Student embarks on world travel as Claremont ambassador

This summer, Chaparral sixth-grader Faith Nishimura is putting her social studies homework and geography lessons into real-world application.

The straight-A student prepares to travel across the globe this month to represent her Claremont elementary school through the People to People Student Ambassadors program, a competitive educational travel course designed to provide students with global awareness.

Faith will trade Claremont for Cambridge and County Cork as she goes solo to the United Kingdom and Ireland for a 3-week program abroad.

Becoming a student ambassador is an accomplishment in and of itself—only a select amount of students are invited to participate in the program each year. Three letters of recommendation and an interview are part of that selection process. Faith was nominated for the distinction by Anne Dierken, one of the fifth grade teachers at Chaparral who has been a leader with the ambassador program for the last 4 years.

It takes a certain drive and tenacity to embark on the ambassador journey and travel alone at such a young age, Ms. Dierken recognized. Beyond the travel, students must complete 2 online courses and several orientations following their excursion. While the program can be grueling for some, Ms. Dierken felt it posed an exciting new opportunity for Faith.

“Faith was one of the few I thought had that drive,” Ms. Dierken said. “Some kids are interested at first, but it takes a lot of hard work to stay in the program.”

Faith’s teacher, Kimberly Walters, can attest to her student’s hard working spirit.

“Faith is an extra-hard worker, always giving 110 percent,” Ms. Walters shared. “You couldn’t ask for a better student. She is always prepared and has a positive attitude.”

With the help of Ms. Walters, Faith has spent a section of the past school year familiarizing herself with global geography and maps of the world, including the places she will visit. She has also taken the time to study world cultures. She looks forward to learning more firsthand.

“I can’t wait to share my culture with other people and learn about their cultures as well,” Faith said.

Putting her classwork into action is only part of the excitement surrounding her impending trip overseas. Traveling to Ireland and England is a dream-come-true for the avid reader—she gets giddy at the mere thought of traveling along the same routes as many of her favorite writers, Shakespeare included. Shakespeare’s home is among the top of her list of must-visit destinations. Perhaps she’ll draw some inspiration.

“I love writing and improving my writing,” she shared.

While excited about the trip itself, Faith admits her nerves start flaring any time she has to climb aboard a plane, let alone the 12-hour flight she will be taking by herself. However, she has a game plan.

“I’m trying to stay calm and do other things,” she said. Her plan includes adding to her book knowledge with some of the classics, including Harper Lee’s iconic To Kill A Mockingbird. She will also throw in some math practice with her algebra book in tow.

It’s an equally thrilling and nerve-wracking venture for the Nishimura family. Faith’s mother, Freya Nishimura is not only preparing to send her daughter off to the UK, she is also saying goodbye to her older son, Brent, who is traveling to Australia, also with the ambassadorship program.

“I’m proud and broke,” Ms. Nishimura joked.

Despite the expense, Ms. Nishimura has taken the opportunity to impart another valuable lesson to her children before they travel cross-country. Faith and her brother have been tasked with earning their way overseas by fundraising to help pay for their $7000 trips. Over the last 6 months, they have been hard at work helping to run yard sales and selling Valentine’s and Mother’s Day cards and other items. Faith took it upon herself, with the advice of her teacher Kimberly Walters, to also reach out to the Claremont Police Officers’ Association, which donates a certain percentage of club money to worthy causes in the community.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Detective Rick Varney said of Faith’s trip, and the association’s decision to donate $300 to her ambassadorship fund.  

Ms. Nishimura is pleased to give her children the opportunity to see the world, while representing the family and her Chaparral community. She says her daughter’s drive and spirit, inspired by her older brothers, is something to be reckoned with.

“Faith has no fear,” her mother said. “She is something else.”

—Beth Hartnett


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