Young Ambassadors

Our young ambassadors blog about their experiences in the US.

Gloria, a Redbridge resident aged 18, and Tosin, a Pembury resident aged 19, are currently in the US along with 7 other young Londoners. They're all volunteers on a trip to help build strong relationships with other youth groups from the US and France (find out more here).

Gloria and Tosin, pictured below, have been blogging about their experiences...


Day 1: travelling out

We all met at the Hugh Cubitt Centre in Islington, brimming with excitement and anticipation for the trip ahead. At Heathrow we donned our Peabody hoodies and bags to help us look the part while away in the States.

Arriving in Boston we felt the effects of the time difference. The jet lag kicked in while we waited in line for the rather intimidating process at border control.

At the airport and raring to go to the US

The group was quick to notice things that are different from London such as the seemingly unpolluted Boston air, and the size of the roads and houses compared with those back home. We checked into our hotel ready for a good night's sleep after a really long day.

Day 2: first day in Boston

We started out our first full day in Boston with a hearty American breakfast; although it was an early start for some!

We made our way to downtown Boston using public transport and went on a sightseeing trip, using the Freedom Trial to guide us through the city. It was enlightening and quite inspiring to learn about the struggle for independence that the locals experienced, and to understand the context of how the city and country was founded.

They did it! Climbing the Memorial Tower

The most memorable moment of the day was climbing the 294 steps up the Memorial Tower (above) to look over the city. Although exhausting, the breath-taking view of Boston was a great reward for the effort it took to reach the top.

On returning to the hotel we unwound with a swim before going out for dinner at the world renowned Italian Express Pizzeria. The American portions are, to say the least, enormous! One pizza slice was twice the size of what we are used to, and we were all a little full after the appetisers.

Day 3: history lessons

Today we met our guide, Bill Power. Bill is a member of the Peabody Historical Society and is a key contact with the local schools and city council. He drove us to the Harvard University campus to visit The Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, one of 22 educational institutions funded by George Peabody in his lifetime. 

We learned about life in America before colonisation and the challenges faced by Native Americans in adapting to a new way of life after the arrival of the British. The main thing we learned from our visit is that making small steps, decisions and choices can create change big enough to impact millions of lives in the future.

Eating out in Harvard

We then had lunch at a Mexican Restaurant called Border Café (above), and quickly realised that we had underestimated the portions yet again! Full to our stomachs, we explored the town of Harvard and shopped for Harvard merchandise and souvenirs - we even found a curious George store!

Shortly after this we arrived at our new hotel in Boston, ready to enjoy our week in this great city.

Day 4: trip to Salem

Bill Power arrived at the hotel to pick us up at 9am and drove us to Salem Town. Some of the group had preconceptions of what the town would be like, and we were keen to find out how much truth there was behind Salem’s reputation as being a town for witches.

Our first stop was the Peabody Essex Museum where Bill kindly arranged for us to have access to a range of interesting exhibitions, including Yin Yu Tang House, a late 18th-century Chinese house from Anhui province that was transported from its original village and re-erected in Salem, Massachusetts.

In the stocks!

We were impressed by how the museum has tried to preserve the history and culture of the house, so that it continues to tell the story of the Yu Tang family ancestors. It is inspiring to see the impact of George Peabody’s charitable efforts in America and how passionate he was about educating future generations.

After eating at a local cafe for lunch and shopping for some Salem trinkets, some of us visited the Salem Witch Museum which showcased the true events of the 1692 Witch Trials and how it affected the families that lived there. There was a performance by actors at the museum that used words from the real life trials in the town.

Day 5: shopping and exploring

Day 5 brought lots of snow, so we had a relaxing day of shopping and exploring Peabody's North Shore Mall. Many of us were surprised at how much cheaper some of the well-known brands were in comparison to London.  We had lunch at the food court, where there was a range of outlets to choose from including Chick Fil-A and Dunkin' Donuts to name a few.

Back at the hotel, we had a meeting to discuss our upcoming presentation at City Hall, and how to answer the questions that the kids at Peabody Memorial School would have for us the next morning. As a Youth Board we really want to get across to the students, how much we would like to work with them and how we can support them to set up their own youth.

Day 6: meeting students (and watching hockey)

We had an early start today at 7.30am, before making our way to Peabody Veterans Memorial School. The school looked very picturesque in the snow and we immediately spotted differences in what you would typically find in a London secondary school. There were lots of national flags hung around the balcony in the school entrance, including Nigeria, which a few of us were surprised to see.

The Memorial School: 'Home of the Tanners'

We were welcomed by Andy, who had previously worked at the school for 25 years as a principal. He introduced us to his former colleagues in the staff room, before they took us on a mini tour.

It became clear that respecting past soldiers and veterans is something the pupils and staff take seriously and are proud to do. Some of the hallways are named after former soldiers, with display cabinets and posters showcasing important events in their lives.

We joined three different classes (below) and met with the students to compare experiences as a student or young person in London vs the USA. We also talked about any challenges they may be facing and whether they felt the need to tackle them.

Ambassador-classMeeting local students

The difference in University fees is huge, with American students paying three times as much as British students each year. We as a Youth Board feel this is too expensive.

The high school's early start and lunch also means that they finish at 2pm, which allowed us time to visit the Peabody Learning Academy, a 'mall school', which follows a non-traditional programme and allows students to learn in an alternative setting using mainly digital platforms. Here our discussions were more intimate and the Youth Board was able to get the agenda and aims of our visit across to the students much quicker.

We found lots of common ground on the issues affecting us as young people, and some of the students were willing to support us in our presentation to the council at City Hall.

That evening we travelled in a never seen before double decker train to Boston, for the Boston Bruins v Hurricanes Ice Hockey game (below)!

