Natchez teen soaks up European experience

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 5, 2010

NATCHEZ — With the start of school, students will be swapping stories about how they spent their summer, but Jasmine Winding might just be able to trump them all.

Rather than talking about long summer afternoons spent at home, Winding, 13, will tell her fellow students of the time she spent eating Belgian chocolate — in Belgium.

Winding took a 14-day tour of Europe — starting in England and then traveling to continental Europe — as a participant in the People to People Ambassador’s program. She was selected by her teachers based on her academic scores and good behavior.

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“People to People was started by (President) Dwight Eisenhower,” Winding said. “His purpose was for kids to travel to other parts of the world, meet other kids and promote world peace.”

And that’s exactly what the group did, she said.

“We met new people and we talked to those people, we experienced their lives, we went around and they told us what their regular, day-to-day schedule is like at school, at work and home,” Winding said.

The program also took the students on lots of tours, including into the English Parliament.

“We talked to some of the political people in Parliament, (one of them) was telling us about the different rules over there, how much different it is from the U.S., and how alike it is,” she said.

In continental Europe, the tour hit cities in Belgium, the Netherlands and France, among other places.

“The Eiffel tower was my favorite part of the trip because when I was little I told myself I always wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower but it would never happen, and it was a blessing seeing it at night shining with all the lights,” Winding said. “It was so beautiful.”

Winding was the only person from Mississippi on the trip, but her grandmother Hattie Harris said the family wasn’t worried about her.

“I thought about it when she was selected, and I said, ‘The Lord is everywhere, he is right here and he will be with her over there,’” Harris said. “The Lord gave her the opportunity to go, so we pushed her and sent her off.”

And Winding said she was glad she got to go.

“I would encourage everyone who gets that chance to go to take it because it was a once in a lifetime experience,” she said.

Winding is starting the eighth grade at Robert Lewis Middle School. She is the daughter of Debra Smith.