By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY June 13, 2003 Nicole Salerno isnt going to let a little thing like lack of funds keep her from living her dreams.
The St. Peters seventh grader has been working up to her first trip overseas for almost a year now.
And now its going to happen.
Salerno, a Liberty teenager, will be joining a group of American kids heading to Australia for three weeks this summer to represent her country as a People to People ambassador.
Initiated by President Eisenhower, the program gives students from the United States a chance to explore other countries, delve into new cultural experiences and bring back their newfound knowledge to the kids at home.
But all this comes at a hefty cost, and Salerno is doing her darndest to get together the $5,000 needed to send her on her way.
Not wanting to depend on family, shes put up posters, written away for scholarships and sold goodies to raise $2,500.
I didnt want my family to have to do it all, she explained. If I dont raise the rest of the money I need, there is no way I will be able to go on the trip.
Thats just Salernos way. Sitting around watching television gives her a headache, the 13-year-old revealed.
I pretty much like being very active, she said. If Im not active, I really, seriously get sick.
Growing up with alopecia, a condition that causes her to lose all her hair, Salerno said people have assumed automatically that shes a cancer patient.
But her bubbly personality and energy make it obvious that this child isnt sick.
Im just like any other kid, and I like being treated like any other kid, she noted. The fact that I am in many ways different from others is what makes me uniquely me.
So what does she do with other kids? Soccer, softball, gymnastics, shes even taken karate classes.
And that verve for life doesnt stop when she steps off the field. A good student at St. Peters Regional Catholic School, Salerno loves math and studying.
I like studying about other countries, she explained. Its interesting to learn about how different they are from us, but also how much like us they are.
People in Australia, Salerno has heard, arent so into what people think about them.
Salerno is eager to get on the plane and find out if its true.
Already, shes heard they will be staying with a family in the country for a short period to learn about the home and school life, then they will travel across the country, checking out the Great Barrier Reef, snorkeling in the Pacific, hot air ballooning, studying the Aborigines and learning the lingo.
Shes traveled seven times out of the state by plane, including a cross-country jaunt to California, so Salerno isnt afraid of flying. Shes just afraid shell be too excited to contain herself on the long trip.
I really just am looking forward to being in another country, she said. I know Im going to be excited.
Salerno has a number of goals for this trip. Her lifelong dream, she said, is to touch every ocean, and this will allow her the chance to jump into the Pacific.
Ill learn to better myself, she explained. Ill learn about the advantages to changing our culture.
I hope to show another country that we are not all like some people think we are, Salerno wrote in a scholarship essay. I dont want this country to have so many enemies.
I can help people understand that once we get to know each other, we are all the same, no matter what our culture, religion, color everyone wants the same things, love, security, dignity, respect, and, above all, to live in peace.
To help Salerno live out her dreams, checks written out to People to People should be sent to her parents, Nick and Cherie Salerno, at P.O. Box 28, Liberty, NY 12754.