The game exceeded our expectations, we enjoyed the energy and passion of the crowd and found ourselves cheering, clapping and dancing as wildly as all the Bruins fans, swept up by the positive and enthusiastic attitude of those who were there.

amb-baseballEnjoying the Boston Bruins v Hurricanes Ice Hockey game

Day 7: libraries, mock trials and home cooking

Today, we were split into two groups as our schedules clashed with two important meetings and visits.

Gloria's group

Our guide Bill Power took my group to Danvers Library and Georgetown Library. Danvers is George Peabody's hometown and is where his mother and sister lived. On the way, we stopped off at the Salem Witch memorial, where Bill told us a bit about the individuals involved and their links to famous stories and films such as the Crucible.

In Danvers library, we were given access to the old archives, including original and valuable documents from the 1600s, and newspaper articles about George Peabody's travels.

Our US ambassadors at the British Consulate

We were invited by the students and teachers at the Peabody Memorial Veterans High School, to attend a mock trial at City Hall. We used this opportunity to explain to the students about the purpose of our trip and our plans for an international youth board, inviting them to come and to our presentation in that same hall the following evening.

Tosin's group

My group went to meet with some executives from the Young People’s Project based in Cambridge Massachusetts. We met at their offices, before grabbing a drink at a local coffee shop.

At the coffee shop, we discussed each of our respective projects. The Young People's Project train young people to become Maths Literacy Workers, so that they can pass on their knowledge to kids from deprived backgrounds that may need some support at school. We told the executives about our Youth Board, and how we want it to help improve the lives of young people in London.

After exchanging contact details we went to downtown Boston to have lunch and then went to meet the others at Bill Power's house. Bill's wife Lucy and his daughter Nicky prepared a wonderful home-cooked meal for the group - which was a breath of fresh air in comparison to the fast-food style American food we had eaten during the week.

Day 8: City Hall meeting

Today was a very important day as we were going to present our Youth Board model to the Peabody City Council and the British Consulate. We were very nervous as this was the main reason for our trip Peabody, and a chance to showcase the work we had done both in America and at home in London.

First up was a visit to the City of Peabody Library, where we were given an informative and inspiring tour about George Peabody’s passion for education and youth.

We then travelled down to Cambridge Massachusetts to meet with the British Consulate. We talked about their role in the city of Boston, and how important their work is to maintaining and developing the relationship between Britain and United States. We delivered our presentation to them, which was very well received, and gave us confidence leading up to the City Hall meeting that evening.

Finally, the time came for the City Hall meeting, where we had dinner and talked with the Councillors and young people who were keen to get a local youth board established in the city.

Two of our ambassadors making the presentation at City Hall

We then presented Mayor Ted Bettencourt with gifts and a letter from Peabody CEO Steve Howlett. After this, we presented our story of forming the Youth Board, the benefits we as young people experienced through this process, and the positive impact this has had on the wider community. We encouraged the City Council Board to support the formation of a youth board in the city of Peabody.

Overall, we felt that the presentation was a success as the Councillors were very interested in the idea of forming a youth board. They agreed to support setting up a Youth Board in the city, and the young people who were there showed they were really keen to be a part of it. We felt that our objective of promoting a youth voice in the community, and connecting the City Council with local young people was achieved. With our support, we hope this will progress further in the coming months.

To top off our really successful evening, we were delighted to see that we made the front page of the Salem News!

Day 9: remembering George Peabody

It is officially our last day in Boston, and so we thought it fitting to visit The George Peabody House, as well as the man himself at his burial site. Bill Power talked us through George's life and the stories behind the artefacts displayed. It was nice to learn that third graders (8-9 year olds) are often invited to see the house and learn about George Peabody's life and are encouraged to think about what they would invest in if they possessed the wealth that he did.

George Peabody's tomb

Bill then drove us to the burial site (above). He had helped to renovate around 6 years ago with a generous donation from Peabody CEO Stephen Howlett, as it wasn't very well looked after. The group laid flowers on George's grave and there was a moment of appreciation and reflection on our last day. We reflected on the reasons for our trip, and expressed gratitude for the opportunities that we were all blessed with, and the great people we had met during our visit. 

A few of the students from the Peabody Memorial Veterans High School who came to support the group during the presentation at City Hall, joined us for bowling and took us to lunch at their favourite pizzeria – The Space Raider! Both groups got more acquainted, and we talked about their  commitment to organising and setting up a Youth Board that would include the towns that surrounded Peabody, including Salem. The conversation was another reminder of how successful our trip has been and a motivator for our future work as Peabody housing representatives in London.

The young ambassadors enjoy a meal out

And finally, our last stop before heading back for the airport, was the group's long awaited trip to Walmart. We made sure to take advantage of the low prices and value for money sweets which we hoped would be appreciated by our friends and family back home.

Back in London, the Youth board is confident that the trip was a success, that we made our aims and ambitions clear to both the City Council and the students we met, and that these were met with enthusiasm and support.

The group also thanks Peabody housing association; Lajaune Lincoln, Felicity Hunt, Christina Hicks and Brendan Lambert for giving us this opportunity, and trusting us as Young Leaders and Ambassadors to take this international step forward in enhancing the lives and experiences of young people in London, the United States and beyond.

About the Young Ambassadors

In partnership with the US Embassy in London, the British Embassy in Paris, the British Cabinet Office and the Pears Foundation, we're helping to support young people and develop Youth Boards which will:

  • Discuss and offer solutions to society and community issues
  • Help them understand the principle of democracy, helping them understand how to shape and influence local and political environments
  • Allow them to communicate and develop international projects with other youth forums within the UK and abroad.

Get involved

We'll be looking for new representatives later in the year, so keep an eye out for news here and on Facebook and Twitter, where we'll also be posting news and photos from our Young Ambassadors' US trip.