MONTROSE – Twelve-year-old Matthew Gardner is proud to represent the United States as a student ambassador. And he hopes that his new goal – of changing his outlook on life through learning abroad this summer – will help him pursue a higher education.
Gardner, a seventh grader at Columbine Middle School, was accepted into the People to People Ambassador Program, and will travel to the Netherlands, England, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland this summer.
"I'll be learning new things like teamwork, communications and culture," Matthew said. "I want to learn more about World War II, and to try new things.”
Gardner's journey will begin in the Netherlands and end with a rafting trip in Switzerland. In between, the young Montrose native will be helping out in churches and performing all sorts of community outreach and services while getting to know his German host family. Gardener said he was nominated anonymously by someone at Columbine last year. “It could be anybody [who nominated him]. It could have been a coach, it could have been a teacher. We just don’t know,” said Tammy Gardner, Matthew’s mother.
He then worked hard to be accepted last October.
People to People was established in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to give everyday citizens of different countries opportunities to meet and get to know each other. “I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our government,” Eisenhower once said. The intended result of People to People, according to the organization, is to foster “understanding, friendship and lasting peace.”
Tammy Gardner said she is excited for her son to not only learn, but also to gain confidence and a new perspective on the world while making new friends.
"He's going to come back a changed person," she said.
To help pay for the trip the family seeks financial donations.
According to Rocky Helton, Matthew’s father, his son has been successfully soliciting donations up and down Main Street. Because People to People is a nonprofit organization, all donations are tax deductible. An account has been established at Wells Fargo Bank for Matthew's trip.
Matthew is willing to do chores or any other paid labor to help fund his journey abroad. To reach him, or to make a donation on his behalf, contact Tammy Gardner at 970/275-5116. For more information visit: www.peopletopeople.com.