Local businesses pull together for student trip

Woodard points to one of the stops on her 19-day excursion (Photo by Chris Buchanan)

A Brantley County High School student was chosen late last year for a study abroad trip to Europe this summer and now local businesses are pulling together to help her fulfill that goal.

Mollie Woodard, a 16 year old sophamore was the sole Brantley student chosen to spend 19 days touring Europe along with about 40 other Georgia students.

Woodard said that she went through an interview process and background check by members of People to People Student Ambassadors who greatly narrowed down the field for the trip known as the “Heart of Europe” tour.

The trip will take students from the Atlanta airport on a 10 hour flight to Paris where the first leg of their journey will begin.  The group will get to see some of France for the first four days of the trip and visit famous locations such as the Chateau de Versailles and the Eiffel Tower while also seeing parts of modern history such as the official seat of European Parliament – Strasbourg.

On day five the group will move along to Switzerland where they will visit the waterfront city of Lucerne with structures dating back to the fourteenth century before moving on to Heidiland and sampling the local pastries and cuisine.

The group then spends six days in Austria traveling to a different city each day learning about everything from centuries-old stone castles and even meeting a concentration camp survivor who will tell the story of living through one of the worst times in world history.

The rest of the trip will be spend in Itally, traveling to all of the most famous cities in the country and exploring the structures almost 2000 years in age.

But it’s the very last day, that Woodard said really has her attention.  Having done a project on the Colosseum years before, she’s looking forward to seeing the famous structure in person.

Woodard said the tour will be the first major trip she’s ever taken having never been outside the country aside from a cruise to the Bahamas.    Woodard said this will also be her longest trip away from family by far with a week-long Future Farmers of America (FFA) camp being the longest before.

The organization is already preparing her for some of the differences she can expect in the countries including hotels that are completely different from those in America, different wall plugins and the much cooler summer weather in various parts of Europe.

Meanwhile, numerous local businesses have pitched in to give Woodard a helping hand on paying the steep expenses of the trip.  Woodard’s mother Anna Woodard said that the community had already helped raise a large amount of the trip’s tuition.  Sponsors include Lewis Raulerson Oil, Bennett Hometown Pharmacy, Taylor Timber, Satilla Family Chiropractic Center, Guys Automotive, Dr. John Hopkins and 44 Mac Forestry.

The program was started by President Dwight D. Eisenhower over 50 years before in an effort to bring peace between nations after World War II through ambassadorship. Eisenhower’s ultimate goal for the group was to bridge cultural and political divides through education and exchange.

Through the years, students in the group have traveled to all seven continents through various travel plans in times when boarders in other countries were not as open.  In fact, ambassadors toured both east and west Berlin in 1966 and another group was present at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Students on the trips have also met everyone from Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Elizabeth II.

Woodard said she hopes to continue to travel even after this trip with Greece and Ireland among her future travel.

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