While most fifth-graders are looking forward to spending their summer vacation sleeping late and hanging out with friends, 11-year-old Natalyn Crockett hopes to learn about how to bridge cultural and political borders and promote peace globally as a student ambassador to Australia. But, she might not make it if she can’t raise the funds by May 1.
“When I first read the letter, my mouth just dropped open,” said Natalyn. “I was excited, but then when I met with the [student ambassador] leader and he showed me a scrapbook of all the trips, I started to get really excited.”
The honor student from Live Oak Elementary School was nominated and eventually chosen as one of only 29 students in the region to participate in the prestigious People to People Ambassador Program, which was developed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.
The program offers fifth through 12th grade students travel opportunities that involve learning about several different communities in the countries they visit, including speaking to other students and families. It allows students to learn about cultures other than their own and to learn about what makes each individual country unique and to share information about America with students in those countries. She would be an ambassador not only of the United States and Georgia, but also of Newton County.
Natalyn’s itinerary would include staying in various hotels along the coast of Australia in order to learn about multiple communities, and she will switch roommates several times also in order to get to know all the other students on the trip. Plans also include exploring the Great Barrier Reef. Students will be required to keep a travel journal and visit students in Australian classrooms, who will question them about U.S. government as well as their local governments.
In order to prepare for this, Natalyn has to study and take online courses and tests on which she must score at least an 80. According to her mother, Kandice Thomas-Crockett, an English/language arts teacher at Liberty Middle School, Natalyn has scored 100 percent on every test thus far. Her scores are not a huge surprise to her mother, who said she knew Natalyn was a gifted child even from an early age.
“It was the summer between first and second grade and she was 6 years old. I remember seeing her sitting cross-legged on the computer and I thought she was working on a project they has assigned for school, but she had decided to assign herself a summer research project,” said Kandice, laughing. “She had decided to research the animals of Australia. I think that was what helped me, as a parent, realize that Natalyn was a gifted student.”
Natalyn still impresses with her intellectual prowess and is a member of the Live Oak Beta Club and chorus as well as the dance ministry at Springfield Baptist Church.
“Natalyn is a prime example of what we strive to accomplish at Live Oak Elementary and in the Newton County School System,” said her principal, Erika Anderson. “She is a strong student with great character. Natalyn’s experience in Australia will add to her already advanced educational tools and help her one day be able to be successful on a global level.”
Natalyn hopes to bring what she learns from the program back to Newton County in an effort to promote peace both globally and locally. During the trip she will visit the Australian parliament and will have a chance to dine with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
She will have to make the 19-hour trip without her mother or father, Ryan, who is a juvenile court investigator, as well as brothers 13-year-old Chalis and 6-year-old Julian. While the idea of taking such a big step by herself unsettles her nerves a bit, she’s fighting to keep those feelings at bay.
“It’s a new experience,” she said. “And I don’t want being nervous to get in the way of that.”
The only thing dampening Natalyn’s excitement is the prospect of not being able to participate in such an amazing project because of a lack of funding. She has raised a little more than $1,000 thus far, but needs $6,000 for the trip.
Those interested in donating money to help one of Newton County’s best and brightest represent her county as a student ambassador, can send checks to Kandice Thomas-Crockett at 330 Flowers Drive, Covington, Ga. 30016. Kandice can be contacted with questions at (770) 385-3505 or on her cell at (770) 771-9724. She can be reached through e-mail also at firstname.lastname@example.org.