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Art Student Austin Risner Garrett

Austin Travels with Delegates of People to People Ambassador Program

            Some students have all the good fortune. Austin Risner Garrett appears to be one of those. At 15 years old, as a Sophomore at Triton High School, Austin has already been to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, Vatican City, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, France, and Canada. Now he’s getting the chance to do it all over again—well, not all of it, but at least a few of these countries, e.g., Switzerland, Austria, and France.

How did he get to travel so extensively before? That was courtesy of the U.S. military where his father, Paul Garrett, worked with and retired from the military, in particular, the Airborne. His mother Mia Garrett now works for the military base at Fort Bragg. They have lived in Nebraska, Angier, and now live in Dunn.

How did Austin win the honor of representing Harnett County in this program? Austin is one of those students who is all-round, smart at everything. However, he was pre-selected and nominated anonymously by a teacher, along with four other nominees from other areas.

He then received a flyer in the mail that encouraged him to register to attend a seminar on eligibility. Austin went to the seminar and chose the delegation he wanted to attend with from North Carolina. Austin knows of one other delegation from Charlotte. Adults pick the students they believe qualified to go on. Austin, along with four other students from other areas, was then interviewed. That very night he found out that he and the other four were accepted to participate in the program. Austin is the only one picked from the Harnett area.

Austin leaves in June, flying from Chicago to Rome and Florence in Italy, after which he will spend several days in Switzerland and France, as well. The delegation will lodge in hotel rooms except for the three days he will spend with a host family in Austria.

Not that it was all that easy. To accomplish the goal of the opportunity offered him, he applied for and won a scholarship, Austin had to write and submit a 2000-word essay. He did that and won a $500 People to People Ambassador Program Scholarship. He won an additional $1000 scholarship from the Ambassador Program by competing in trivia answering on Twitter.

He is now selling to help his family by earning spending money.

Austin is now working on finishing a full-sheet watercolor collage of five different famous buildings in various countries with the Ambassador’s emblem in the middle. His watercolor work is excellent. “Austin is a natural at watercolor painting,” Joanna McKethan, his teacher who owns in Dunn, says. He takes to it “like a duck to water. Having said that, I’ve taught him a lot as well—how to make quality strokes, how to make thin lines, how to mix colors, and move seamlessly from one color to another, to name a few skills.”

This large painting will be only Austin’s third watercolor ever completed. After it is matted and framed, it will be approximately 29” x 36”. Austin chose to do the painting for a project fair for which each delegate presents his own display of culture from other countries.  He believes his will be the only original art work there. Some have Austrian dishes, a tri-fold of information, a power point presentation., but, says Austin, “I’m entering a painting.”

The painting has vivid colors and loose washes and includes the Eiffel Tower in France, gondolas and the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy, and the Alps in Switzerland. His painting has taken three months to complete and is just one more example of his excellence. Austin is a frequent actor in plays put on by Harnett Regional Theater, as well.

What is the People to People Ambassador Program? The People to People Movement was launched in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower who firmly believed that peaceful relations between nations require mutual respect between individuals within the different countries. The People to People Ambassador Programs has served for 50 years as the “international global educational travel provider, organizing and promoting opportunities for bridging cultural and political borders through direct interaction, unparalleled access, and unique experiences.”

Today it travels to every continent on the globe and offers programs for students, educators, and professionals and boasts a legacy of White House support which includes the Bushes, Johnson, Kennedy, and Ford, and is as varied in its outreach as the individuals who offer their unique gifts.

Austin Garrett will decidedly make his own mark, and a large community that includes his parents, his school, teachers, and definitely his after school hour art teacher, Joanna McKethan, support his trip and believe he will make an excellent ambassador of peace.

Bon voyage, Austin!

Austin has returned from his trip and is finishing school at Triton in Dunn, NC.



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