January may be a bit early to think of summer vacation, but Wickliffe Elementary School fifth-grader Nicholas Mullins can barely wait until July, when he will have a bird's eye view from the top of the London Eye -- one of the world's tallest Ferris wheels, at 443 feet.
Nicholas, 11, was accepted into the People to People Student Ambassador program for the United Kingdom tour, set for 21 days in July.
"I really want to see the London Eye and a castle they will take us through," he said. "I think the trip will be a fun way to learn about different cultures."
Mullins plays the violin in the orchestra at Wickliffe and is a member of student council and choir.
His mother, Angele, said her son will visit modern and ancient sites in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
"The program helps to teach kids about history and culture, and above all, respect toward different cultures and civilizations," she said.
Mrs. Mullins said the People to People program was created by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, "with the idea that long-lasting peace on earth is only possible if people know that other people are just like us."
She said the trip also includes community service hours.
"There will be some community-based service, to teach the kids compassion and help them learn that at the end, we all deal with hardship the same way," she said.
Students are chosen based on recommendations from teachers and an application process that includes an interview and written essay, similar to a college application, Mrs. Mullins said.
Acceptance into the program comes with a hefty tuition price, though: $7,000 per student.
"It is a lot of money, but Nicholas told me he would work on raising the money," Mrs. Mullins said. "They have scholarships you can apply for, which we did, and we also held a bake sale during the holidays."
The family has raised $1,500 so far. Local businesses or community groups or individuals interested in helping with the fundraising effort should email Mrs. Mullins at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 614-805-9662.
The cost of the trip was not the only consideration.
"My son has traveled before, but never without me," she said.
She said going to parent meetings and getting to know more about the program alleviated a lot of her anxiety over sending Nicholas on the trip.
"I think he is ready for this kind of challenge," she said. "I think knowing he could go on this trip has instilled in him a lot of self-confidence. If he comes back even more outgoing, then that is good."
According to the itinerary of a similar trip, the student ambassadors will visit the Tower of London, cruise the River Thames, visit a medieval castle and watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. They also will visit castles, museums and other historical sites.
More about the People to People program is available online at peopletopeople.com.