Kristine Van Buskirk describes her 12-year-old daughter, Cora, as very outgoing, artistic and sweet.
"She loves school," said Kyle Van Buskirk, Cora's father. "She really enjoys music and the choir, and she has had roles in the school plays."
Now Cora, a sixth-grader at Creekview Intermediate School in Marysville, is taking on a new challenge by participating in the People to People Student Ambassador program.
The history of the program, which offers educational travel opportunities for students around the globe, appealed to Cora's dad.
"The thing that really turned us on to People to People was how it originated with Dwight D. Eisenhower. His whole idea was, what better way to have peace around the world than to get the younger generations together," he said.
Students generally receive a letter inviting them to participate in the People to People program after they are nominated by a principal, vice principal, counselor or teacher.
For families that are interested, the next step is participation in a seminar to get more information.
"Then there was an interview process with four counselors," Kristine Van Buskirk said.
She said 40 students are ultimately chosen each year.
According to the program's website, peopletopeople.com, student ambassadors visit schools and homes to learn about world culture through government experts and access to significant people and places. They also build leadership skills while working on a team with other students.
In June 2015, Cora will fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and then to Rome. In addition to Italy, her 19-day trip will take her to Spain and France.
Cora is already preparing by learning key words and phrases in other languages, and raising funds to cover the $7,500 cost of the trip. So far, she has raised almost $1,000.
"She's making bracelets. She's working with the principal to do a bake sale at the book fair and make some jewelry. He was going to think of other fundraisers for her," Kristine Van Buskirk said.
Creekview Principal Tim Kannally said Cora is an ideal sixth-grade student.
"Strong leader, kind and compassionate to peers, civic-minded, tremendous work ethos, high-achieving academically and socially," he said. "She makes us full of pride."
Kannally said the experience will provide Cora an opportunity for building independence and maturity.
Kyle Van Buskirk said his daughter has traveled alone to New York City to visit an aunt, so he's not too worried about the trip. Her mother, however, is a little hesitant. Both said challenges in Cora's younger years have prepared her to tackle just about anything.
"She struggled a lot earlier in life. She had cerebral palsy," Kristine Van Buskirk said.
But Cora has a mild case, her mother said, and it does not affect her in school or playing with friends.
"She's independent, strong-willed. Just a firecracker of a little girl."