SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When it comes to pursuing your passion, Katherine Ball doesn’t hesitate. After reading a book about Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle-based oceanographer, in the sixth grade, Katherine was inspired to study marine debris and its behavior in the oceans. Not only is Katherine now studying physical oceanography at the University of Washington, but she also focused her Girl Scouts Gold Award on researching plastic debris in the Puget Sound. In addition, Katherine recently earned her associate’s degree through the Ocean Research College Academy. Impressed yet?

We are very inspired by Katherine’s determination and passion for marine debris and oceanography, and for the ambition to follow through and desire to make a positive change in the world. Katherine shares with us her experiences at the Ocean Research College Academy, what actions we can take today to create a better tomorrow, and how she defines success.

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Katherine Ball
Education: Physical Oceanography, University of Washington class of 2016
Follow: tumblr

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Katherine Ball: Seizing your youth is all about taking your passion, whatever it may be, and doing something with it. Take advantage of being in school, youth groups, scouts, and sport teams. Use the people around you to do something, many of them are willing to help you make an impact or they know someone who is. Use whatever passion you have to get better at it, to solve a small issue, or if you’re really aiming big start to change the world. It doesn’t matter what you do with it, but use that passion for something while surrounded by people who will help.

CJ: You are currently a student at the University of Washington. What are you studying, and what led you to those academic passions? What do you hope to do with your degree once you graduate?

KB: I currently study physical oceanography, basically fluid dynamics. Inspiration for studying marine debris and its behavior in the oceans stemmed from reading a book about Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle-based oceanographer, in sixth grade. While I lived in Idaho at the time, the ocean was something I loved without seeing it. My passion for the topic lead me to understanding that simply researching the issue won’t resolve it, but people can. I hope to work in citizen science to engage adults in the full scientific process. Current citizen science programs revolve around citizens collecting data without following through and getting to see how their contribution impacted the study. I aim to improve that using my passion for marine debris and oceanography.

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CJ: You recently completed an associate’s degree through the Ocean Research College Academy. What did this degree entail and what was this experience like?

KB: Completing my associate’s with the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) was an amazing experience. With the small running start program and an oceanography focus I was able to cover my general college requirements (Political Science/History/English) in small college classes with 40 other high school students. The small classes meant I was able to get any help I needed as well as tie something in each of the classes into the oceanography research I conducted in my science courses. Already having an interest in oceanography I used ORCA’s focus on student-designed research to conduct pioneering research in Possession Sound, a sub-basin of Puget Sound, by working with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. One of the greatest opportunities ORCA gave me was the chance to present my findings at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference 2014 and meet and discuss my research with professional, renowned oceanographers.

CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

KB: I got started early at age five thanks in part to a family tradition of Girl Scouting. My mom’s side has been active in Washington Girl Scouts since my great-grandmother worked to get girls outside. Being a member gave me the chance to do so many things that pinning down one favorite is nearly impossible. That is probably my favorite thing, do things from fashion shows to fitness days to council philanthropy groups to 90 mile backpack trips. I participated in many of the things Girl Scouts offered and enjoyed every one of them.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

KB: 1) Leadership doesn’t mean being in charge. I participated in a lot of leadership opportunities as a Girl Scout but I learned some of the biggest lessons about it by being a team member during camp and on backpacks with YAYA hikers. Having grown up backpacking with my family I had random bits of knowledge and experience to share with the newer-to-backpacking girls on the trip.

2) Being fearless is nearly impossible. I thought I was pretty fearless as a young girl doing so many crazy things but the more things I tried the more I realized it wasn’t fearlessness, it was determination to try something new.

3) Everyone is capable of anything. Not only did I see the impact I could make on people through my Gold Award I also saw myself grow by doing backpack trips I’d never dreamed off.

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CJ: For your Girl Scouts project,  Actions and Oceans: How Our Actions Today Affect the Oceans Tomorrow, you conducted pioneering research on plastic debris in Puget Sound and held events to educate and inspire others. Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did it entail?

KB: From years of talking to people about marine debris and trying to understand the issue I started to see that a lot of people didn’t know there was an issue, which blew my mind since I had been aware of it for so long. The next point that drove home I could do something with my passion was that those people who did know there was an issue often did not realize they could do something about it on an individual scale. Therefore I decided to bring together local marine protection groups and scientists from local and regional science organizations to talk about different aspects of the issue.

To organize my event I worked with an advisor from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create the best program. Overcoming a few fears of contacting strangers with questions I set up interviews with local organizations to talk to them about their events, primarily what worked and what didn’t work about them. I learned a lot from those interviews and was able to implement some of the improvements into my own event. Based on these interviews I also asked organizations to attend my event and provide information about how attendees could get involved with the organization.

Being in charge of organizing my event gave me a lot of skills, from talking to people to time management to proposing ideas, which are continuing to prove incredibly useful on a regular basis.

CJ: What actions can we do today that will help create a better tomorrow?

KB: The problem with plastic is that the United States, and the rest of the world, has been building a ‘throw-away’ society since the 1960s. The idea of this ‘throw-away’ habitat was advertised as a positive when Tupperware became a thing! Now don’t get me wrong, plastic is an amazing material and it works great for all the things we use it for. I’m not advocating we stop using it, we just need to get better about how we handle it. A throw-away society isn’t something we can stop doing, but as a society we need to figure out how to handle our plastic waste so we can continue to use such a great resource while protecting the environment. So be smart, limit the number of small containers you get, reuse, invest in a good durability water bottle, and recycle as much as possible, at home or in the bin.

CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

KB: Since my Gold Award was based on such a huge passion I found ways to combine my school work with my project. By attending ORCA I was given the chance to choose a topic for projects in all of my classes. Therefore, while working on my Gold Award, I researched such things as effective education for citizen science in classes.

