Isaiah Hughes is just 12-years-old. Yet, the Arlington Elementary School sixth grader can carry a conversation about history as if he were living during such iconic times as the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, or the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
“I’ve read a whole lot about the Civil War and history and I really could just picture and imagine how it must have felt to be a part of that,” said Isaiah who recently returned from a trip in which he was selected to participate in the exclusive People to People Student Ambassadorship Program.
Isaiah, the only student from Maryland, and 90 others spent a week visiting various landmarks in Washington, D.C., including the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Gettysburg National Military Park and cruising along the Potomac River.
The group learned about leadership and how some America’s most iconic leaders have handled world events.
Officials say the mission of the program is to bridge cultural and political borders through education and exchange, creating global citizens and making the world a better place for future generations.
The People to People program offers students a unique blend of specialized educational, leadership and cultural exposure through a variety of programs, as well as an itinerary filled with highlights of the hosting community, according to a news release.
Also, during the trip, Isaiah was able to create lifelong memories and form lasting friendships with other students from around the country, Hughes said.
Officials said participants in the program often experience life-changing shifts in their attitudes toward personal responsibility, global leadership and cultural diversity. The participants frequently return home with enhanced leadership skills and self-confidence.
Isaiah’s love of history led to Arlington’s vice president writing a letter of recommendation for him to participate in the trip, Mark Hughes, Isaiah’s father said.
“The experience has helped to further encourage him to pursue his interest in American government and U.S. history,” said Hughes, who noted that he and his wife, Cassandra, spend much time helping their son learn and understand history.
“There’s a lot of history right here in Baltimore and we go out and we make sure we teach Isaiah that every day and he loves it,” Hughes said.
The Hughes’ say the ambassadorship program is a rich experience and they are hopeful that many other students, particularly those in the inner cities, will get involved.
“It’s a great program, with various hands-on activities, relevant speakers, small-group workshops and then they were provided the opportunity to visit all of these historic places and talk about it,” Hughes said. “Anybody can do this, really, it just takes the child and the parents being remotely interested and it’s such a great program that provides tons of benefits.”
Being eligible for the trip also requires a fundraising component, one which the Hughes family was enthused to help Isaiah tackle.
“We had to raise $1,000 and I remember the last night before the deadline to raise the money, we were short like $221 and my dad had a friend who helped us do a fundraiser and we were able to get it,” Isaiah said. “I was so happy. So, excited.”
In total, the family raised about $1,300, providing Isaiah spending money for the excursion. Mark and Cassandra Hughes says while the cost may be a bit steep for some, the program provides a number of ideas about how to easily raise funds and they also offer scholarships and other assistance.
Isaiah says that while he does enjoy sports and other social activities, it was especially gratifying for him to be able to talk history with others who were just as interested in the subject as him.
“I think I want to become a history teacher because there’s so much to learn about our history. There’s the Spanish/American War, the Revolutionary War, the Civil Rights Movement and so much more,” Isaiah said.
For more information about the People to People program, visit: www.peopletopeople.com.