When Angelo Donadio received his letter inviting him to be a part of the People to People Ambassador program touring Australia, he didn't believe it at first.
''My dad said yes, but my mom was like ... maybe,'' he said.
A seventh grade student at Howland Middle School, Angelo could have been nominated for the program by one of his teachers or a previous People to People participant, but he doesn't know who submitted his name to the organization founded in the 1950s by president Dwight Eisenhower.
After a few fundraisers to help come up with the travel expenses, not to mention the nearly year-long orientation meetings with delegation leaders from People to People, Angelo boarded the first of eight different flights, beginning in Cleveland and arriving in Sydney, Australia, 16 hours later.
''Eisenhower saw the influence and impressions that Americans can offer throughout the world by sharing cultures,'' said Harold Wilson, of Austintown. Wilson, a delegation leader with People to People, helped organize the 15-day trip and traveled with the students.
''We put a lot of time and preparation into a trip,'' Wilson said, ''and we work with students in preparing them, too. We want to instill in them that they are representing the United States.''
Preparation for the trip is about a year, Wilson said, and there is one delegation leader for every 10 students. The program, available to both middle school and high school students, begins with the entire delegation of about 85 regional students meeting every-other month to work on projects. Projects include studying about the country they will be visiting, as well as taking computer quizzes to assure they know about their host country's history and cultures. Students pay for the trip themselves, some holding fundraisers to help with expenses.
During the flight, the students crossed the International Date Line to get to their destination, and spent the next two weeks snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, visiting the opulent Sydney Opera House and shopping for souvenirs to take home to their families. During the trip, students were required to spend two or three days with a host family and visited a nursing home in Sydney where they presented flags to the residents. Angelo's host family had children near his age, a boy age 12 and a girl age 10. Angelo still keeps in touch with his new friends on Facebook.
Although the food was similar to what we have in the U.S., Angelo said his favorite Australian food was probably kangaroo.
''I like to call it 'sticken,'" he said, ''because it tastes a little like both steak and chicken.''
While on his adventure, Angelo's parents, Kelly and Chris, were able to track his itinerary over the Internet.
''I would Google the place he was at and would follow him that way,'' Kelly said.
In addition, when Angelo was with the host family, they were able to communicate directly through Facebook, she said.
''I can't imagine what it was like 50 years ago when families dropped their kids off at the airport and didn't hear from them again for two weeks, she said.
While this trip was along the eastern coast of the country, primarily New South Wales and Queensland, Angelo hopes to go back to Australia some day and tour the Outback and Tasmania.
''I felt like we left an impression,'' Angelo said ''that we are all similar all over the world.''