One of the biggest things I did to keep myself organized between college deadlines, school, my project, and my research (including conference deadlines) was use giant pieces of poster board to make a calendar for the entire school year. I tend to forget to look at calendars for deadlines, a problem the size solved since it was so large.

Basically my life became distilled down to working on classes, research, and my project which even though it’s not a long list of things left me overwhelmed at times. What I allowed myself to do most often to relax was to go on hikes with my Girl Scout hiking group, the YAYA Hikers. Hiking and being outside with my friends was not only relaxing, but it let me bounce ideas off them if I was stuck on something.

KBall Group

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

KB: I have a handful of mentors who have helped me in a lot of areas. For many of them I found them either by directly pursuing my passion or by telling everyone what I wanted to do and being directed to them.

CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

KB: There is a lot to being a good leader but there is a quote by Lao Tzu that really rings true to me – “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Something I have found to be the key is having a passion and inspire others to think and change. Rather than directly telling someone the best way to do it, leading means educating and providing all the information for them to make the decision. Give them some options, but leave it to them to make the final decisions.

CJ: How do you define success?

KB: Seeing the impact of a message is a huge success but for me success is knowing I’ve spread an idea, planted a seed in someone’s head.

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

KB: I’m definitely working on using the connections I’ve made through all my projects. Once I’m finished working with someone they often tell me I’m welcome to contact them with questions about other things or for a reference and I forgot to do so, sometimes thinking they wouldn’t remember me. Lately though I’ve been working on projects at the University of Washington that involve bringing together a lot of components.  People from my Gold Award and high school are coming to be crucial. It’s mostly been a curve of learning how to write professional emails that remind people how they know me and quickly getting to the point.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

KB: Don’t let hard times stop you from pursuing your passions. I guarantee you’ll have a hard time with something you’ve always been good at and I totally understand that failing something sucks. When it happens don’t be afraid to talk to people, get help, figure out how to ask for it before college when it gets even harder to find the help you need. And most of all? Just keep going, you’ll learn too much from the hard patch and it might even strengthen your resolve to pursue your passion.

Katherine Ball Qs

Images by Katherine Ball

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Berkleigh Rathbone has been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from her own backyard all throughout her life. When it came time to choosing a project for her Girl Scouts Gold Award, Berkleigh chose to write a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. In the book, a girl named Karlein plants, grows, and harvests pumpkins. The process of creating the book took about 10 months, during which Berkleigh wrote the story, edited, drew illustrations, and worked on the layout of the book.

Higher education is important to Berkleigh, and she is planning on majoring in Psychology at the University of Washington. Having been a part of the Girl Scouts since fourth grade, cookie sales are Berkleigh’s favorite part of Girl Scouts as it helped her hone her entrepreneurial skills. Read on to learn more about this ambitious young woman!

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Berkleigh Rathbone
Education: Planning to major in Psychology at the University of Washington

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Berkleigh Rathbone: I define “Seizing Your Youth” as making the most out of your life and actively preparing yourself as a teenager for the increasingly competitive world that you enter in adulthood. Simply said, seizing your youth means seizing the day, every day!

CJ: What will you study at the University of Washington, where you’re starting school in the fall? What led you to those academic passions and why are you choosing to study them in a formal setting?

BR: I am planning to study and get at least a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology since I have always been interested in the mind and how it functions. Higher education has always been important to both of my parents, so I promised them that I would go to college after I finished high school.

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CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

BR: I joined a Girl Scout troop as a “Junior” in fourth grade. In addition to troop meetings, I loved all of the activities (such as summer camps, weekend trips, troop activities, cookie sales, etc.) that were available to me through scouting. If I had to choose my single most favorite part of Girl Scouts it would be cookie sales – not only are the cookies delicious, but by doing sales I additionally strengthened my interpersonal and entrepreneurial skills.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

BR: 1. Always be prepared, no matter what.
2. Volunteering is extremely rewarding.
3. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.

CJ: To earn your Gold Award in Girl Scouts, you wrote a published a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. Your book includes a resource guide with a glossary, discussion questions, and information about donating to food banks so everyone can access fresh produce. You have shared your book with libraries, schools, and food banks throughout the country and via an online video you created. How cool! Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did the process of putting it together entail?

BR: Choosing a topic for my Gold Award project was hands down the hardest part – I could have chosen to do almost anything! I decided to go with the theme of gardening since both of my parents love to plant and grow vegetables and flowers in our garden. All throughout my life I have been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from my own backyard, which is something that I will be forever grateful for. Furthermore, my mom happened to have a rough draft of a story she had written about a girl named Karlein who planted, grew, and harvested pumpkins that she had grown. So the idea to (re)write and illustrate a book for my Gold Award seemed like a no-brainer!

My initial project started out small. I would write, illustrate, and publish my book, put it into a few public locations (schools, libraries, etc.), and wait for readers to respond to discussion questions via an email I put in the back of the book. However, as the project progressed I realized that my project needed more oomph! in order to get necessary quantitative results for my before/after project impact analysis. That’s where the online video and remodified discussion questions, etc. come in.

All in all, this project was probably the biggest project I’ve ever worked on. From the time I stated until the time I finished, the total project time was about 9 to 10 months. Not only did editing the story take time, but so did creating and editing the illustrations, in addition to figuring out the layout of the book. I also put a lot of time into communicating with several different people, mostly by email, in order to sort out different logistics of where to send my book, who to send it to, and how many copies to send.

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CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

BR: In order to keep my project organized I put together a list of tasks that I had to do, and in turn organized that list on a timeline in order to get a rough idea of how long my project would take me to complete. As far as balancing my school schedule with my Gold Award project tasks goes, I decided to treat my Gold Award project itself as an extracurricular activity. I had few school obligations and at the time I was not working, which really allowed me to dive into working on my project. Once my Junior year of high school ended I took advantage of my time off from school to catch up on task deadlines and evaluate the progress of my project.

