By Valerie Baldowski
Rodney Mason, Jr., a sophomore at Henry County High School, is one of 20 students in the U.S. who have been awarded a $2,000 scholarship, to be used toward participation in a People to People Student Ambassador travel program.
According Liz Wegman, director of public relations and development for People to People International (PTPI), the McDonough resident was named as a PTPI 2009 Inspirational Merit Scholar for outstanding dedication and perseverance, and for the inspiration he provides to others.
The scholarship was created to acknowledge delegates who exemplify outstanding leadership abilities, and who serve as role models in their communities, said Wegman.
As an ambassador in the program, Mason, 16, will leave June 21 for a 20-day trip to Europe. He said he is anticipating the enhanced educational experiences he will have while traveling abroad.
"I look forward to learning more," Mason said. "I want to see the Eiffel Tower."
In addition to a stop in Paris, Mason's itinerary includes visits to Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.
Ambassadors in the program will learn about World War II history, Medieval history, Renaissance art and architecture, intercultural studies, and the history and architecture of the Roman Empire, according to an itinerary provided by PTPI.
Mason said he hopes the trip will make him a better person, while providing an opportunity to represent his country.
"We need to make an example of the United States as to how we present ourselves," he said.
The student's actions set a good example for others, said Wegman. "Rodney is seen as an exemplary member of his delegation group, demonstrating both enthusiasm and humility at the opportunity to be a student ambassador," she said.
After the death of his father several years ago, Wegman continued, Mason began helping his mother, Kerrie Trammell, with his younger siblings, while maintaining high grades in his honors classes in school, wrestling, and playing soccer, football and basketball.
The awards listed on the youth's resume include making the honor roll from 1998 through 2007, and perfect attendance from 2000 through 2006.
Wegman said Mason also serves as a youth leader for his church, New Covenant Church of God, and as the organizer for his delegation group's project to collect school supplies for PTPI's Operation Iraqi Children.
Trammell, Mason's mother, said she is proud of her son's accomplishments.
"I have cried so much," she said. "I'm very proud. He's always full of surprises. It's an honor to be chosen."
Mason raised almost half of the money needed for his trip through a letter-writing campaign to family members, and a spaghetti dinner at church, said Wegman.