Thursday, April 21, 2011

Personal connection with our leaders

Did You Know? . . .

  • Each People to People delegation typically has four leaders for a delegation of roughly 40 students.

  • We strive to maintain a national student to leader ratio of 10 to 1.

  • Often that ratio is even lower which allows a very personal and secure level of supervisor of each student.

  • That's a lot of leaders to train! Over 2,400, in fact.

I recently traveled to Boston, Massachusetts where I had the opportunity to speak with over 200 of our teacher leaders during our Spring Leadership Conference. The main topics were

  1. How our leaders can continue to travel students safely.

  2. How our leaders and students can leverage the massive network of support that they have at their disposal from People to People Ambassador Programs.
This was all part of our 6-city conference tour which kicked off last month in Dallas, Texas and concluded on April 8th in lovely Atlanta, Georgia. Each week, a select group of senior leaders from the People to People Ambassador Programs office hit the road. At all six conferences we had members of our admissions, leadership support, safety and health teams in attendance (along with President, Peg Thomas and CEO Jeff Thomas).

The highlight of these conferences is that we have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with over 800 leaders who are scheduled to travel this summer with your children. During each three-day event we review important health and safety travel information with the leaders to ensure we continue to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience for each student. Even more importantly, we have the opportunity to share best practices with each other and to learn from the vast experience these leaders have accumulated over the years of successfully traveling the world.

It goes without question that no one knows your child better than you - a parent or guardian. Likewise, I would argue that no one better understands the needs of a traveling delegation then our leaders, who successfully travel to different parts of the world each year.
  • In both Texas and Boston (two of the conferences I attended), I was slightly surprised when - after I asked who was a new leader traveling with us for the first time - just a few hands rose.

  • I then asked those that have traveled with us for more than 5 years to raise their hands ... and the room was filled as hands shot up in pride.

  • We played this game for a little while longer recognizing the large amount that had traveled for more than 10, then 15, then 20 years.
Ms. Barb Capozzi is one such leader having traveled for 20 years. Barb wears many hats as she also serves as an Area Director for People to People and is the Vice Chair on the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees for People to People International. I asked Barb if she would like to share any feedback from the leaders who attended one of these conferences, and she provided me with quite a few! It occurred to me that these comments are worth sharing here, to give some insight as to why the Spring Leadership Conference is so important to us here at the program office.

Quotes from People to People Teacher Leaders:

"I received some really good ideas and techniques that will be helpful during travel this summer. It is always helpful to hear ideas from other leaders. Also, it was very valuable to have the Health & Safety Team explain what they are doing to assure safety for the delegates and leaders. The information received will be passed along to help reassure the parents that their child is in good hands. I felt the conference was very beneficial." Ruth Irving

"As a delegation leader who has traveled with People to People for 14 years, I have always spoken highly of the program; especially the safety aspects. After attending the conference and hearing from the people that work at the program office, I have a better understanding and can relay the message about the research, time and effort that goes on continually to ensure a safe and quality program." Mary Ann Lauricella

"After working with the People to People organization for ten years I am still amazed at the quality of the programs and the amount of support that is available to make these programs be a success. As I have these opportunities to meet other leaders and hear the wonderful and innovative things they do to make their delegation run more smoothly I am constantly incorporating these best practices and feel that our programs only get better and better." Charlie Herwick

"Having the opportunity to meet and spend time with fellow leaders is always a great experience. I feel inspired when I hear about travel stories and the passion that fellow leaders have for travel and their students. A true inspiration was hearing the alumni student speak about how her People to People experiences have impacted her and their entire family! A great story to share with parents and students." Lora Yanuavich

"The conference gave me a better understanding of how the Health & Safety Department works. Mike's speech was very helpful. I now understand the importance of filing an incident report, contacting the Health & Safety Department when needed, and the importance of the GPS phone in helping to locate the delegation." Twyla Edward