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

BR: I’m not quite sure. Yes, I do know a good amount of people, and yes, I have learned quite a bit by talking to these individuals. However, I think that my mentor takes on a more inanimate form: life experiences. By learning from both the mistakes of others (myself included) and also the lucky risk-taking strategies of self-made successful people, I feel as if my life experience of interacting with people and hearing their personal stories has helped to advise me on what steps to take at what times, in addition to how many steps to take at a time without overworking myself.

CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

BR: Good leaders are like backbones:

  1. Without good leaders, society, like our body without our spine, could not function.
  2. Good leaders, like our spines, are simultaneously flexible and strong.
  3. Just like how the spine connects the upper and lower parts of the body, good leaders find ways to connect people in a group/society in order to establish a sense of unity.

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CJ: How do you define success?

BR: I define success as meeting/exceeding a previously set goal. For me, success can come in the form of money, health, happiness, wisdom, love, or any other aspect of life that I have my eyes set on improving.

CJ: What is a book you read in high school that positively shaped you?

BR: Tiny Snail by Tammy Carter Bronson – the author actually came to my school when I was in second grade and talked about the process of writing and illustrating her own book!

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BR: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Absent by Katie Williams, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

BR: Break out of your comfort zone. Voice your opinion – if you feel afraid to do so in front of your friends, find new friends. Take advantage of extracurricular activities at school. Meet more people. Spend time cooking meals; enjoy the food that you’re eating. SPEAK UP. And, most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff.

Berkleigh Rathbone Qs

Images by Berkleigh Rathbone

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

The Girl Scouts is an incredible organization that turns young women into leaders. Becka Gately, one of these impressive young women, has always been involved in sports. Therefore, when it came time to choose a project for her Girl Scouts Gold Award, planning a health and fitness night in her community was a perfect fit. Becka established partnerships between the Kent School District, health organizations, and more than 40 volunteers, and she pulled off an event with more than 25 booths about nutrition, physical exercise, cardiovascular health, and more. Over 400 community members attended!

As a high school senior, Becka is involved with many extracurricular activities, including student government, National Honor Society, and DECA, a business leadership development program. She has a passion for business and helping her community, which she has had the opportunity to do through the Girl Scouts. Having been a Girl Scout since Kindergarten, Becka is no stranger to helping others and being a leader. Becka shares what she learned from the Girl Scouts, how she stayed organized when working on her project, and how she defines success. We’re so impressed with this ambitious young woman!

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Becka Gately
Education: Kentwood High School

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Becka Gately: I think “Seizing Your Youth” means taking every single possibility you have and taking advantage of it. Never in your life will you have the time or the freedom to join any group you want or any team you want. I think “Seizing Your Youth” means to find your passion and run with it.

CJ: What are you studying at school? What led you to those academic passions and why did you choose to study them in a formal setting?

BG: This year I am taking classes that I need to graduate, but in college I want to study business. Since joining DECA I have had an interest in business. I am also heavily involved in leadership in my school and I think both business and leadership correspond with each other. I am definitely a people person so I found that business was not only my interest, but also something that I am pretty good at.

CJ: During your senior year of high school you will serve as Vice President of DECA (a business leadership development program). How did you get involved in DECA?

BG: My brother actually encouraged me to do DECA. He participated in it his junior and senior year. He told me that I didn’t have a choice and that I had to do it because it would be something that will help me with the rest of my life.

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CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

BG: I got involved in Girl Scouts when I was in kindergarten. One of my friend’s mom was starting a troop and my mother put me in it. What I love most about being a Girl Scout is the opportunity to help my community. Being a part of Girl Scouts has given me so many opportunities to not only help the community, but to also meet more people in my community.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

BG: 1. Respect everyone. You never know where being nice and respectful might take you.
2. Giving back is better than receiving.
3. Your life is what you make it.

CJ: To earn your Gold Award in Girl Scouts, you planned a health and fitness night in your community. By forging partnerships between the Kent School District, health organizations, and more than 40 volunteers, you pulled off an event with more than 25 booths about nutrition, physical exercise, cardiovascular health, and more. The night proved to be a huge success—with more than 400 community members attending. Amazing! Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did the process of putting it together entail?

BG: I chose this topic because I have always had a love for fitness and sports. I have played soccer since I was five-years-old and played basketball and volleyball for a couple of years. A year of playing tennis made me realize that I would rather hit a ball with my feet than with my hands. I grew up watching baseball 24/7 because my brother played and my dad coached. I was surrounded by sports and fitness all growing up so being active became natural for me.

When I started to look into what I wanted to do for my Gold Award project, it was around the time where some of my younger cousins where getting to the age of having an interest in electronics. I noticed that not only were they not playing any sports but that they would rather sit on an Ipad then go outside and play. Another thing that I realized was I didn’t have the knowledge about nutrition compared to exercise. This was one of the reasons I added the nutrition part to my event. Not only did I want to help the community learn about being active, I wanted to learn about nutrition and what I can do to be healthier.

Once I had this concept an amazing opportunity came about. My mother’s school at the time had been chosen by Molina Health Care and the Hope Heart institute to sponsor a health event at their school. After meeting with both Molina and Hope Heart, the event really started to come together! After that I just had to come up with some activities and get donations.

CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

BG: When working on my project, I stayed organized by holding weekly meetings. I had a meeting every Friday afternoon with my advisor and my mother. I really enjoy being busy and giving my time to others, so for the majority of my extracurricular activities I spend time at school. During the school week I usually spend two hours after school being involved with Associated Student Body (ASB), DECA, National Honor Society (NHS), or leadership. Then I play soccer and have dinner. I try to have one night during the week where I can just be home. I also try not to plan things on Sundays so I can spend time with family and get homework done.

