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Gainesville man finds purpose traveling the globe
Reed Partrick is spending six month with Up With People before enrolling in college
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Reed Partrick of Gainesville poses for a picture at the Masada in Israel. He was there in 2014 with the global education and arts organization, Up With People. He is spending another semester with the group this year, which includes a stop in Hall County this week.

Up with People performance

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22

Where: Pearce Auditorium at Brenau University, 500 Washington St., Gainesville

How much: $20 adults; $15 students, children and seniors; $65 family of four

More info: www.upwithpeople.org/hallcounty

Up With People

What: A global education and arts organization whose goal is to bridge cultural barriers and create global understanding through service and music.

Who: About 100 internation students ranging in age from 17–29 travel abroad for one or two semesters.

When: Semesters run from January to June and July to December.

Where: Students travel to 15 countries across North America, Central America, Europe and Asia, depending on the semester

Cost: About $17,450 for one semester or $26,450 for two consecutive semesters

To apply for Up With People: Visit their website or apply and interview directly after the Friday or Saturday performances. Applicants must have completed their high school education or equivalent. Or sign up for the Open Door Day, which gives a behind the scenes at how it works. If interested in attending, contact Karen at kleyva@upwithpeople.org.

More info: www.upwithpeople.org

Like many high school graduates, Reed Partrick did not know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. The 2012 North Hall High School graduate knew he wanted to go to college eventually, but “wasn’t sure what I wanted to study.”

Instead, the Georgia native opted to enter into the workforce, taking a full-time job at a clothing store at the North Georgia Premium Outlets in Dawsonville. He also worked at his home church of First Baptist Church on Green Street in downtown Gainesville.

But the young man still dreamed of traveling and performing.

“I wanted to perform and travel and wasn’t ready for (college),” he said.

Like most teenagers, he went to the one source that could quickly and easily find a place where he could do both — the Internet. His online search led the young man to Up with People.

The global education and arts organization invites participants between the ages of 17 and 29 to travel abroad to more than 15 countries and serve the community as well as perform a musical show, according to the Up with People website. The ultimate goal is to bridge cultural barriers and create understanding through service and music, according to the website (www.upwithpeople.org).

“With our international cast of more than 100 participants representing 20 plus countries, we travel the world, giving back through volunteer work and immersing ourselves in the local culture through host-family accommodations,” said Diego Acosta, a promotion representative with Up With People. “We are unique in that we combine these two dynamic elements of our program, with a professionally produced show, that we perform at the conclusion of each week — celebrating our diversity and sharing a message of hope with audience members around the world.”

Partrick was elated to find this organization that fit his dream.

“It’s an incredible opportunity,” he said during a phone interview from Orlando, Fla., last week.

He researched the organization and approached his parents with his plan to spend two semesters with the organization. They agreed.

“We knew this was a great fit,” said Partrick’s mother, Jan. “He has a passion for people and music. The outreach program combined with the musical presentation was right up his alley.  “The traveling abroad plus the college credit were icing on the cake.”

Partrick packed his bags to spend his first semester totaling six long months with Up With People from January to June 2014.

Now he is completing his second semester from June to December 2015, after taking time off to attend his brother’s wedding.

“It was perfect gap year for me,” he said. “It’s been incredible and an honor to live this dream.”

Typical work week

This week the tour stops in Gainesville.

During a typical week, the students travel to their location Monday. Then Tuesday through Friday, the students spend time doing community service.

For example, the students worked from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the Boys & Girls Clubs in Orlando, Fla.

While Up With People is in Gainesville this week, students will voluteer with Habitat for Humanity.

When the workday is over, they reconvene at their main meeting facility for the week to discuss the day.

Finally, the students rehearse their show, which is performed at the end of the week.

On one day, though, students Skype with a professor for their study abroad classes, including interpersonal communication and conflict management.

“We have an education coordinator who travels with us and sets up where we are going to meet,” he said.

Partrick said all students receive college credit for their experience with Up With People.

The students repeat the weekly process for five months as they travel across the United States and in Europe.

First semester

Partrick started his first semester in January 2014 in Denver, Colo.

He met his host parents, Vicki and Kurt Lundquist, who act as Partrick’s guardians for five weeks. During his time with them, he trained with Up with People, learning the show and taking study abroad classes. He also spent his free time with his host family and the other five international students.

“We got super close,” Partrick said. “They are my second family.”

During his time with the Lundquists, Partrick and the other five international students hiked and visited tourist sites in Colorado.