"I am always amazed by the leaders and delegates I am privileged to work with through People to People. It is so motivating to hear the success stories of growth, knowledge, and exchange that have occurred because of these programs. The talent and experience we are surrounded by is priceless. I like that we always put safety first! I like to think of the program as being safe, educational and fun!" Sue Olekoski

"It was great to be able to meet with approximately two hundred delegation leaders who have traveled with students all over the world and sharing their best strategies for keeping students safe while having the time of their lives. It was the greatest education I could have ever asked for. It was like gaining years of experience in one weekend. In addition, I feel I now have an even better working knowledge of the People to People organization and know with confidence exactly who to contact with any issue that may arise." Emily Bayzon

"By meeting together we had the opportunity to share stories, improve programs and share what works and what doesn't to help make ourselves better leaders, People to People a stronger organization, and to ultimately provide improvements to an already stellar program that offers life changing experiences to the students who travel with us. Our leadership development weekend consisted of hundreds of experiences, thousands of miles, countless stories spanning several continents and many hearts, collected in one room with the intention to grow from a weekend spent with like-minded international neighbors. The conference was led by an all-star staff and consisted of delegation leaders from around the US. We were given the opportunity to meet and talk about our experiences and how we could grow as leaders. The weekend also provided the Student Ambassador program an opportunity to learn and continue to excel as the leading and premier educational travel program, not only in America, but in the world. The willingness of the delegation leaders to take the time to meet and grow as leaders was only matched by People to People's openness to our feedback and incredibly quick action to change and improve. This weekend was an invaluable resource to us as leaders and to People to People as an ever changing and progressive organization. I am honored to have the opportunity to share in the history and inspiration of the weekend and hope to participate in further leadership development sessions in the future." Brandon Herwick

At the program office, we place great value on each and every one of these leaders and the vast amount of knowledge they have accumulated over the years. The fact is we just could not deliver the same high quality and unique programs without their dedication, passion and commitment to the overall mission and values of People to People Ambassador Programs. This conference gave us the opportunity to thank them and the intimate venue provided the perfect setting to share stories and learning from each other. It enabled each one of us the ability to pass on to the next generation of leaders who have joined us.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!

Mike Bowers
Senior Director of Health & Safety

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Travel Health Basics: Vitamins & Minerals

While the three main nutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) can be thought of as the stones in the Great Wall of China, vitamins and minerals might be the dirt and rubble that binds the stones and makes the unit work as a whole. Eating foods with a large variety of vitamins and minerals is necessary for peak health and performance while traveling.

Vitamins and minerals play important roles throughout the body and are essential to everyday functioning. Adolescents, in particular, need higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. Iron and calcium are of specific importance for growth, with iron being the most common nutritional deficiency in adolescents in the United States. When combined with the increased needs for travel health, Student Ambassadors need to take extra steps to make sure they are getting the additional nutrients they need.

Student Ambassadors should focus on getting more of the following vitamins & minerals before and during travel:

Many vitamins and minerals are absorbed better when combined with other food sources. For example, the iron from a spinach salad (pictured below) will be more readily absorbed if eaten with bell peppers, due to their high vitamin C content. Also, the absorption of Vitamin D is enhanced when combined with foods high in calcium (such as in milk or yogurt). You can read more about Vitamin D in "D-Lightful News for Travel" - one of my previous blog posts.

[ Photo credit: Lady Lerandia, ]

Some nutrients can inhibit absorption or cause depletion of vitamins and minerals, as well. Of concern to youth in the United States is the balance between phosphorous and calcium. Soda contains high amounts of phosphorous. In an attempt to maintain the balance between phosphorous and calcium in the blood, calcium is pulled out of the bones. Many adolescents are not meeting their calcium needs due to the overconsumption of soda, which often replaces milk and increases phosphorous intake.

This ends our series on ‘Basic Travel Nutrition.’ There are many exciting topics to come and I promise they will be very applicable to your student traveler. Some of these topics include: ‘Food Remedies to Common Travel Ailments’ and ‘How to Experience Culture through Food’…stay tuned!

By April D. Davis, RD, CD, ACSM CES