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BY MARY GARRISON
Jasmine Chewe is an active, intelligent 17-year-old girl. Captain of the West Point High School cheerleading squad, member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Jr. ROTC, Upward Bound and Columbus Applebee's employee, Chewe wears many hats. Now, she can add world traveler to the list.
July 23, Chewe returned from her first People to People Student Ambassador Program, where she spent 19 days in Europe working on community service initiatives with fellow student ambassadors from Mississippi, Tennessee and California. The program, the roots of which began with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, seeks to cultivate global awareness and multicultural understanding within U.S. students by providing educational travel opportunities to distant countries, according to the People to People website. Some 20,000 participants are selected each year based on academic performance and extracurricular involvement. While traveling, ambassadors participate in leadership development in addition to working with peers from nations in which students travel.
The experience was one John Cox, Chewe's father, said he didn't want his daughter to miss.
"The thought process (behind the program) was young people could travel and become more understanding of other cultures," Cox said. "â€¦ I was in the military, so I was able to travel and see different things. A lot of the things she saw â€¦ I understood. I wanted her to get out and get that experience. â€¦ You see what makes it the real world."
And the real world she saw. Chewe said in addition to experiencing a number of first time events â€” flying and leaving the country were among those on the list â€”Â which put things into perspective. While in Ireland, the group worked with homeless youth.
"We take a lot of things for granted they may not have," Chewe said. "â€¦ We took some stuff out of our suitcases to give to them. They actually have a school, but we went on a Sunday, which is their down day so we didn't get to do as much with them."
Chewe said the group also spent time visiting with the elderly and volunteering in assisted living facilities, in addition to working with children in day care centers and community clean up efforts.
"One day we cut peat for the elderly," she said. "They use it to warm their homes in the winter."
Those kind of activities are right up Chewe's alley, according to Mary Kelley, project coordinating specialist for Upward Bound, a pre-college preparatory program in which Chewe has participated for the last two years. Kelley said Chewe was a bright student who loved to participate in Upward Bound programs, which include ACT workshops, state test preparation and financial aid workshops. Chewe does her share of helping within the program as well, Kelley said. Recently, Kelley said, Chewe served as an instructor for younger children during a cheer camp sponsored by Upward Bound.
"Jasmine is a people person and she loves to do community service (work)," Kelley said. "She likes helping others â€¦ you don't even have to ask her to do anything, she'll come to you."
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