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

BG: I have two mentors. One is my DECA advisor and marketing teacher Mr. Zender. I have known him since my brother joined DECA. My other mentor is our school athletics and activities director Ms. Daughtry. I meet her when I decided to join ASB. She has really encouraged me to put myself out there and make a difference. She has also given me so many opportunities to expand my leadership skills and learn more about myself. Now I get the opportunity to work with her every day as I am the ASB president.

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CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

BG: I think a good leader is one whose actions speak louder than their words. There’s a great quote by John Quincy Adams that says “If your actions inspire other to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” I believe a good leader does not just tell people what to do but also shows them and inspires them to become better leaders.

CJ: How do you define success?

BG: I think success is giving 100% of what you have into something. I think everyone has different successes in their life, but you can’t compare other successes to yours. To be successful you need to believe in yourself and be happy with the effort that you are putting into your passion.   

CJ: Will you be going to college next year? How do you plan on tackling the college application process?

BG: I am planning on attending college. My plan is to start early on the application process and follow my gut.

CJ: What is a book you read in school that positively shaped you?

BG: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BG: Divergent, The Great Gatsby, and The Art of Racing in the Rain.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

BG: I would tell my 15 year-old self two things. First, join as many teams and events as possible. You never know the people you will meet and the experiences you will have. Second, that some people come and go but the ones that stay are very special.

Becka Gately Qs 

Images by Becka Gately

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

The Girl Scouts is an incredible organization that turns young women into leaders. Deelyn Cheng is one of these amazing young women who became involved in the Girl Scouts when her best friends encouraged her to join. She earned her Gold Award by preparing the City of Lakewood for emergency and disaster situations. She took a multi-faceted approach to her project, including educating residents, acquiring emergency kits for local schools, and even designing menus that can feed hundreds of residents for several days in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Pretty great, if you ask us.

Now, Deelyn studies International Business, Finance, and Marketing at the University of Washington. She has spent time interning and living in Hong Kong, and she is passionate about learning about all things business. Deelyn shares with Carpe Juvenis what she thinks makes a good leader, the lessons she learned from being a part of the Girl Scouts, and that for her, success means “making a positive impact on the world and leaving a legacy.” With determined and caring young women such as Deelyn, the future definitely looks brighter.

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization. 

Name: Deelyn Cheng
Education: International Business, Finance, and Marketing at the University of Washington, Class of 2018

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Deelyn Cheng: Be proactive and seize every opportunity that would develop and enhance one’s identity. It is important take opportunities that prompts you to try new things or to push you closer towards a goal.  There is this quote which I love by Milton Berle: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Time is valuable, so treat it preciously. Go out and find your passion, explore, and reach your full potential. Change the world for the better by turning your dreams and ideas into reality.

CJ: You’re studying International Business, Finance, and Marketing at the University of Washington. What led you to those academic passions and why are you choosing to study them in a formal setting?

DC: The world is becoming more dependent on globalized trade and investment, and worldwide financial institutions are prominent. I want to contribute and become involved with the international network and I’m very interested in cross-cultural business. A business degree would also provide a strong foundation of skills and knowledge that is applicable to a wide range of careers. From critical and creative thinking to personal development, I am passionate about learning all things business!

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CJ: You are an Investment Assistant Intern at Rongtong Global Investment Limited in Hong Kong. That sounds very interesting. What do your duties entail as an intern?

DC: I assisted colleagues with a variety of tasks including organizing trade settlements in excel, managing an online banking system, reading paperwork, completing office tasks, and proofreading.

CJ: What have you learned from living in Hong Kong? What do you like to do there when you’re not interning?

DC: I learned to have patience, tolerance, and adaptability. The way of life in Hong Kong is extremely different to what I’m used to…a lot of people and very fast paced. However, I just went with the flow, immersed myself in the culture and it worked out just fine! The cuisine in Hong Kong is absolutely spectacular so I spent most of my time eating. If not that, I would be sightseeing.

CJ: Moving to another country for school or an internship can be intimidating and nerve-wracking for some. Did you feel this way? What advice do you have for those who are thinking about living abroad to work or study?

DC: I was a little nervous but was more excited! I would definitely advise them to take the opportunity. It is so valuable to see and experience different cultures, especially when you can stay in a place for longer periods of time. Have an open-mind and don’t be afraid to try new things. And take every event (positive or negative) as a learning experience!

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CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

DC: My best friends were in a troop and encouraged me to join. I loved the opportunities it gave me! I had the chance to lead, learn, experience new things, and meet new people that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I also greatly enjoyed camping-nothing better than sitting around a campfire singing songs with your best friends!

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

DC: Have patience, be confident, and help others!

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CJ: To earn your Gold Award in Girl Scouts, you set out to better prepare the City of Lakewood for emergency and disaster situations. You took a multi-faceted approach to your project, including educating residents, acquiring emergency kits for local schools, and even designing menus that can feed hundreds of residents for several days in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did the process of putting it together entail?

DC: I believe people need to be prepared. They need to have the information and knowledge so they can be ready when an emergency happens. I feel that knowing about First Aid and how to help people is very important. My mom’s family is from Thailand, and when the tsunami hit, I thought it was interesting to watch the process of aid. Global issues interest me, and I wanted to share that locally.

Lots of meetings! I honestly enjoyed them though. I had the opportunity to interact and connect with people which I love to do. I focused on using my organization and time management skills to orderly conduct my project. This includes identifying who I would work with, steps I would take, and not having a delay to take action. Additionally, I communicated with my advisor, my troop, and others who helped me. I also prepared the teaching/presentation materials and activities I would use for the public and the students to educate them and raise awareness. I assigned tasks to my team, and was able to take action and lead a sustainable project.

CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

DC: I had to really focus and hone my time management skills. I’m a visual person so I kept a planner. I allotted specific amounts of time for different tasks. However, I would sometimes procrastinate or underestimate the time to complete a task, but this project was definitely a learning process!

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

DC: My mentors constantly change-they depend on the time and situation. I believe life puts you in a situation where you build relationships with the people around you and a mentor-mentee relationship will naturally form.

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CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

DC: A good leader wants to serve and tries their hardest to make the best out of a situation for themselves and others. They make dreams and ideas become reality. And leaders follow their heart, but always do the right thing even when it is hard.

CJ: How do you define success?

DC: Overall, I believe happiness equates to success. Success is when we reach the point of living the life we truly want/desire, and found and fulfilled our purpose in life. Lastly, making a positive impact on the world and leaving a legacy should be part of someone’s success story!

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

DC: Be more diligent in learning and retaining a language. I wish I had focused on learning Mandarin.

Deelyn Cheng

Images by Deelyn Cheng

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

We met Kaitlyn Chana because we all did the same program, The Congressional Award, and we reached out to talk to her more about what she did to earn her Gold Medal from Congress. Little did we know at the time how ambitious and accomplished Kaitlyn is. She currently works as a Multimedia Journalist at the NBC affiliate WLBZ in Bangor, Maine. Kaitlyn covers a range of stories, develops sources, delivers news to an online audience, and provides dynamic live coverage, among many other duties.

Kaitlyn has also run her own non-profit organization, so she knows very well how important time management and being organized is for success. Kaitlyn is generous with her time and advice, and it is clear how passionate she is about helping others. Read on to learn more about what it means to be a multimedia journalist, what it was like running a non-profit, and what advice she would give to her younger self.

*Fun fact about Kaitlyn – she is profiled in our book, Youth’s Highest Honor!

Name: Kaitlyn Chana
Education:
B.A. Radio-Television from the University of Central Florida
Follow:
@KaitlynChana / KaitlynChana.com

Kaitlyn Chana: For me, it means taking advantage of the opportunities around you. Be a go-getter; go after your dreams by putting yourself out there so you can learn and prosper. As a teen, stretch your resources, push your personal boundaries, and challenge yourself daily. No one can teach you about yourself, except you.

CJ: You studied Broadcast Journalism and Radio/Television at University of Central Florida. How did you determine what to study?

KC: Since 6th grade, I’ve wanted to be a storyteller. As a reporter, you need to build rapport and trust while informing the public and providing objective standpoints surrounding the community. I’ve always wanted to tell stories for a living. Journalism fuels my curiosity of wanting to know more, so in college I couldn’t get enough of it. I’ve always known that journalism is my calling. Everyone in life has a personal story of excitement, love, desperation, hurt or a driven message. I want to be the journalist who strives for purpose, bringing truth, and helping others to open their hearts.

CJ: You have held many internships in journalism at places such as TODAY Show in New York City and WKMG in Orlando, Florida. What were these experiences like?

KC: Internships are key. I gained so much insight by observing and making mistakes. Yes, mistakes will happen, and that’s normal. But it’s important you learn from these mistakes so it doesn’t become a repeat offence. Interning at the TODAY Show was remarkable. I was involved in the news gathering process, setting up interviews, researching and working with the talent. Local markets, like WKMG in Orlando, taught me how to write short and concise stories. TV is all about sound, video, and images. Creativity is important in the news industry.

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CJ: You earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2010. How did you get involved with the Congressional Award and what was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

KC: I found this program intriguing because it allowed me to set and achieve goals that build character, foster community service, personal development and citizenship. This three-year commitment propelled me to become a motivated goal setter while being an interactive team player. I learned how to sculpt my schedule so I could juggle all my responsibilities. My greatest takeaway is balancing my activities and managing my time.

CJ: You are the Founder and President of Love Letters: Random Cards of Kindness. What inspired you to start this international non-profit organization, and what does your role entail?

KC: My inspiration came from an extraordinary woman named Linda Bremner, who founded Love Letters Inc., when her son, Andy, battled cancer. Having participated in a Girl Scout activity for Love Letters, Inc. years earlier, I revisited it when I needed to complete a community service project in eighth grade. After contacting Linda through email and phone conversations we formed a very meaningful friendship. At the close of one of our phone conversations she told me, “It only takes one person to move a mountain and then others will follow.” While I didn’t know exactly what she meant at the time, I wrote her beautiful quote in my book to always remember. Shortly after that, I received word that Linda had passed away and at her request the national organization, Love Letters Inc., was closed. My hands gravitated to Linda’s quote and I instantly realized that it was my turn to be the one to move the mountain to help children with medical challenges. It then became my passion to carry on Linda’s legacy by encouraging others to create inspiring homemade cards for children with life-threatening illnesses.

So, in high school I became the Founder and President of Love Letters: Random Cards of Kindness, Inc. which was a 501 (c) (3) non-profit national organization whose mission was to create positive and inspirational homemade cards for children with life-threatening illnesses. Each card was unique because it was created by hand using stamps, stickers, scrapbook paper, and art supplies. Inside each one an uplifting message such as “Sending You a Great Big Hug” or “You Shine like a Star” was written to give children faith, courage and the will to survive.

