Student Ambassador - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/12/06-Tyler

Student Ambassador

In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the group People To People. It's an ambassador program aimed at fostering international relationships, and leadership skills among America's youth.

Nine East Texans have been selected as student ambassadors this year. Jamie Lynn Valentine, 12, was one of them. When she got the letter inviting her to Australia, she says she nearly flipped out! "I wanted to go very bad because Australia is like, way cooler than here," Jamie said, in typical 12-year-old fashion.

Not only is Jamie a competitive gymnast. She's also a straight A student, and a peer tutor. She says being recognized for all of her hard work is nice. "It feels really good, because it's really easy to keep my grades up, but all of the homework, it's hard to get done because of the gymnastics," Jamie said.

Her coach, Stacy Rudd, says she has a strong work ethic both inside and outside of the gym. "When you think about athlete's progress over a long period of time, you'd like it to be nice and steady, but it doesn't work that way. There's always a bump in the road. There's always two steps forward one step back. The difference is when a girl is taking those two steps forward, it's always really fun, but when there's a step backward, a lot of kids quit. Jamie didn't quit," Rudd said.

Ambassadors like Jamie are either nominated by a teacher or former ambassador, or they're selected off the National Registry of Outstanding Students. The ambassadors may never know who nominated them, but either way, Jamie's mother says it's a big honor.

"Not everybody gets to do something like this, because obviously she was selected from an elite group of people. And it's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Valerie.

Jamie's been invited to be a student ambassador twice before, but the cost of the trip always got in the way. This year, student ambassadors will have to fundraise nearly $6,000 to pay for their three week trip to the land down under.

Lindsay Wilcox reporting, lwilcox@kltv.com

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