbacher said. “I am excited and nervous, but I know I am going to meet a lot of new people, go to many great places and do a lot of interesting things on the trip.

“I’ve always wanted to travel to a different country and I’ve always been interested in learning about different cultures,” she said. “It is pretty amazing that now I will have a chance to do that.”

U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the international People to People Student Ambassador Program in 1956 in the wake of World War II and the face of a highly isolated and fragmented world climate.

Eisenhower envisioned the student ambassador program as a way to pursue world peace and global awareness through educational travel for students throughout the world.

Headquartered in Spokane, Wash., People to People Student Ambassador Programs accommodate more than 20,000 student ambassadors on various educational trips each year.

While the world is much less isolated and disconnected as it was 57 years ago, Eisenhower’s vision of global peace, understanding and awareness lives on with Bollenbacher as proof of the program’s continuing importance.

Prior to last fall, the sixth-grade student at Sheboygan Falls Middle School had no knowledge of the People to People Student Ambassador program.

“We were very surprised when we got a letter last September that Nicole had been invited to serve as a student delegate in an upcoming People to People trip to Canada,” Bollenbacher’s mother April said. “We didn’t really know what to make of it at first because we had never heard about the program.

“After doing some research, we found out how cool it is and Nicole got started in the process of being accepted for the trip,” she said. “We still don’t know who recommended her, but we really appreciate it whoever it is.”

Shortly after receiving her letter, Nicole embarked on a multistep process of seeking letters of recommendation, completing interviews, attending student group meetings in Green Bay and raising money to fund her portion of the trip.

“I had to get letters of recommendation from two of my teachers and I had to do interviews with the People to People trip supervisor before I was officially approved to go on the trip,” Nicole said. “It was an interesting process, but I learned a lot in doing it.”

Fundraising was also a key part of the process and Nicole completed that task in fine form.

“I sold Seroogy’s candy bars and duct tape pens at school,” Nicole said. “I also did a bake sale at the Boys & Girls Club, which helped to raise a lot of money. Everyone has supported me very well and I am very thankful for that.”

The wide-ranging trip itinerary will give Nicole an opportunity to learn about Canadian government, city and country life, native animals, natural terrain and national monuments.

“We will be starting the trip in Vancouver, where we will learn about Canadian architecture and government,” Nicole said. “We will go to Victoria where we will see the Pacific Ocean and learn about killer whales.

“We will be learning about avalanche control in the mountain range of the Canadian Rockies and wolves in northern British Columbia,” she said. “We will be riding a gondola on Sulphur Mountain in Banff and traveling over glaciers. We are also scheduled to meet with the Canadian Mounted Police.”

A full slate of events and activities is also scheduled for her student group in the province of Alberta.

“In Alberta, we will be going to a tepee camp,” Nicole said. “We will be making a tepee and sleeping in it for two days.

“We are also scheduled to go to Calgary to visit the Olympic Park and training facility, as well as the Calgary Tower” she said.

Nicole says she is most excited about a particular wild animal mountain-related adventure.

“I am really anticipating meeting the wolves at the top of the Canadian Rocky Mountains,” she said. “That is the part of the trip I am the most excited about.”

At Sheboygan Falls Middle School, Nicole says her favorite subjects are very much related to the core educational areas of the People to People program.

“I like reading, language arts and social studies,” Nicole said. “Outside of school, I like to go to the Boys & Girls Club and I also play basketball and volleyball at the YMCA.”

While she is quite naturally a bit hesitant and nervous, Nicole realizes the educational rewards and experiences that she gains from the trip will remain for the rest of her life.

“We will be doing a lot of sightseeing and participating in several educational programs and activities,” she said. “We are also scheduled to do some public service type of things like cleaning up beaches.”

Over the past six months, Nicole has enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of the students and chaperones that will be joining her on the trip.

“I have had the chance to meet some of the kids that will be going on the trip at some of the monthly People to People meetings in Green Bay, which has been a great experience,” she said. “I am currently working on a project on Canadian flags with one of the other student delegates that will be going. I’ve also met some of the teachers that will be chaperones, so not everyone will be strangers to me, which is nice to know.”

April admits to having some initial reservations, but based on what she has learned about the People to People program and the trip, she is nearly as excited as her daughter.

“I was pretty worried about letting her go at first, but Canada is a relatively safe country and the trip sounds like it will be such a great experience for her,” April said. “It is very hands-on and she will be learning a lot about the Canadian government and culture and country as a whole.”

To learn more about the People to People Student Ambassador program, visit www.peopletopeople.com

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