The People to People program is an international educational travel program for students in grades 5 through college.
President Eisenhower created the program in 1956 by President Eisenhower, hoping it would bring people from other countries together to foster world peace. The Ambassador program is 14 to 23 days long, and features uniactivities to building independence and maturity in youth, offers new cultural moments to increase global awareness and helps build a love for international travel and foreign cultures.
Russell, a sophomore at Salem High School, has always been a leader and says, "I am most comfortable when I am in the classroom learning and challenging myself."
Russell is not only a scholar with a 4.0 grade point average, but also manages to participate in numerous extracurricular and church activities, while holding down a job as a cashier.
Her accomplishments in two years of high school include, being an All American Scholar, captain of the Salem Junior High Quiz Bowl team, an award winning member of the Salem Band, won the 2007 Special Judges Award at the Arkansas Miss Pre-Teen pageant, and several art medals at the Fulton County Fair.
Russell is also in FBLA, Christian Club and is a Greyhound Senior High baseball team's statkeeper and manager.
Russell was the youngest person chosen to "job shadow" at White River Medical Center, where she worked a 12 hour shift getting a taste of her eventual career in nusing.
Due to her academic achievements, Russell will be able to graduate one year early, at age 16, with nearly nine hours of college credit under her belt. He European trip is planned this summer, before her final year of high school.
After graduation, Russell plans to attend a four-year college to get her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, and enter the nursing field to work for two years.
She then hopes to attend graduate school to earn her masters degree as a certified registered nurse anesthetist, and with the goal of working for a children's hospital, such as Arkansas Children's Hospital or St. Judes Children's Research Hospital.
While Russell has set high and, so far, has accomplished them, she has developed good one on one-interaction and leadership skills required to excel in the workplace. Russell began working at a young age and, according to one of her co-workers, Amy Charbauski, customers love her, as Russell works as a cashier at the Downhome Country Kitchen in Hardy.
"She is the sweetest little girl in the world. It is not often we put our trust in a 15 year old ,with all of our stuff at the counter. She is very trustworthy and can comunicate with our customers very well. She is very hard working. If I call her to come in, she always comes." Charbauski said.
Family is a central force in Russell's life. When asked who had the most influence on her life, she said, "My Mawmaw Jackie Russell. She taught me how to be kind, true to yourself and family values. Even though doing what is right might not seem right or be what I want to do, it will be what is right in the end."
Russell also relayed her most treasured childhood memories. " Barbecues at my mawmaw and papa Russell's when, after dinner, my grandpa Crow and Jerry would play music with TD Sublett and Floyd Rikard." A love of music was instilled in Russell at an early age and, besides being in the highest seat in her band, she also enjoys singing at Crossroads Baptist Church, where she and her family attend.
Along with her wide assortment of activities, Russell also loves to cook, hunt, fish, read, swim, play golf, tennis and compete in pageants. She can shoot a buck one day and be decked out in her paegant attire the next.
Russell would love to race a stock car someday, but her dad, Shane Russell did not seem to be as keen on the idea of his daughter getting behind the wheel of a race car.
Russell said she feels one of the biggest challenges facing today's teens is finding positive encouraging role models."With the break down in society and family values, it is hard to find someone that will lead you in the right direction and teach you dignity and self respect along with traditional morals and values, such as putting others before yourself," Russell said
Russell's parents Shane and Alanna who are very proud of their daughter's many achievments, have decided to make Mashaia learn the value of money by raising the funds needed for her trip to Europe by herself.
Like everything Russell does in her life, she went at the project full steam and, raised about $400 at her first fundraising bake sale. That is a step toward what she needed for travel expenses but, since the total cost is $3,700, Russell has a long way to go to become a European Ambassador.
Russell will continue with fundraisers and seeking community support for her European trip.
Russells favorite quote goes a long way. Simply stated she said, "Work for a cause, not applause, live to express, not impress and don't strive to make your presence noticed, just to make your absence felt."
Members of the community that would like to support Russell on her once in a lifetime chance to study in Europe may donate at Down Home county Kitchen in Hardy or support any of her upcoming fundraisers.