Joshua Szeszol lived with the teasing in elementary school.
His stutter made him a target.
“I was made fun of when I was younger,” the Huntley teen said.
Then he met a special friend.
“Both of us weren’t the most popular people,” Joshua said. “When we met each other, people weren’t that nice to us, but we were nice to each other and became best friends. We both believe that people should be treated kindly and nicely.”
His best friend, Tori Deets, taught him that everyone needs a helping hand.
But Joshua is carrying the lessons — helping others, treating others kindly — with him as he prepares to be a People to People student ambassador in China.
The 13-year-old is on a mission to raise enough money to make the trip in June.
One of his teachers at Marlowe Middle School, where Szeszol is a seventh-grader, traveled to Australia with People to People when she was his age. President Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the organization in 1956. It gives volunteers an opportunity to travel and experience cultures while helping others.
Joshua began learning more about the group and researched its website. He began meeting kids who have gone on trips, including England and France, he said.
His teacher recommended him to People to People. Joshua was contacted by the group to become an ambassador.
Joshua has been selling items, has been doing odd jobs and has been seeking donations. He has managed to raise $1,400 so far. He needs $6,500.
“I feel I can reach that goal,” he said. “I have conquered speech and I have become accelerated in school. I set out to get (that) goal and I’m in high school course in math. I feel confident I can do this.”
The total cost covers everything — airfare, hotel and food. The trip is scheduled from June 25 to July 14. People to People’s itinerary includes visits to multiple cities in China including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
He has some ideas to raise more money. He’s willing to do yard work and walk dogs and wants to sell items at Huntley’s Farmers Market this spring. Joshua also wants to try to solicit donations from businesses. His father said the donation is tax deductible.
The family has been passing out fliers with information about Joshua’s effort. “It’s a worthy cause; they are going there to help a school in China,” his dad said.
“It’s pretty admirable for a person to want to venture off to China,” Dave said. “It’s a big undertaking. I think it would be a great experience for his education
Joshua is pretty admirable. He has worked to overcome his speech impediment. He really wants to travel the world and help others. He’s already getting ready to visit China.
“I am actually trying to learn Mandarin,” Joshua said. “It is a very important language. It is not as hard as I thought it was going to be,” he said.
So far, he learned how to say “Excuse me, may I please ask you if you know English,” he said, in Mandarin.
“He’s very smart,” his dad said. “He’s well beyond his age.”
To donate to Joshua’s effort, contact the Szeszol family at 1-847-669-5044.