December 5, 2007 Edition

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Catron travels Europe as
People to People Ambassador

Amber Adams
TD Staff

"I have long believed, as have many before me, that peaceful relations between nations require mutual respect between individuals," - President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Tonya Catron, a junior at Walnut Ridge High School, had the opportunity to take advantage of Eisenhower's views on foreign relations by traveling Europe as a People to People Student Ambassador over the summer.

President Eisenhower believed that ordinary citizens of different nations, if able to communicate directly, would solve their differences and find a way to live in peace. In 1956, he put those beliefs into action and created People to People Ambassador Programs.

He called a special White House conference of American leaders, who joined him in creating the People to People initiative. As a result, the People to People mission developed around personal exchanges and firsthand experiences with other cultures.

During her 20-day tour, Catron experienced many other cultures.

In Paris, she visited the top of the Eiffel Tower to enjoy the best view of the city. She also visited Notre Dame and one of the most important art collections in the world, the famous Musee du Louvre, which she said was her favorite part of the trip.

While in France, the group stopped in Versailles, Lyon, Cannes and Nice, taking in the country's rich history at each location.

From France they traveled by bus to Italy where they explored the renaissance city of Florence, viewing Michelangelo's statue, David, and other works of art inside the Accademia Gallery. At Vatican City, they visited the world’s smallest state and the home of Catholicism, the Vatican. They were also able to tour St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

In Rome, they explored the Roman Forum and Coliseum, then split up in smaller groups and collected information about the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.

"A small village we visited in Italy had a pinstriped cathedral. It reminded me of Tim Burton, which I loved," said Catron

She said they were unable to visit Pompeii because of traffic delays. When they had to choose between the ruins at Pompeii and Vatican City, the group chose the Vatican.

From Italy, Catron and the rest of the group set out for Sicily where they visited Erice, a medieval mountain fortress, which was once the home of the cult of Venus, the fertility goddess.

They also saw the ruins of a massive Greek temple at Segesta. In Catania, Sicily, the group learned about volcanism while near Mount Etna (10,902 feet), visited the Greek Theatre built in the third Century B.C., and learned about the traditional art of Sicilian pottery.

"Seeing all the stuff in Greece was wonderful," said Catron, "because I really like ancient Greek mythology."

In Valletta, Malta, Catron met her 'home stay' family, with whom she stayed for three nights.

"They were the cutest little family in the world," she said, adding that while talking about food, she discovered that they had never eaten peanut butter and jelly, waffles or tacos. She also said the cultural barrier was very obvious to her as she tried to explain what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is.

"In Malta, jelly is similar to American Jell-o," she said, "so it was hard for them to understand why we would eat peanut butter with Jell-o. Finally we realized that what we call jelly, they call jam."

Overall, Catron said the experience was unforgettable. She thanks Dr. Kevin Diamond, Dr. Jerol Swaim, Dr. Ejaz Alam, Lawrence Health Services and everyone else who helped make this trip possible.

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