Once the cards were created, I’d examine each card and hand deliver some to individual children going through the difficult times of treatments and surgeries and others to hospitals and organizations such as Give Kids the World, the Ronald McDonald House, and Keiki Cards so they could distribute the sincere messages. The remaining cards were sent with love through the mail to help lift children’s spirits. Doctors can’t prescribe love; it’s typically left to a volunteer to fill this prescription by restoring the patient’s dreams. Through Love Letters cards we were able to touch the lives of 120,000 children with life-threatening illnesses. I had to close the organization because I couldn’t continue the success of our mission and my full-time reporting job. My passion is in telling stories and I want to inspire people with my pieces, so all my energy is devoted to reporting.

CJ: How did you go about starting a non-profit organization, and what do you wish you had known before launching?

KC: Starting a non-profit is truly like running a small enterprise business. It’s a lot of work, yet with the right tender, love and care the imaginable is possible. I took a non-profit course during my high school years so I could have a strong understanding of the legal documents associated with my organization. My responsibility not only centered around the actual volunteering, but also the finances, management, recruiting of volunteers, working on grants, marketing my mission, and being an active presence with the organization’s brand. It was a 24/7 job.

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CJ: In addition to running Love Letters, you are a multimedia journalist. What does it mean to be a multimedia journalist?

KC: A multimedia journalist or ‘one-man-band’ means you do the job of four people as one person. I have to enterprise my own story ideas, interview my subjects, write, edit, anchor that portion, write a web story, and have a strong social media presence. That’s all in a day’s work. It’s not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination because there are many deadlines. Deadlines can be your best friend or worst enemy. You always want to stay ahead of the clock. You need to be tech savvy; sometimes I edit my stories in remote places and feed the content back to the station. Also, I set up my own live shots and lights for when I’m going live in the field.

CJ: What advice do you have for youth who are interested in being journalists, or who are interested in starting their own non-profit organization?

KC: Never give up! Always follow your dreams and passion. Don’t let negative comments steer you into a direction you disagree with. There will be days when you feel like you’ve been run over by a semi-truck. That’s when you are going to be tested the most. So, pick yourself up, get back on track and keep going.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on school and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

KC: Currently, I work as a reporter for an NBC affiliate in Bangor, Maine. There is no general day! Every day is different depending on the story. Sometimes it’s an early morning live shoot covering breaking news or staying late to interview someone. The only thing that is constant is that we are live in our news shows from 5PM to 6:30PM. And I need to be ‘camera ready’ and look well-rested… news never stops and neither does my job. Every Monday is different. Once I go to bed, I get up the next day and get ready for another unpredictable day.

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

KC: Organization is key. If I wasn’t organized then I wouldn’t be effective or efficient, and I’d be left behind in my job. I’m very meticulous, to the point that everything in my office is color-coded and in similar binders and folders. My life revolves around calendars and sticky notes.

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

KC: At heart, I’m a perfectionist. I want everything to be perfect. But, how do we define perfection? I remind myself daily that being perfect all the time dampers the beauty of life. In reality, I want to be imperfectly perfect.

CJ: What is a book you read in school that has positively shaped you?

KC: In third grade, I read The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto, and it was almost as if the words on the page were speaking to me. The frigid temperatures, walloping snow, and miserable wind kept hounding lead dog, Balto, as he carried medicine to sick children miles away in Nome, Alaska. These incredible athletes were inspiring and moved me to want to be a musher in the Iditarod. For years, I studied the race, the remarkable dogs, and their mushers. As a reporter, I covered the Can-Am Crown 250 this year, which is a qualifier race for the Iditarod. I was beside myself as I got to see the sport in its entirety right before my eyes. A surreal experience; it started because of this book.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

KC: Each day I allot time for me; to work out, read a compelling story, spend time with family/friends, or do something life-affirming. Structure is fantastic, but you have to have a little ‘wiggle room’ to breath and let lose. On those sour days, it’s important for me to break down my walls and do something physical. I reflect on my actions best when working out on the Stairmaster.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

KC: Don’t rush yourself into growing up. Appreciate the ‘present’ and be in the ‘present.’ Learn to enjoy developing into the woman you’d like to see. It won’t happen overnight, so as you take detours and back roads reflect and appreciate all the avenues you’ve been given.

Kaitlyn Chana Qs

Images by Kaitlyn Chana

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to girl power, who does it better than the Girl Scouts? We’re huge fans of this empowering organization, especially because the Girl Scouts encourages learning, adventure, fun, friends, and dreaming big. We had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Stefanie Ellis, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington‘s Public Relations Director.

Stefanie is energetic, enthusiastic, and a lot of fun to talk to. Her career came about at a completely unexpected moment, but it turns out life throws curveballs at you and teaches you new things about yourself. Originally attending pastry school in London, Stefanie knew this wasn’t the career for her as soon as she saw a job listing as a writing specialist for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. Stefanie is very inspiring and optimistic, and we couldn’t be more excited to share her story with you.

Fun fact: the above photo is of Stephanie (right) with the country’s oldest living Girl Scout, Emma Otis.

Name: Stefanie Ellis
Education: B.A. in English with Secondary Certification from University of Missouri-Saint Louis
Follow: girlscoutsww.org / 52lovestories.com@stlfoodgirl
Location: Seattle, Washington

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Stefanie Ellis: I define it as living in the present moment and being very clear about who you are and what you want. Taking time to enjoy the challenges as well as the successes, and not letting either hold too much weight. It’s all about the journey.

It’s about trying, falling – maybe even tripping and ending up on your face – and then getting  back up. It’s about not giving up, not giving in to pressure or stereotypes and doing the things that matter to you. I also firmly believe that seizing your youth never stops just because you age. I’m still seizing my youth this very moment, and I don’t plan to stop!

CJ: What sparked your passion for public relations?

SE: I never set out be in public relations. In fact, I was pretty darned shy most of my life, and tended toward careers where I could play it safe behind-the-scenes. I’ve been a food writer for 15 years, and when I turned 30, decided to go to pastry school in London. I thought that’s where my life was headed, but I was diagnosed pre-diabetic three days before I left so I couldn’t eat any of the pastries.

