Marcy Kaptur shakes hands with Marcus Carvey, a Scott High School senior, after presenting him a certificate for his participation in the youth ambassador program.
Their budget is shoe-string; their political might meager at best.
But the mission for about two dozen area teenagers is much like the nation's most powerful ambassadors: reach out across the globe.
Armed with a keyboard and kindness, their first target is tsunami-ravaged Nagercoil, India.
"Dear friend . . . " wrote one.
"Thank God you're a survivor . . . " wrote another.
Community Heartbeats, a new group of local teens hoping to connect with youths around the world, soon will be sending letters and pictures of themselves to the town of plantain groves and lotus ponds along India's southern tip. They want to introduce themselves, find out about that corner of the world, and most importantly, lend a listening ear by opening a continuing line of communication across longitudinal lines.
"If you go through some kind of problem like this, you wouldn't want to be alone," said Marcus Smith, 18, a Scott High School student. "You'd want to know that someone is caring about you, that someone is praying for you."
Saria James, 17, also from Scott High School, echoed his words. "It's not just about people sending money. I mean, that's needed, but we're taking the time to write, to find out what they need."
Yesterday, the group gathered at a news conference at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library's Main Library in downtown Toledo to introduce themselves. U.S. Respresentative Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who was invited, told the group that their efforts could change them, and possibly the world, forever.
"They will never forget you," she said of the people the teens will seek around the world. "And it will change you. It will change your perspective. It will make you feel your power. And it will make you want to grow."
Toledo City Council President Louis Escobar also addressed the teens, asking them to imagine what life would be like if a wall of water suddenly ripped from them their parents, siblings, grandparents, and all whom they loved and trusted. Simple letters from teenagers across the world could provide a sense of future, he said.
"Just imagine if someone gave you a sense of hope, a feeling that someone cares for you even though everyone around you is gone," he said.
Miss Kaptur, Mr. Escobar, and Toledo school board member David Welch offered the local teens assistance if those whom they contact ask for material goods.
The coordinator of the program, Dr. Loran Gonsalves, has collected some private money to journey to India later this month to deliver the students' letters, which volunteers are translating before she leaves. She will return with translated responses.
The students say they don't know what to expect, or even if they will get return letters. It doesn't matter. It's their responsibility to try, said Kapil Melkote, a Bowling Green ninth-grader.
"We have a representative government in the United States. We have someone representing us, but who represents them?" the ninth-grader said. "We have it so much better than kids in other parts of the world, even in the most simple things, that we have to try to help."
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