An Ashland woman is one of five goodwill ambassadors the Rotary Club will be sending to France for four weeks as part of the Rotary International Group Study Exchange.
Carrie Stambaugh, a news reporter for The Independent, was among those selected to participate in the adventure that begins Friday night with a flight out of Cincinnati.
“I’m extremely humbled by the opportunity,” Stambaugh said. “It’s really competitive. For them to choose me to represent the area, I’m really moved by that.”
Stambaugh said she had cleared the first hurdle before telling her employer she was even considering the trip. “I’m so grateful because they saw how beneficial it could be to a young person,” she said. “Every time you travel it changes your perspective and enriches how you look at the world.”
She learned about the trip through a story in the newspaper.
“I read it in our newspaper and thought, ‘This sounds really cool.’ One of the Rotarians said, ‘You should apply for that,’ and I did. I really didn’t know a whole lot about it. It seemed like a really unique opportunity, especially exploring your profession internationally.”
She will represent Ashland and the Rotary district in Kentucky.
“It’s kind of a goodwill ambassadorship,” said Vinzenzo Fressola, president of the Ashland Rotary Club. “We’re sending a team from our district, Carrie being a chosen nominee, and we’ll get the team from their district (in France) to visit us in May.”
Fressola said there were several nominations locally, but Stambaugh was the only one selected from here.
“The teams are not Rotary members,” he said. “They are community leaders, and we think Carrie is a pretty active person. Every club in our district nominated people. The committee decided which met the best qualifications to go. I don’t know if Carrie is the first one to have been selected from here, but she’s the first one since I’ve been involved in Rotary.”
Stambaugh, who covers city and county government for the newspaper, is active in several community outlets, including being a committee member for Summer Motion, a member of the Ashland Tree Board and involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Her husband, Carl, is a captain for the Ashland Fire Department.
She sees the trip as the opportunity of a lifetime. Rotary pays for the goodwill team’s trip. Other team members are Tabitha Baker of London, Jessica Tretter of Lexington, Brandi Berryman of Lexington and leader Jon A. Bennett of Edgewood. Qualifications included being between the ages of 21 and 40. Stambaugh, a native of Cincinnati, is 30.
Stambaugh hosted the group for lunch a couple of weeks ago. The team will start in Lyon and finish in Grenoble, which was the site of the 1968 Winter Olympics. It will visit 24 Rotary Clubs in a 1,000-mile radius.
The team has been meeting since October, Stambaugh said. She is looking forward to developing friendships with team members.
“I think that’s another element to it,” she said. “I’m getting to spend a month with a group of young professionals who are obviously really talented and outgoing. I’ll be building those relationships and contacts.”
Stambaugh said she has never been to France, but has traveled to London and Scotland.
She has been brushing up on French since October with the help of Amanda Gilmore, who teaches the language at Ohio University Southern.
“She has been meeting with me,” Stambaugh said. “She edited my presentation that has to be in French and has been helping me with my pronunciations. We’re really worried about that. That’s where the most anxiety is among our group. None of us are French speakers.”
Team members will present to Rotary Clubs in French, she said.
A team from France will visit Kentucky Rotary Club districts from April 20 through May 19.
“We host them here for five nights,” Fressola said. “It looks like we may have them over Derby weekend. We’re hoping so anyway, although that hasn’t been confirmed.”
The team from France also will visit Lexington, Covington and Pikeville clubs during the 30-day stay, Fressola said.
The exchange trip is part of Rotary International’s mission, Fressola said.
Stambaugh, who writes a Friday column for the newspaper, will send columns and postcards from France. She is thankful to the club that has supported her from the beginning.
“I feel embraced by their whole community,” she said. “The whole thing has been overwhelming and I haven’t even gone yet. People who I don’t know have come up and said really incredible things to me.”
Stambaugh has a package for her host family that represents the area well, including bluegrass music CDs and Jesse Stuart books.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.