Walter Payton College Prep High School Junior Pateese Terry knew she could never afford the European student excursions advertised by an educational travel company, People to People Ambassador Programs. The $7,000 trips were out of her price range, but she kept returning to the company’s website just to dream. She has visited Tijuana, Mexico and the Bahamas in the past, but this was a bigger dream. On a lark, she entered a scholarship contest for one student from each of 50 states to win a free 20-day all-expenses-paid travel scholarship.

“When they called me and told me I won, I was shocked,” she said. “I had even forgotten that I’d entered.”

Terry will visit Greece, Italy and France this June. She was one of 60,000 hopefuls chosen by state via a random drawing.

“I’m taking French in school and I love Italian food,” she said. “My grandma is so excited. She wants me to take lots of pictures.” She will also blog during her journey.

Terry, who splits her time between Austin and Forest Park, is president of the Payton Feminist Club, plays outfields on the school softball team, “dabbles” in the Queer-Straight Alliance and is a member of the school’s African American Club, she says. She wants to study psychology in college and become a school counselor.

Guidance Counselor Cassandra Stiff, one of Terry’s role models, describes her as a hard worker who should enjoy meeting new people on the trip.

“She seems to get along with everyone of different cultures and socioeconomic groups,” Stiff said. “This trip will be life-changing for sure.”

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...