I came home to Saint Louis and questioned what I was going to do with my life. I saw a job listing for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington as a writing specialist. Instantly pastry-making flew out the window and I knew that this was my job. I moved to Seattle and was a writing specialist for a few years, but then one day we had a big event for 7,000 girls, and I was doing all the marketing for the event.

The CEO came up to me and told me that we had been invited on the news to talk about it, and said they chose me to go. I laughed and politely declined. She asked why I was declining, and I told her I was shy. She told me I wasn’t. I politely thanked her again and told her that I know who I am. She said, “I challenge you to look again. I think that the woman who you really are isn’t necessarily the woman who you think you are.”

I agreed to go on TV thinking that if I embarrassed myself she would never ask me to go again. Turns out, I was pretty good. I would never have discovered that had someone not invited me to challenge my own perceptions. That basically was the changing point for my whole life. Shortly thereafter, the public relations person moved and I was invited to give the position a shot. That was nearly four years ago and I have had to stretch myself in ways I never thought I would.

I had to get over a lot of perceptions I had about myself and my abilities. I have been able to change my thinking, which is exactly the point of Girl Scouts. It allows you to stretch beyond who you thought you were and step into who you really are, while building a comfort level along the way. You get to choose how you’re going to share your gifts with the world. I owe so much of who I am now to Girl Scouts.

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CJ: As you mentioned, you went to pastry school (Le Cordon Bleu) in London. What was that experience like ?

SE: When I was in high school and college I waitressed, so I thought I knew what the food profession was like. I have so much more respect who are on their feet 18 hours a day, pouring their heart and soul into something for someone else. I learned about the art of creation. For me that happens to be food. I look at art very differently in the museum now.

It was an amazing experience because there were people from all around the world in one place. Everyone had to learn how to work together. I never cut my fingers more in my entire life. Those knives are so dangerous, and I never mastered the art of looking graceful while wielding a finger-cutting weapon!

CJ: What makes young people so important and why has their empowerment become a primary focus in your career and life?

SE: I believe everyone has a voice and sometimes young people don’t think they are allowed to use it, which is unfortunate to me. Organizations like Girl Scouts help young people see that they have a voice and gives them so many opportunities to practice using it. I didn’t find my voice until my thirties, but I spend my days watching everyone from age six to 18 develop skills, talents, find their strengths, and become empowered. They are the ones who will be leading us into the future, and we have a responsibility to nurture and support them in their journey.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the world of public relations?

SE: Talk to everybody everywhere you go. Even if it’s at the grocery store or in the aisle of a hardware store. Ask questions and make observations. Practice active communication. Communicating is something we’re born knowing how to do but not necessarily a skill that we develop, especially now with texting and social media. I truly believe these things can be a detriment to our ability to form and nurture relationships. I straddle both worlds, but prefer to live on the side where people actually sit across from each other and look one another in the eyes. I see so many people eating dinner together, but texting. We can’t lose conversation! We can’t lose real and meaningful relationship building. This isn’t just about PR – it’s about connection. I also believe these natural practices will dramatically influence how effective you’ll be in your career.

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CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

SE: An unexpectedly amazing part of my job that I don’t think I’d experience if I did not work where I work happened when I accidentally ran into Dave Matthews at the gym. My co-worker and I had been trying to figure out how we could incorporate him into our campaigns for years. When I ran into him I was unprepared, and knew I only had 15 seconds to ask him something!

I walked up to him and said, “Hey Dave, can I ask you a question?” And he said, “Yeah, sure!” And I said, “Would you ever consider dressing up as a Girl Scout Cookie?” He said, “I can honestly say that’s never been a dream of mine, but I love making people’s dreams come true, so I’ll think about it. Can I ask why you asked me that?” I was so caught off guard that I forgot to tell him where I worked! When I told him, he just smiled and said it made a lot more sense now. I love that I have a job where I can ask people silly things. I love that I can bring people cookies, and use my creative mind to dream up things that make people smile.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

SE: There’s no typical day in my job, which is what I love most about it. I might go on TV to talk about cookies; work on organizational campaigns and initiatives; build partnerships and collaborative opportunities with folks in the community who share our mission; pitch media stories about amazing things girls are doing; interview Girl Scout alumnae for our Awesome Woman series; write scripts, and coach girl speakers at our luncheons or give talks about Girl Scouts. Sometimes I dress up in a cookie costume just because it’s a Tuesday.

CJ: Leadership skills training is an important focus in the Girl Scouts – what are some ways young people can become better leaders?

SE: Join groups that focus on topics you’re interested in, and volunteer to have a lead or supervisory role. Talk to everyone. Watch the people who are heading things up, and see what they do. Make note of what you like and don’t like about their style. Same goes for when you’re in the work force. Watch people around you. See who inspires you the most, and take notes! Better yet, ask to interview them or go for coffee, and ask them for pointers and guidance for how you might get to a similar place in your own career.

The best things I learned about leadership came from my bosses. They were my best mentors. I loved how they were clearly in control, but never made big decisions without group input. They were fair and open. They wanted to see me succeed, so they asked me how they could help me reach my goals. It was amazing. All I had to do was watch and absorb. Then I learned how to be the kind of leader I admired, while sticking to my own personal style. That’s maybe the most important part: Don’t ever give up who you are! Just pepper who you are with awesome bits and pieces from those around you.

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

SE: For me it’s not to take anything personally. That’s one of the most difficult but simple things for most of us. I’m working on it one day at a time. In this line of work, you ask people a lot of things. I don’t believe that any dream is too big, so I ask everything. You ask and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

Sometimes you get attached to an idea and it’s a bummer when it doesn’t work out. Who knows why someone doesn’t agree to do something? It could be for a number of reasons. As long as you try and as long as you ask, you’re golden. If someone says no or doesn’t respond, move on to the next idea.

