May 13-19, 2004
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
St. Matthew’s Students Selected as Student Ambassadors
Two students from St. Matthew’s School will take their talent on the road this summer when they join the People to People International Program founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. People to People International (PTPI) is dedicated to enhancing cross-cultural communication between communities and nations through promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship. Through educational and humanitarian activities, PTPI fosters the exchange of ideas and experiences among peoples of different and diverse cultures. In 1963, PTPI developed two student ambassador programs –– one for athletics and one for academics.
Fifth-grader Brendan McIntyre and sixth-grader Alyssa Gratien were selected to participate in the program after their names were anonymously submitted. The two students have been hard at work not only sharpening their skills but also raising the funds needed to participate. Brendan will be traveling to California for two weeks in July to study geology and marine life as a student ambassador for People to People International. During his stay in California, Brendan will study at Yosemite National Park and the Marin Headlands near San Francisco. He will also explore some world-famous California landmarks such as the city of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Warf, Muir Woods, the Sierra Nevada Mountain, Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point. This educational trip will cost Brendan and his family approximately $3,000. Brendan has started a bottle and can drive and has to date, raised $1,000 of the funds needed. He also does chores around the house and works at his grandfather’s excavation business on weekends to earn extra money.
“It’s expensive for the students to go,” said Sister Marianne Baehr, CSJ, principal of St. Matthew’s School. The Home and School Association sponsored fish fries every Friday during Lent. On Good Friday, the two students split the proceeds made at the fish fry to assist in the cost of the trip. “We want to encourage students in overall academic achievement and the association saw this as a wonderful way to do that,” said Sister Marianne. Brendan is looking forward to the adventure and said that he is not at all nervous about traveling without his family. “I’ve never traveled any further than Texas,” said Brendan. “I want to see other places.” When Brendan leaves in July, he will be well prepared on what to expect. Each month, Brendan attends two-hour long meetings sponsored by the program to learn more about the trip, meet the other students he will be traveling with and learn how to do his own laundry. Brendan also wrote a two-page essay to prepare himself for the required daily journal entries he will be making while there.
Each student in Brendan’s group randomly drew another’s name out of a hat and has been socializing with that person prior to the trip. “We’ll get to know each other beforehand so that we are comfortable with each other on the trip,” explained Brendan. “This is a unique opportunity for Brendan,” said his father Brian McIntyre. “It will give him the opportunity to go out and do something for himself –– get him into the spotlight and out of the shadow of his older sister and younger brother.” Alyssa has been selected as a member of Team USA 2004 for the World Friendship Games in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The games take place in a different country each year and offer a variety of sports. As a gifted basketball player, Alyssa will join 500 children, representing eight different sports from the U.S.
“I’m a little nervous about flying by myself, but I’m excited about going,” said Alyssa. “I’ve always dreamed about going to a different country to play basketball,” she said. Alyssa will train extensively to keep herself in shape for the July 16 trip abroad. Her father, Paul Gratien, will make sure of it. Gratien is the basketball coach at St. Matthew’s and has been taking Alyssa to practice and games with him since she was an infant. “They used to put a basketball in my stroller and I used to smack at it,” said Alyssa. Alyssa admitted that her love of basketball came from her two sisters, ages 13 and 16. “I wanted to be able to dribble and shoot like them,” said Alyssa. Having scored 324 points for her team this season, Alyssa thinks she’s almost at their level.
Alyssa needed to raise $5,000 to cover the cost of airfare, hotel accommodations, food, training camp and visits to tourist attractions. As a result of an article that was published in the Post Standard, Alyssa has received most of the funds she needs. “Five thousand dollars is a lot of money for someone like us to raise for a 12-year-old girl,” said Gratien. “The first week the article came out we received $1,200 in donations.” The donations continued to pour in, not only from the generosity of strangers, but also from Alyssa’s friends and family members. In addition to playing basketball at St. Matthew’s, Alyssa has been invited to practices and games with Le Moyne College’s women’s basketball team. “When she was at basketball camp at Le Moyne, she went up to coach Jeanne DuPree and asked if they needed a ball girl,” explained Gratien. “That was three years ago. The coach invited Alyssa to work out with the team and attend practices. They are great to her,” he said. Sister Marianne said that Alyssa is interested in the game on all levels. “She strives to do the best she can, not only for herself but for the good of the team. Carmello Anthony has nothing on her,” said Sister Marianne.