Berger spends summer abroad

Alexis Berger displays some of the memorabilia from her summer trip to Europe.

Thompson Middle School eighth-grader Alexis Berger is a world-class traveler.

In June and July, she went to England, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland as a participant in the People to People Student Ambassador Program.

This program was started in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower to be a goodwill international program. Since then, Sister Cities and Project Hope have formed from the original program.

Alexis was originally nominated by her fourth-grade teacher but her parents thought she was definitely too young to participate. Each year the family was sent information about the upcoming summer trip.

In the early summer of 2009, the Bergers attended an informational meeting at Samford University. There was a lot of paperwork to fill out, extensive interviews to be chosen for the program and then six monthly meetings to attend. Each candidate raises his or her own money. Alexis had a wreath project and also had several corporate sponsors.

Alexis’ favorite part of her journey was her home stay — three days and two nights in Germany. She and her “family” hit it off despite the language barrier. Luckily, the 15-year-old “sister” spoke good English. Her least favorite part of her trip was tearing a ligament in her ankle when she tripped coming down stairs on the second day of her trip.

When I asked Alexis to tell me one thing that stood out in each country she was quick to respond, “It didn’t rain in England, riding that elevator in the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France was thrilling, the waffles and the chocolates in Belgium were unbelievably delicious, seeing the video and tight spaces where Anne Frank spent so much time felt sacred and was definitely the highlight in The Netherlands. As mentioned above my ‘family visit’ in Germany with people I’ll never forget was super special. We ended the trip with white-water rafting and hiked in the Alps of Switzerland.”

The Alabama delegation of 23 students combined with 15 students from Pennsylvania.

“The yanks were saying y’all by the time the trip was over,” quipped Alexis. “It was a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime chance and I’m so fortunate to have been a part of this unique experience.”

Berger was born in Florida but moved with her parents to the Alabaster area as a second grader when her dad transferred here as a Publix manager. She is an only child, plays soccer, basketball and is the first girls’ golf team member in Thompson Middle School history.

Math and history are her favorite subjects. In the future Berger sees the University of Florida as her college choice — she hopes to attend on a Gator scholarship. Now she only needs to decide between modeling, interior design or golf as a career.

Community columnist Sandra Thames can be reached by e–mail at bobthames1942@yahoo.com.