David Guerin: Killingly's People to People ambassador

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Tue., Aug. 2, 2011
David Guerin stands beside a Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) at the Tower of London. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Killingly High School student David Guerin just returned from the United Kingdom, where he participated in the People to People program as a student ambassador. The three-week program brought him to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland with a contingent of 21 other students from Connecticut. Guerin was the only representative from the northeastern corner of the state.

The People to People organization was created in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a way of fostering peace through understanding. The organization allows students in grades five through 12 to participate as student ambassadors, sports ambassadors, and in leadership programs across the globe. The organization also provides citizen ambassador programs for adults in a range of professions.

Guerin still has no idea who nominated him for the program. When he learned of it, his first challenge was to raise $3,300 for the three- week trip. He launched a letter-writing campaign to every teacher he'd learned from and every school he attended. Two hundred letters, a can and bottle drive, one spaghetti dinner and an unexpected scholarship later, Guerin was on his way.

The Celtic culture is so rich and there is so much history,” Guerin said. “It was a huge learning opportunity.”

The ambassadors got to take in a white-water rafting trip in Scotland, ride the huge Ferris wheel known as the London Eye, and take in hot spots such as Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. They went to Northern Ireland and learned about the conflicts that have plagued the area for centuries. They met local students and learned what their schooling was like.

Guerin was able to stay with a host family in the Republic of Ireland. It gave him a chance to live with, and play soccer with, his hosts' three children, who ranged in age from 2 to 8. “These kids just wanted to dribble circles around us,” Guerin said. “I play soccer with my brother, so to see them playing, it clicked. We aren't really different except where we live.”

Naturally, one of the differences showed up in common expressions. A student from Scotland was amazed to learn that Americans called potato chips “chips,” and French fries “French fries.” “They call fries ‘chips,’” Guerin said. “And they call chips ‘crisps.’”

Guerin could have gotten elective history credit for his participation in the program, but he chose not to. The avowed history buff would rather take another high school course. He is expected to talk about his experiences and share the things he learned during the three weeks he traveled as a student ambassador.

“We have to spread the message to people in our towns and just tell people about it,” Guerin said. “Our cultures really are similar.”

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