MARSHALL - Imagine rappelling down a castle wall in Assisi, Italy, taking a dip in the warm Mediterranean water off the coast of Spain or exploring the majestic medieval city of Carcassonne, France.
For two area students participating in a People to People Ambassador program this summer, the experience will soon become a reality.
"It's a chance to see something you normally wouldn't get to and to witness what other people experience in day to day life," said homeschooled freshman Skylar Breczinski, who, along with Marshall High School junior Cassie Roberts, will be touring Europe from June 30 to July 18. "It's a very nice opportunity."
Photo by Per Peterson
Along with a group of approximately 50, two area students Skylar Breczinski, left, of Marshall and Cassie Roberts of Balaton will be touring parts of Europe this summer as part of a trip with the People to People Ambassador Program.
Since receiving an invitation to travel a few years back, Breczinski's curiosity and thirst for knowledge continued to grow.
"A couple of years ago, I got invited on a trip as an athlete ambassador to Austria and because of my age, we decided not to go," Breczinski said. "But that kind of opened my eyes to see that there was something like this."
Before the start of the 2011-12 school year, both Breczinski and Roberts received an invitation to tour Europe.
"My mom and I went to go get the mail and we found the packet in the mail," Roberts said. "We opened it and read about it. We found out when the meetings were and we went to those. I was really excited. I've wanted to go to Spain because I've been in Spanish since fifth-grade."
Roberts said she was second-guessing her decision to travel after seeing so many people at the September meeting in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
"I didn't see anyone else from Minnesota," Roberts said. "There were a couple hundred people at the meeting and they only let 40 people in. I was freaking out."
In October, Roberts went to her interview. Shortly after being accepted, Roberts was put in contact with Breczinski.
"There are 52 kids going on this trip, with this group," said Jim Breczinski, Skylar's father. "There's 42 from South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska. Then, they're picking up a smaller segment,12 kids from the Chicago area, who are going to travel together."
Jim Breczinski said he wasn't sure who was more nervous for the trip.
"Skylar kind of gets out and is willing to do anything," he said. "I'm the one who's sending my kid overseas. It's a little scary."
But knowing the background of the People to People program was reassuring, Breczinski said. Initiated by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the ambassador program is a culmination of his lifelong crusade for world peace.
"I've traveled, myself, abroad, but the rest of the family has not as of yet," Breczinski said. This is an opportunity to get out and see the world and see some of the cultures, and to do it in a manner that Dwight D. Eisenhower visualized. He started the program, to get American's out and traveling and to educate them a little more. He knew it was going to be a global community. It's a cool opportunity to be able to have our children be involved in that."
As of now, Skylar Breczinski said the group isn't exactly sure where they'll start the trip, though it would likely be in Spain or Italy. The one disappointment, he said, is that Paris (France) is not on the route.
"We're going to mainly be going on the coastline," he said. "We're unfortunately skipping Paris because of that."
While he doesn't foresee any issues with language since a tour guide will be present throughout the trip, Breczinski does have one worry.
"In either France or Spain, we will be spending one or two nights with a family," he said. "I'm a little anxious. The only thing I'm nervous about is to see what food will be served. There's really no telling."
Roberts is most excited to see Barcelona, Spain.
"I've always wanted to go to Spain and when I went there, I wanted to go to Barcelona," she said. "We're going to Spain, France, Italy, Monaco and Vatican City. I wanted to see beyond the Midwestern area. Yeah, you can go to other places in the United States, but going out and seeing other countries, you actually feel the culture instead of just learning about it."
It will be Roberts' first time on an airplane.
"I've always been independent, but I'm sure this trip will help me more with that and my confidence," she said. "I've never been outside the Midwestern states so, going somewhere as far away as that, will help with that. In the meetings, they have us go with different people each time, so we learn confidence."
Breczinski said he appreciates that there are academic credits involved in the trip, but he agreed with Roberts, that it's more about the experience.
"I'm mostly in this for the experience and getting to see what other people do and experience as a norm," he said. "It's just really different and something you don't get to see here."
But it isn't all pleasure. There is work involved, too.
"I think we'll be helping to organize supplies at a school possibly," Breczinski said. "We're actually doing a lot of paperwork to make ourselves familiar with the background of the company itself and of the historical areas we'll be going to."
Jim Breczinski pointed out that each student in the group had to pick a historical site, activity or person and put together a presentation to give to the other kids.
"That way, the whole group is familiar with all the areas," he said. "It's actually an academic trip, with a lot of homework that goes with it."
Roberts' project was on Flamenco dancing.
"I researched the history and found that it's from a bunch of different countries and cultures," she said. "The music and the dancing is a mixture from all of them. And, we get to learn how to Flamenco dance in Spain, so I'm excited."
Fundraising can be the most difficult part of the trip process, but both students have shown their maturity and dedication regarding the financial aspect.
"I did a bake sale at a Tupperware party," Roberts said. "This spring, I'm doing a big garage sale. I also sent out letters to people I know about it. I gave them my information and stuff so if they wanted to donate."
Roberts is also asking U.S. Bank employees to participate in a cell phone recycling activity.
"There'll be a flyer and it'll tell about me and the trip," she said. "The employees at U.S. Bank can drop their cell phones and ink cartridges in a special box. When I send them in to the company, they'll give me a portion of it for my trip."
Around Thanksgiving time, Skylar Breczinski sold wreaths. He's planning to go door-to-door, selling pizza cards this upcoming week.
"That went pretty well," he said. "Now, what I'm currently about to sell is Papa Murphy's coupon cards. It's about $20, and you take it and you get any amount of pizza of that value. Then there's a number of coupons in it. The people who came up with the card estimate it's about a $200 value."
Jim Breczinski said both the area students are open to corporate sponsorship, too.
"The fact that they do need to go out and raise all the money, makes it a little bit better, too," he said. "It's not just a trip handed to them, per say. It's a great opportunity."