It never hurts to follow up, though. I always tell younger people to politely bug people they want to talk to. There’s a right and a wrong way. As long as you are kind and gracious and can respect personal boundaries, most people won’t mind. I never mind it. When I’m busy and forget, I appreciate when people remind me.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

SE: I cook and bake. I cook dinner every night no matter how stressed out I am. I eat chocolate. I lay on my couch and call someone I love. I always plan a reward for myself. At the end of cookie sales, for example, I’ll treat myself to a trip somewhere. Or I’ll look forward to my favorite tea when I get home.

CJ: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?

SE: Oprah Winfrey. She is a powerhouse, and she worked very hard and for a long time to get there. She never gave up, and look where that got her. She’s the poster child for tenacity, and I’d want to high five her, then ask her for advice!

CJ: What is your favorite book?

SE: Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

SE: Stop worrying! Just go with the flow a lot more. I was and still am ambitious and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I worked really hard. But I don’t think I allowed myself enough grace and room to relax and breathe. I was maybe too focused on all the things I needed to do, which really took me away from focusing on the present moment, which is all we have. There’s nothing wrong with having goals or planning for the future, but a lot of times it can take you away from where you are right now. Mellow out a little bit, darling!

Stefanie Ellis Qs

Images by Stefanie Ellis

CultureEducationTravel

Backpacking through the Trinity Alps, kayaking down the Salmon River, conversing with local school children in rural Chile…these experiences are just the norm at the Alzar School.  And Elena Press, a sophomore at Upper Dublin High School, located outside of Philadelphia, was one of just ten participants in its Fall 2013 session.  From mid-August through the end of December, Elena attended the fully accredited semester school, partaking in the schools “Six Foundations:” leadership training, academics, outdoor adventure, service learning, cultural exchange, and environmental stewardship.  The school, based on a 100-acre campus in Cascade, Idaho, is for motivated sophomore and junior students.  Students participate in significant outdoor expeditions, learning to whitewater kayak, backpack, rock climb, surf, ski, snowshoe, and more. Its academics are challenging, all honors and Advanced Placement, and the leadership opportunities that are provided are what Elena describes as “once-in-a-lifetime.” But these high level courses are distinctly different from those familiar to a traditional high school. The Alzar School emphasizes critical analysis, creative thinking, and effective communication, while using its unique resources to provide a vast variety of hands-on experiences for its students.

Elena Press elaborates:

Before beginning the process, I was hesitant to depart my highly regarded high school, as well as the town I had lived in my whole life.  Leaving behind friends, family, school, clubs, and activities would be an immense sacrifice. Of most concern, since I was missing a semester of my customary education, was how this would impact my future?  A typical worry of many teenagers is college.  Many students, including me, wonder: What classes should I take?  How can I earn the best grades?  Should I get more involved in my community and service projects?  How many awards can I receive in my high school years?  Yet colleges love seeing students partake in unique activities and take risks, two items surely fulfilled by an experience at the Alzar School!

A frequent activity of the students at the Alzar School is kayaking. Students kayak in Idaho, Oregon, California and Chile, providing many opportunities for a first-time kayaker, like me, to increase their knowledge of this riveting sport. I vividly remember staring with wide eyes and quaking in fear as I gingerly paddled in my kayak, mortified at the prospect of going down Snow Hole, a Class IV rapid. My instructors insured me that I was capable and reviewed the line with me multiple times. Then, I went down. I did it! And I flipped over and swam out. Consequently, I discovered that kayaking is absolutely thrilling; you can choose to challenge yourself however much you desire. The uncertainty of being under the water’s influence taught me to push myself, but kayaking is all about community; my friends and I learned many lessons from each other, and constantly supported and cheered one another on, whether doing a flip in the air, or leading down a rapid for the first time.  This is one of the reasons why the Alzar School integrates a large amount of kayaking into the students’ time.  The school considers it a great medium for empowering young leaders.

Of the five months spent at the Alzar School, students spend two weeks traveling through the Northwest, six weeks in Chile, and the remainder of the time in Idaho.  When traveling to Chile, students fully immerse themselves in the culture, vastly improving their Spanish skills by participating in a homestay program, attending a Chilean school and conversing with locals. By traveling through Chile, I discovered that smiles and laughter can break even the strongest barriers of age, language, and culture. The traveling opportunities are not presented purely to allow the students to experience new places, but to open their hearts and minds to other parts of the world, and an unknown culture.  All these contribute to the ultimate goal…to empower and teach young individuals to become leaders in our world today.

Throughout the semester, I learned to plan and lead expeditions and service projects. Alumni continue to develop the leadership skills they acquired from their time at the Alzar School by creating a Culminating Leadership Project to make a difference in their home communities and the world.  The goal of my CLP, Girls Outdoor, is to foster an appreciation of the environment by exposing young girls to the outdoors.  I’m planning and taking 19 Girl Scouts on a three day camping trip. This will involve, among other things, teaching them Leave No Trace principles, risk management, and camping planning.

My semester at the Alzar School was the peak of my high school career and a highlight of my life. The greatest benefits that I acquired from the experience were figuring out who I am as a person and becoming confident in that person, while gaining a support group of the most incredible lifelong friends and mentors from all over the world. From chopping wood, to teaching Chilean kids how to kayak, I’ve never had more fun doing anything. I overcame limits, fell a lot and laughed even more, and found out quite a bit about myself in the process. I wish that every high school student could partake in an experience like the Alzar School offered me.

 Elena encourages anyone who is interested in the Alzar School to check it out.  For more information, visit www.alzarschool.org