Local student bound for China

By Greg Gelpi

Stepping out of the classroom, Jasmine Bowles, 16, will be stepping onto a plane this summer as she travels to the other side of the world to immerse herself in another culture.

Bowles will join a 40-member delegation spending 17 days in China with People to People Student Ambassadors, touring the country, exploring the culture and experiencing all that the people have to offer.

"We're going to do nothing but Chinese," the Lovejoy High School junior says, explaining that she will live with a Chinese host family, eating, drinking and sleeping the local culture.

Just the experience of "getting out of America" will provide quite the experience, Bowles says. The ambassador program will deepen her understanding of other cultures and generally make her more "culturally aware."

"The people are full bred Chinese," Bowles says, noting that the host family won't be an American family, which lives in China.

It's "one thing to read it," but another to actually live it and experience it, she says of the culture she has been studying in books. The trip will bring the students to areas throughout the country, including Beijing and Hong Kong.

Although she's going away, the trip will deepen her appreciation of home.

"It definitely makes me grateful to be American, to be free," Bowles says. "It makes me grateful and appreciate what I have here."

Her mother, Terrace Bowles, said the trip is preparation for college.

"With getting into college today being so competitive, this is something that I think will get her ahead," Terrace Bowles says. "For me, it's like a trial run for college."

The mother and daughter go "everywhere" together, Jasmine says, and the trip will be longest time the two have spent apart.

"I'm definitely going to miss my mom and dad," she says.

Jasmine was chosen from a group of "hundreds" of applicants, she says, and had been raising money to cover the $6,000 cost of the trip.

People to People was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and eight U.S. presidents have since served as honorary chairman. Donations can be made at any area SunTrust Bank.

Through the program, students travel to areas from the Great Barrier Reef to South Africa's Cape and many other locations around the world.