May 29, 2013 - Leonard Elementary fifth grader Ian Betley will be heading to Australia this summer to serve as a student ambassador of the United States, after being named a "People to People International (PTPI) 2013 Inspirational Merit Scholar."
PTPI was originally established by President D. Eisenhower on September, 11, 1956 "to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures," said a press release from PTPI.
Betley is one of only 11 students in the United States to receive the prestigious honor and according to the press release he was chosen for the award based on "his outstanding display of courage, leadership and inspirational qualities in the face of life's often difficult challenges."
Betley nor his mom, Suzy said they didn't know who recommended Ian to the program, other than a staff member of Leonard.
"Coaches, parents or teachers can nominate who they think would be a good representative from the United States," said Suzy.
"People to people delegation leaders and area directors from throughout the United States nominated those students who inspire their peers, leaders and parents through extraordinary actions," said Mary Jean Eisenhower, president and Ceo of PTPI in the press release.
"Ian serves as an inspiration to others and we are proud to recognize individuals of this caliber," Eisenhower continued. "We know that he will serve as an exemplary 'goodwill ambassador' representing his family, school and community."
"I think it's really cool I got nominated to be in this program," Ian added. "I never really even heard of it before, but it seems like a really cool program. I think I'm going to stick with it."
When Ian was told he was nominated to the program, he decided he wanted to fund-raise the cost of his entire trip, which is about $8,000.
"I went door-to-door selling coffee all throughout the winter," Ian said.
"He worked his butt off," said Suzy. "He raised $4,300 just going to door-to-door selling bags of coffee every night. It was like a full-time job."
However, Ian wasn't able to continue fund-raising because he ended up sick in the hospital.
"My esophagus almost closed up, but I got better," Ian said. "I tried to get out for fundraising again, but then my delegation leader called me and told me she nominated me for a scholarship for $2,000 and I got it."
"When nominating Ian for the scholarship, his delegation leader Holly Kalik spoke of his enthusiasm, his dedicated fundraising efforts and his character, which she said is demonstrated through his willingness to share knowledge, his kindness and consideration and the volunteer work he does in the community," said the press release.
With almost $1,000 left to raise before he leaves an early July, Ian is growing more and more excited about his near 24 hour flight.
"The last time I flew it was to Chicago and I was two years old," he said. "I don't remember it."
While in Australia some of the itinerary includes going snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, spending a couple days with Australia's native tribe, the Aborigines, going backstage in the Sydney Opera House and spending a couple days on a sheep farm.
"I also get to eat crocodile and kangaroo tail, and I get to hold koalas and see all the animals they have there that aren't in America," Ian added.
When asked if he was excited to eat the crocodile and kangaroo Ian smiled and said "I'll try it."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.