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Traveling to a different Holland

If you tell people in the city you’re going to Holland, chances are they’re going to ask you to stop in Farmer Frank’s along the way and pick them up some homemade ice cream.

But, when Donte Ralph told friends and family he was going to Holland, it was going to take more than a tank of gas to get him there.

Ralph is an eighth grade student at John Yeates Middle School. This summer he was chosen to participate in the People to People Student Ambassador Program, which has offered students international travel and learning opportunities for close to 50 years.

The organization was founded in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower with the belief that ordinary citizens of different nations would be able to solve their differences and find a way to live in peace if they were able to communicate directly. Beginning in 1963, students were sent to countries all over the globe in an effort to unite and learn.

Ralph was nominated by his basketball coach for a program to play ball with teams coming from all over the globe.

Ralph said he had never thought of the program before, but as he started getting more information about what his trip would entail, he couldn’t wait to be a part of it.

“I had never thought about it but when I got it (the spot on the team) I was really intense and excited. It was a good experience,” he said.

Ralph’s family in Suffolk was also thrilled for the opportunity.

Donte is the son of Anthony and Catina Ralph, and grandson of AJ and Deborah Parker, Charles Brown and Janice Ralph.

“We felt that it was an honor for Donte to be acceped, one out of the 23 kids chosen out of the entire state of Virginia to travel to Holland, Europe with People II People for Ambassadors to compete against kids his age from all over the country,” his mom, Catina, wrote in an e-mail to the News-Herald. “People II People for Ambassadors is a great opportunity for kids because they have the opportunity to travel all over the world.”

For 10 days, Ralph toured the Holland countryside, saw different sites, got to know his teammates and noted a lot of differences between home and the new country.

“It’s very different over there from down here,” he said. “Over there there’s not a bunch of houses, it’s just a bunch of open land, and as we went into the city…it looked entirely different: the way people dress, the way people talk. They drink different water, all that.”

While he wasn’t touring the land, he was running the courts.

Donte said it was a different learning experience all together when it came to the rules of international basketball.

“Their style of playing is way different than our style of playing here in the U.S.,” Ralph said. “Theirs is more based in defense, and all the scoring and rules and regulations are different.”

His basketball team ended up placing 5th in the overall tournament, which had a pool of about 20 teams coming from places as far away as Israel and England.

While he said he had a great time taking part in the program, he was ready to come home.

“I was ready to come home because I was missing my house, I was missing eveything,” he said. “As soon as I hit Richmond, I was so glad.”

The Ralph family also wanted to express their gratitude to everyone in the community and in the program who helped Donte get into the program and experience the trip.