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Headed for the land down under

He's only 12 years old, but he'll be traveling the world this summer.

Dakota Zick, Rochert, has been chosen as a student ambassador of goodwill for the People to People organization. He will be traveling to Australia and New Zealand July 14-28.

"I had heard the name (People to People), but I didn't know anything about it," Connie Zick, Dakota's mother, said.

Pres. Dwight Eisenhower started People to People 50 years ago. It is for young people in the United States to promote peace by visiting other countries and sharing cultures.

A well-known participant in the People to People International White House conference was Walt Disney. After his participation, he created the "It's a Small World" attraction. He said he felt that even though people are different, everyone shares the same core values.

This year, there will be about 40 students attending from Minnesota, North Dakota, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

There are three ways ambassadors are chosen for the trip -- nomination from a teacher, nomination from a former ambassador or school test scores, which is what Zicks think is the reason behind Dakota being selected.

While in Australia and New Zealand, Dakota will travel and see many things. They will visit local families, school classrooms -- where they'll be the "show and tell" -- an Aborigine tribe, the Great Barrier Reef, the Opera House in Sidney, a wildlife park, the site where the Olympics were held, snorkeling and rock climbing and lots of hiking. Dakota said snorkeling is what he's looking forward to the most.

The farthest Dakota has traveled is Florida, so this will definitely be a different experience for him.

To prep for the trip, Dakota and the others selected to go and their parents have attended informational meetings. Connie said the meetings have been to get the kids excited about the trip, tell them what they can and can't bring along and to teach them to wash their clothes by hand in case there isn't available laundry units in Australia and New Zealand.

While People to People is for many ages, Dakota will be with other fifth and sixth graders. Dakota just finished the sixth grade at Frazee-Vergas School.

There are delegate leaders as chaperons on the trip. The ones going with Dakota's group happen to be teachers from Moorhead.

Connie said, as a parent, she feels a little nervous having Dakota go so far, but she also feels he's going to a safe country. Also, with his age group, there is much more supervision than the older kids will have.

Another concern has been money. One, for the money Dakota will take. Connie said she obviously doesn't want to send a bunch of cash with Dakota, but wants him to be able to buy souvenirs as well. He'll have an ATM card to use while there, they've decided.

The second money issue is paying for the trip. The family has to pay for Dakota's trip, which includes airfare, hotels and meals. Connie said it will costs them $5,282, not including his spending money.

To help with those costs, Shell Lake Immanuel Lutheran Church is hosting a spaghetti feed June 10 from 4 to 7 p.m. It is a freewill offering. There will also be a silent auction.

"He's been into Australia since forever," Connie said of Dakota. "If it had been somewhere else, we would have waited."

While Dakota isn't sure what he hopes to get out of the trip, Connie is.

"More independence and self-assurance, and better speaking abilities," she said.