First Presbyterian Christian Academy Highlander basketball player Tony Sanders, who also plays for the St. James Coastal Crew Rebels, was selected to represent the United States during a 10-day visit to Austria as the sports ambassador for the People to People Ambassador Program.
Sanders will travel to Austria as a member of the U. S. basketball squad and will participate in the Youth Friendship Games, an Olympic-style competition against other nations.
People to People Sports Ambassador Programs offer student athletes in grades 5-12 the opportunity to compete internationally, train with world-class coaches and develop leadership skills and self-confidence. Program organizers also strive to create a foundation for success in a globalized world. Participants come from local communities, so students make friends locally before they travel globally.
Sanders said he attended several People to People meetings and learned about leadership skills. He gave presentations about his life goals and explained how he would become a mentor and a leader to others. Although several thousand applied for the opportunity to go overseas, only a select few were chosen.
"It means a lot for us and our program as well," Rebels coach and St. James Sports Center director Ernie Walthour said. "Tony has outstanding parents and he has done a real good job in the classroom and in the basketball court which is why he was noticed. It’s a real honor that he will get this chance to go overseas and participate. This elevates our Rebels programs. When you have this young man noticed and chosen as an ambassador it tells me we are doing the right thing here in Hinesville … and that elevates our program to the highest level."
In addition to playing basketball, the Ambassadors will have a chance to walk in Mozart’s footsteps at the Schonbrunn Palace, and tour the World War II Mauthausen Concentration Camp.
The group will explore Austria, learn about themselves, their country and the world at large while interacting with coaches and athletes from around the world.
"I’m looking forward to trying new things, new foods, meeting new people and new cultures," Sanders said.
Sanders will leave on July 4.
"It makes me feel good as a parent," Joceline Sanders, his mother said. "It made me feel like I’m doing something positive and good for my child and keeping him enrolled in positive things. The honor in knowing that somebody else acknowledges his talent and his behavior and leadership and to want him to represent the United States is an honor and it makes me proud."
Sanders was 7 years old when he took up basketball. The rising player said he wants to play at Duke, Wake Forest or the University of Connecticut.