The Iowa Attorney General’s office is asking a company that sends students to other countries to modify the way it offers them its travel-abroad program. Attorney general’s spokesman Bob Brammer says the student ambassador program “People to People International” notifies parents that their schoolchildren have been “selected” to travel to another country.
Brammer says they organize scores of tours that take kids from elementary, middle and high schools to go abroad for a week or two. Those trips cost about five-thousand dollars, and their families have to pay for it or raise the money.
The consumer-protection office takes issue with the way parents are contacted, implying their child has been selected or is honored by the “People to People Student Ambassador Program,” by being chosen to go on this trip. The letter they’re sent includes words and phrases like “eligible,” “join other outstanding students,” and says they were “recommended for the honor.”
That was glaringly false to one women who contacted the office after she got such a letter. The central Iowa woman got a letter saying her child has been recommended for the honor “by a teacher, former student ambassador, or national academic listing.” Her son had been just seven weeks old when he died in 1993.
Brammer says the attorney general’s not charging that the program doesn’t send kids on trips. “We’re all for international travel,” Brammer says, and youth ambassadors is a good idea to get young people experience abroad, have them meet others and expand their horizons. But it’s clear from the letter sent to the Iowa woman that “academic selection” is not, after all, a factor in the advertising pitch.
The A-G’s office contacted Student Ambassadors saying it has trouble with representing the firm as one that’s contacting youths who were specially selected, as that’s not the case. The company agreed to modify its materials here in Iowa and Brammer says the change will likely be broader than that. “Person to Person” also has donated 25-thousand dollars to two charities of the family’s choice (to a children’s hospital and the Iowa Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Foundation) to make an apology for the inappropriate letter.