At the age of 21, Alyssa Wilson is already a leader, and that quality recently took her to another part of the world.
The 2006 Altoona Area High School graduate traveled to Guatemala last month for a leadership week with other Alexander Hamilton award winners.
Students who are part of the program embody the values of academic achievement and are service minded like Hamilton, said Joslin Boroughs, director of operations for the Alexander Hamilton Friends Association.
Alyssa Wilson, 21, a senior at Penn State University, traveled to Guatemala last month for a leadership week with other Alexander Hamilton award winners. Here she is seen with students from Escuela 15 de Septembre, a school in Xela, Guatemala. The school is named for Sept. 15, the Independence Day in Guatemala.
Wilson won the award the first year it was given out in 2005, Boroughs said, adding that she was invited back to attend the 2009 leadership week in Guatemala.
The trip was sponsored through Cross Cultural Solutions, a nonprofit international volunteering organization.
The group would visit a school and health center in the mornings, participate in a cultural activity in the afternoons and then hold a group meeting in the evenings during the Aug. 9-16 trip, Boroughs said.
"She did really well at the school," Boroughs said of Wilson, adding that she had a connection with the students and would use other means of communication to relate to them. "She was just so eager to get to know the kids."
The Penn State University senior, studying elementary education with a minor in special education, is serving a professional development school internship with sixth-graders at Mount Nittany Middle School.
She said she learned to appreciate American life. She said regardless of how little the school children had, they were clean.
"That shows a level of pride for them," she said.
Wilson, according to her biography on the Alexander Hamilton Friends Association Web site, served on Student Council during high school and worked with Gov. Ed Rendell and officials from the Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils. She said the group talked about appreciating the United States and balancing helping their own country and other countries.
Although the trip to Guatemala was her first out of the country, it was not her first volunteering endeavor. She volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen at Thanksgiving, she said. She also organized MS and Heart Disease walks at PSU, her biography states.
Wilson, who was a resident assistant in college, also offered advice to her fellow tripgoers, who were two years younger than her, Boroughs said.
"She really found that balance," Boroughs said of relating with the group while still mentoring them.
Boroughs said the trip gives students the time to find insight into themselves and an understanding of another part of the world.
"One big part of it is a better understanding there is more beyond the borders of the U.S.," and the experience "adds to who they are as people," she said.
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Clegg is at 949-7030.