May 8, 2009
Simpson motivated for Australia trip
Hot dog sale, basketball raffle planned Saturday at Valu-Home
Matthew Simpson knows an opportunity when he sees it.
When the 15-year-old Cortland High student found out he had a chance to travel to Australia — he jumped on it.
The tenth grader will go to the bottom of the world with the People to People Student Ambassador program July 6 to 25, visiting Cairns, Townsville, Sidney and Queensland with a group of 40 kids and four chaperones from the Southern Tier area.
“They are going down the entire East Coast of the country,” said his mom, Jan Simpson, the manager of the Respiratory Care Department at Cortland Regional Medical Center.
Based in Spokane Washington, the People to People Ambassador Program was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. It was his belief that direct interaction between ordinary citizens from two different cultures could promote understanding and peace.
“On all our programs, we encourage students to step outside of their comfort zones to facilitate personal and academic growth,” said Adrien Fox, executive assistant of marketing at People to People Ambassador Program.
“We get to meet with the government and I get to stay with a family, individually, for a couple of nights, either a farm stay or a home stay,” said Matthew. “We actually get to go snorkeling and do a lot of sightseeing.”
The group will visit a wildlife sanctuary, hike and go sandsurfing. “They have these little pieces of aluminum that are really flexible. You sit on them and pull up and slide down like a sled,” he said.
“I do a lot of hiking and kayaking. I do a lot with my dad,” Matthew said of Andy Simpson of Cortland, a beverage salesman and outdoor enthusiast. “It’s something different. I can compare it to something in Cortland,” he said.
Matthew, who is a frequent camper in the Adirondacks, has traveled as far as Niagara Falls, Canada. But he’d like to “get a better understanding of more places than here.”
He has passed muster during an interview process and is meeting every month with Ambassador officials and his travel mates, learning about Australian culture.
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity. We are so excited for him,” said Jan Simpson. “Anyone that we have talked to that has had an experience like this, or knows someone, it changes them forever. It’s a lot of money. It’s a lot of hard work. But we don’t want to miss this chance for Matthew.”
Matthew and his family have been working methodically toward raising the $7,000 fee for the trip. They have $3,400 raised so far, from previous fundraisers and Matthew’s landscaping business in the neighborhood.
They are planning a special fundraiser Saturday at Valu-Home Center on Groton Avenue, Cortland. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Matthew and his family will be selling hot dogs, soda and baked goods as well as raffle chances to win a basketball hoop donated by Price Chopper. People will be able to pay for two shots that will get them a raffle to win the hoop, as well.
The Simpsons also have a Collection Bin outside their 11 Broadway home for can and bottle returns. People are welcome to drop off returnables at any time, or call Jan Simpson for pickup at 607-745-0104.
On June 6, the Simpsons will also have a bake sale set up at the East End Community Center Arts and Crafts Extravaganza.
Simpson said he got an email from People to People program, asking if he’d participate.
“Someone, possibly a teacher, nominated him from the community, (based on) his community service,” said Jan Simpson.
Matthew worked at Craig’s Lawnmower Repair for almost three years, doing lawnmower tune ups. He became adept at running the skid-steer equipment.
“My next door neighbor, Andrea Rankin, got me involved in Habitat for Humanity. I did three to four projects for them,” he said of his volunteer work.
He’s been raising money by word of mouth, doing tune-ups of lawnmowers through the high school, his mother said. He also takes care of about five lawns in the neighborhood. He and his mother are always selling a scooter or lawn equipment in front of their home. Right now, there’s a scooter available that Matthew is selling for a woman his mother works with at the hospital, and he’ll get a small commission for it, Jan Simpson said.
Matthew is confident, he’ll be able to raise the funds needed. “Oh yeah, I’m going to make tuition. If not, I will have to get my extra mowers out front for sale,” he said.
“Whatever we have to sell to get you there, right buddy?” his mom said.
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