By Michelle Pelletier Marshall
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Seventeen-year-old Devon Shuman, a senior at Triton Regional High School, has seen more parts of the world than many do in their entire lifetime. And it’s all because of his determination to make it happen through the organization People to People International.
Shuman has been involved in the organization for more yhan five years, and has traveled to Japan, Ecuador, South Africa, and Peru, his most recent trip this summer.
“It has been the most amazing experience to visit all these places,” Shuman said. “Being part of People to People is one of the best things I have ever done.”
People to People International is a non-profit organization that was established in 1956 to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities. To travel as a student ambassador with the group, one has to be recommended by a teacher or someone already in the program. For Shuman, his recommendation came from his sister, who was already involved in the program. Shuman then progressed through the application and interview processes before he was accepted. The trips usually cost between $6,000 to $7,000 and participants are responsible for the entire amount.
For Shuman, his job as a Daily News carrier in his Newburyport neighborhood, which he has held for almost four years, has helped earn money for the trips, as have some unique fundraisers he’s done with his sister. (His parents also provided half of the cost for each trip.)
The most memorable fundraiser, as Shuman tells it, was the one where he and his sister placed pink flamingos on neighbors’ lawns and would remove them for $10 each, or place them on someone else’s lawn for $15. “It didn’t really earn us too much money, but it sure was a lot of fun, and my neighbors were great to participate,” Shuman said.
Student ambassadors generally spend two weeks on their trips, visiting far-away countries and living with and among the indigenous people of the land they visit, learning how they live and helping along the way in any way they can. In Peru, where Shuman went in July with 17 other kids from throughout the United States, he traveled to Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Cuyuni and Maras, doing service work along the way.
His favorite part of the trip was the group’s visit to the Huila Huila School where they helped sand and repaint buildings, and spent time with the local children. “This was just a great opportunity,” Shuman said. “When I go to these less fortunate areas, I see that they don’t have a lot, yet they don’t need or want for much. This makes me realize that we have more than need, and gives you a greater appreciation for everything we do have.”
During his Peru trip, Shuman also hiked three days in the Andes Mountains, tenting on the mountain at night and enjoying seeing the native llamas and alpacas during the day, all the while adjusting to the high altitude – 14,700 feet at its highest point.
Citing great memories from all his adventurous travels, Shuman said that his trip to Ecuador was his favorite, because he went with his sister and it included scuba diving off the Galapagos Islands. “The love of travel grows with every trip you take,” he said, noting that even though participation in People to People ends when high school ends, he plans to make travel a constant in his life.
“It’s really an amazing experience,” said Shuman of his involvement with the program. “I recommend it to anyone.”
Shuman, who lives in Newburyport but attends Triton through school choice, is not quite sure where he’ll head to college after graduating in May, but he’s thinking he’ll go into teaching, very likely starting with being a leader with People to People International.