With Memorial Day here and school being out, it's the unofficial start of summer. Students may stay in the area and work summer jobs or go elsewhere for the break. One Rapid City student is using her summer to give back and explore new countries.
Monica Ruiz is a busy girl. She just finished up a demanding Junior year a Central High School, while juggling softball. Now she is getting ready to go on a trip that will be an educational and cultural experience.
"It seemed very cool to take a trip to Greece, Sicily, and Italy. And I've never been out of the country so I wanted to take the trip," said Monica Ruiz.
The program is called People to People and it was founded by Dwight D. Eisenhower about fifty years ago.
Students travel to other countries and get involved in the community while there.
"We will be staying with a home family and that's the part I'm most excited about. We will be learning about the historical sites and getting to do a few community service projects," said Monica Ruiz.
There are several People to People programs across the country. However, the students have to be nominated and go through an interview process.
"And she was chosen as one of the forty students to travel," said Amanda Ruiz, Monica's mother.
In order to go on the trip, students have to raise about $7,000, which can be challenging at times.
"I just admire my daughter. I've learned a lot about who she is and her strength, just because she never looked at that part of it. It was just her excitement level that carried her through," said Amanda Ruiz.
Monica's teachers say she is caring and personable. They also say this will be a great experience for her.
"Oh, I think it's very important. It will be very good for her and she'll be a very good ambassador for South Dakota," said Ralph Knickrehm, a teacher at Central High School.
It's been a long process from the selection to fundraising, but Monica is ready.
"I'm pretty excited," Monica Ruiz said.
Monica will leave for her trip on June 26. She still has $700 to raise. If you are interested in donating, you can go to the People to People payment website. Then for the last name enter Ruiz and for the account number enter 0010166663.