“One time, we went to Heritage Square in Colorado and did an old-time photo shoot,” Partrick said. “We dressed up as cowboys and cowgirls. It was super special.”

Vicki Lundquist said while her host students are expected to pay for their own entertainment, she and her husband sometimes fork over the funds for a special treat.

“Sometimes it is expensive, especially paying for the food,” the mother of two grown children said. “But we can write it off in our taxes.”

However, the experience of being a mom to international students far outweighs the expense.

“The conversations around out dinner table are the highlight for me,” Lundquist said in a phone interview from her home in Colorado.

Host families

Vicki Lundquist said she became a host family when her daughter, Tara, choose to join Up With People in 2013.

“(Tara) wanted to host her friends one semester, and it grew from there,” Lundquist said, noting most students sign up for two semesters. “The first time I had one and next time I had six.”

“Reed (Partrick) was part of the six,” in January 2014, she said. “It was awesome.”

Lundquist said her house, which now felt empty following her son’s marriage and her daughter’s relocation to her own apartment, was finally filled again.

“I don’t like an empty nest. I want to fill it up,” said the 51-year-old woman, who has three bedrooms plus a large basement in her Broomfield home, which is between Boulder and Denver, Colo.

Since Lundquist and her husband usually travel to visit family members during their vacation, they don’t experience cultures outside the United States. The international students she houses bring a different perspective.

“It brings the world into my home,” she said. “This semester, it was true.”

Of the six students in her home this summer, they came from Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Bermuda and the United States.

“Reed (Partrick) was the only student from the U.S.,” Lundquist said, noting Partrick returned to them for his second semester this summer.

Each student brings something new and sometimes unusual to her life. She said one student from Bermuda supplied one of the funniest conversations among her family and the other students.

“His snack of choice is a head of iceberg lettuce and Mentos,” Lundquist said. “ He eats (the lettuce) like an apple. And around the dinner table, we would tease him like crazy.”

Acosta explained hosting has been a cornerstone aspect of the program since its inception in 1965.

“We believe that seeing the communities we visit through the eye of those (who) live there, provide a rich opportunity to learn and exchange cultures and values,” he said. “More than 800,000 families in 63 countries have opened their homes and hearts to our participants over the last 50 years — and our program is truly unique in this regard.”

Student bonds

Host families bonding with the students is not the only bonds formed. Students bond with each other during their travels.

Partrick said he has a lifelong friend with Lundquist’s daughter, Tara, who traveled with Up With People.

“She and I became best friends,” Partrick said. “She is an awesome person.”

He said Tara worked at the aquarium in Colorado as a mermaid. He got to see her in action during his stay with the Lundquists.

“She is always full of energy,” he said. “She is always going to give things a try. She has a bubbly personality.”

Tara also helped guide him through his first six months in 2014.

Now, during his second semester, Partrick finds himself in a new position. He helps the newcomers to the program, beginning with the weekly process of studying, serving and performing while on tour.

Worldly experience

Experiencing the different cities and countries is eye-opening for Partrick and the others. It is something they will never forget.

“It was gorgeous in Switzerland,” he said. “Belgium was very relaxing. It was an awesome experience.”

His parents have noticed a change in their son since he embarked on his first semester in 2014.

“There is definitely a lot of growth in Reed,” Jan Partrick said. “He was much more professional.”

She said the program teaches the young adults how to interact with various cultures. And it is an aspect her son would not have learned in a college classroom.

“He would never get to experience that cultural diversity if he had not participated in the program,” Jan Partrick said. “I think it is giving Reed a chance to see career options that are available to him that he might not have seen in a traditional college setting.”

She said she is proud of Reed, who is the youngest of her four boys. She also said she feels blessed she will see him perform in his hometown Friday and Saturday night.

“This is such a blessing for him to come home and perform for his family, friends and community,” she said.

Reed, now 22, also is looking forward to returning to his hometown of Gainesville this week.

“It will be bittersweet because it is my last semester,” Partrick said. “It will be awesome to show my friends and family what I’ve done the past six months. And maybe I can get my friends to travel with Up With People.”

He added his experience with Up With People has taught him life lessons he would not have learned in a college classroom. Now he is ready for college and plans to enroll at the University of North Georgia Dahlonega campus once he finishes with Up With People in December.

Thanks to his travels, Partrick has a better idea of what he wants to do with his life.

“I want to major in business or major in communications, but I’m still figuring that part out,” he said.

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