Student leader to represent Haywood in Europe

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Jan 12, 2014
Photo by: Donated photo Thomas Hollingsworth is pictured in a group of People to People Student Ambassadors while visiting Scotland in 2011. Hollingsworth has been invited to go to Greece, Italy and Sicily this summer if he can raise enough money for his trip.

Tuscola High School junior Thomas Hollingsworth is preparing for his second trip to Europe in the past three years.

Hollingsworth was recently re-nominated to participate in the People to People Student Ambassador program for the second time. Though many students are chosen for the program, Hollingsworth was the only student selected from Haywood County.

People to People is a leadership program that was created by President Eisenhower in 1956.The program send students on a summer trip to Europe, but it’s each students’ responsibility to raise the funds by different projects, show leadership in the community and work within the community during their fundraising campaign.

Hollingsworth has been was re-nominated by his teachers and was selected again as a student ambassador since he was already in the People to People system. The only thing standing in his way is his trip cost.

If Hollingsworth can raise the $6,500 it costs to travel abroad, he will be spending about 19 days in Greece, Italy and Sicily this July with a delegation group of about 20 other students.

Hollingsworth first traveled out of the country three years ago, the summer before he became a freshman at Tuscola. After teachers anonymously nominated him the first time, he raised money for his trip costs and spent almost three weeks in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“I had never been out of the country and I never been on a plane,” Hollingsworth said, recalling his first trip to Europe. “I remember when we left, it was morning and when we got there, because of the time difference, it was morning there, so we skipped a day.”

One of his most memorable experiences was in Scotland, when he discovered he enjoyed eating haggis, Hollingsworth said.

“Before, there was no way ever eat that, but when you only have two choices, I picked that and it tasted really good,” Hollingsworth said. “They told me what was in it — it’s basically everything not used on a sheep. I ended up eating someone else’s Haggis because they didn’t want it because we saw sheep that day.”

Hollingsworth said he also overcame his fear of heights while climbing of a castle wall in Wales.

“I tried to do it once, then twice, but on the third time I was able to do it,” he said about climbing the wall.

Teachers nominated Hollingsworth as an ideal leader because he is able to balance both his academic and athletic career. He is on the Tuscola’s football team, wrestling team and golf team and still manages to make the A-B honor roll.

Hollingsworth also is active in Tuscola’s PeaceJam chapter and SWAT Team. PeaceJam is an organization that brings young people together with Nobel Peace Prize winners to address global issues of basic rights and needs. The SWAT (Students Will Achieve Together) team, is a service club that works to help students and the community.

“He’s a great kid, and I know he will be an amazing representative for Haywood County,” said Beth Siren, a friend of Hollingsworth.

During the first trip through Europe, Hollingsworth visited locations like ancient burial grounds, Dublin and the London Eye. Hollingsworth is looking forward to visiting the Sistine Chapel, the Leaning tower of Pisa, Venice and some volcanoes this summer.

“That’s one of the points of going on the trip is to open your mind to other cultures and countries,” he said, while admitting that his first trip had changed him. “It’s really hard to describe, but now I feel different. I’m sure this trip will be life changing too.”

In attempt to raise the money for his trip, Hollingsworth is holding eight ball and nine ball pool tournaments at Smoky Mountain Billiards in Waynesville. The cost to register is $25 and there will be first second and third-place prices.

The eight ball tournament will be held at noon on Feb. 8 at Smoky Mountain Billiards. Registration for the event will take place that morning from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. The nine-ball tournament will be held March 8 at the same location. He is also planning a barbecue fundraiser, which is still in the works

Anyone who would like to pre-register for the tournaments or make a monetary donation should text Hollingsworth at 828-564-3390.