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Local teens plan for trip abroad with People to People Program

Local teens plan for trip abroad with People to People Program

Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 6:00 pm

The Messenger 02.22.12

Special to The Messenger
Imagine traveling the world at an age when everything is new and exciting. This summer, KaLeighn White and I will have the opportunity to do exactly that.
We will embark on a 20-day trip to Austria, Switzerland, France and Italy June 7 with the People to People Program.
This program was created by President Eisenhower in 1956 in order to promote peace between nations. Today, it carries on this tradition by sending student ambassadors to various countries and thereby allowing them to experience the different cultures around the world firsthand. I speak for both KaLeighn and myself when I say this will be the trip of a lifetime.
Since we will be learning about the cultures of many other countries when we travel this summer, KaLeighn and I decided it would be best to learn a thing or two about our own culture first; more specifically, our local government. We scheduled an appointment with Union City’s mayor, Terry Hailey, and asked him a few general questions. When asked what a typical day consists of, he told us he works at a radio station, where he is president, on Mondays through Saturdays. He also teaches speech and communications at UT Martin on Thursday nights and plays the organ at First United Methodist Church on Sunday mornings. City council meetings are every other Tuesday night and, of course, there are a few additional appointments he has to make as mayor.
Hailey has been working at this radio station since he was 18 and he has been the mayor of Union City since 1988. Elections for the mayor are held every two years. They begin with a petition signed by 25 citizens of Union City in August, to allow a person to be in the running, and they end with the votes of the people in November. Hailey has served 12 consecutive terms as mayor and six terms as one of the seven members of the city council. This discrepancy exists because city council elections are held every four years rather than every two.
We also asked him if he enjoys his job as mayor. He answered with a confident, “Sure, it has its privileges.” A few privileges he named are his ability to meet lots of folks, to know certain city details before others found out and, most importantly, to make the best decisions for the people. One of the major types of decisions he mentioned taking part in is budgeting decisions. He reviews budgets submitted by places such as the police department, fire station, turf management, etc., and either approves them or makes the changes he and the other city council members deem necessary.
In addition to gathering information concerning Hailey’s position as mayor, KaLeighn and I wanted to know if he had an opinion of the People to People Program. When he told us that he honestly didn’t know too much about it, KaLeighn gave him a brief background of the program’s origins and purpose. When she mentioned the fact that we are going to meet people from all over the world, Hailey was reminded of a few of his foreign students at UT Martin.
He told us UT Martin has quite a few students from other nations. In fact, he remembers one year when his oldest son was the only American on UTM’s tennis team. Another story he shared was about a day in class when he was talking about how large Atlanta is with its one million occupants. He remembers one of his students then speaking up and saying he was from Seoul, North Korea, with 27 million people. He did not consider Atlanta to be sizable at all.
It is amazing how much the perspectives of people vary from nation to nation. This summer, KaLeighn and I will be able to uncover many more of these differences while having the time of our lives.
Still, when all is said and done, there’s no place like home, so I asked Hailey what he values most about Union City. He said, “It’s a small town America that is rather progressive, I believe; however, we still have traditional American values. It’s just rural America and I like that.”
We have begun the necessary fundraising and we will be very grateful for anyone who chooses to support our efforts.
Editor’s note: Chloe Smithson is a student at Union City High School. For more information, call Chloe at 884-2771 or KaLeighn at 592-8311.

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