Summer vacation for Chico elementary schoolers was barely two hours old last Thursday afternoon, but 12-year-old Coltan Denney was already hard at work on his summer job, mowing lawns.
The fifth-grader seeks to raise $3,000 this grass-growing season to make possible his goal of a July 4, 2012, trip to Washington, D.C. as part of the People to People World Leadership Forum.
“Growing up with my grandparents, I’ve always learned if you want something really, really bad, you’ll earn it,” Denney said.
“I know some people that just ask for something, and they get it. That’s not for me. I earn it. I’ve worked hard to get where I am.”
Denney’s grandparents, Leonard and Angela Denney, care for Coltan on their farm. His mother, Maria Hoket, lives nearby.
“He’s been helping his grandpa and grandma for years,” Angela Denney said, “but this is for him. We’ve got until next May to get the money together, but mowing season only lasts until November.”
Angela Denney is assisting Coltan with his yardwork, driving him and the family lawn tractor to jobs. Besides manning a weed-whacker, she keeps a keen eye on quality control.
Coltan Denney repays his grandmother for gas, she said.
Coltan charges a minimum of $50 per lot, an hour of work for he and his grandmother. Call (940) 644-2440 to reach him.
According to its website, The People to People movement dates back half a century to its founding by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Eisenhower believed that direct interaction between ordinary citizens around the world would promote cultural understanding and world peace.
People to People Ambassador programs are available on seven continents.
The World Leadership Forum is for students in grades five through eight. They can further their understanding of American history while exploring Washington, D.C., with sidetrips to Philadelphia’s Freedom Hall and Mount Vernon.
The week-long program includes influential guest speakers such as journalist Cokie Roberts, author of “Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation.” Throughout the week, Denney will be working with other student leaders from around the globe on service projects and other problem-solving challenges.
“He was nominated by his class teacher,” Angela Denney said. “Because the child (or his family) has to pay his own way, it’s been four years since Chico had a kid go.
“Who knows? A small little program like this could be the one touch a kid needs to continue with his schooling. It’s an experience they’ll remember for their whole life.”
Apparently, Coltan has already had one big change in his school habits.
“I used to make real bad grades,” he said, “But I’ve pulled myself up, shaken off and now I’m on the A/B honor roll. I never give up on something.”
Celebrating the Fourth of July in our nation’s capital is Denney’s goal now.
“Being able to go all the way to Washington, D.C., and see all the monuments and stuff, like wow, that’ll be a really good memory,” he said.