Jeff Finn wants to show off America to the people of Australia and New Zealand this summer, but he's got to raise the money to get there.
The 12-year-old Gambrills boy was chosen last month as a representative for the People to People Student Ambassador Program, a foreign exchange that gives students an opportunity to represent their nation in other countries and live overseas for three weeks.
He began a letter-writing campaign to businesses and local civic organizations about two weeks ago to help raise the $4,800 needed to get him to the other side of the world. He's gotten few responses.
Now, he's running out of time.
"People say they're going to put up money, but they don't say how much," said Jeff, a seventh-grader at Old Mill Middle School South, who has asked church members and his parents' friends for cash.
Students accepted into the Student Ambassador Program have been referred by teachers or students who have participated in it. The students are invited to a meeting to learn about the program, asked to fill out applications, provide letters of recommendation and complete questionnaires before being interviewed by local representatives.
Jeff began the application process in the fall, but didn't find out until Jan. 7 that he was accepted into the program.
His family has pulled together about $2,000 for the trip. But he needs to know that he can raise most of the remaining money by March 1 or else forfeit his $300 deposit.
Jeff has written to the Elks Club, the American Legion, the Glen Burnie Moose Lodge, a local McDonald's restaurant and even some oil companies for assistance.
His grandmother made Valentine's Day crafts and is planning to raffle them off where she works in hopes of raising more money.
McDonald's has pledged $300, and a civic organization has promised to review the request. But no one else has come forward.
If Jeff is able to raise all the money by April 1, he will be spending three weeks in June and July representing the United States in Auckland, New Zealand, and in Australia.
In Australia, he will visit Sydney and Brisbane and end his trip with snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. He will spend nights with host families.
Jeff is particularly interested in snorkeling because he would like to be a marine biologist.
"Undersea animal life fascinates me," he said.
The Student Ambassador Program was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to promote contact between young people of different cultures as a force for peace.