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Three teens ready 2 change 1 world

Three Park High School teens from Cottage Grove spent eight weeks last summer learning how they can change the world.

They found themselves changed in the process.

All three received scholarships from the Louis August Jonas Foundation to attend camps where they learned about world issues, and how they can make a difference.

Shane Penn went to Camp Redhook for boys and Nicole Winters went to Camp Clinton for girls, both in upstate New York, for eight weeks. Janessa Schilmoeller, who attended Camp Clinton in the summer of 2005, went to Denmark. The Louis August Jonas Foundation awards both stateside and international scholarships.

Teens apply for scholarships, which are awarded for intellect, character, leadership potential, individuality and success in interviews. Penn and Winters were two of four scholarships given in Minnesota to the New York camps. The only charge to campers is plane fare.

Schilmoeller said she took part in many of the same leadership programs in Denmark, but the experience of living in Europe gave her a new perspective.

"I'm learning to speak German and want to learn Spanish and Arabic," she said. "The experience expanded my horizons and I'm thinking of focusing on international studies in college now that I have friends who speak all these languages."

Instead of living in a camp setting, Schilmoeller stayed with other students in a house. "We lived like a family," she said.

"They told me it was the hottest summer in Denmark, but I didn't think it was hot at all," she said, adding she didn't care for the food that was served but enjoyed making many new friends.

"I felt more inspired this time," Schilmoeller said. "I learned that it doesn't take a lot of people to effect changes in society."

Her group made and sold T-shirts with the profit going to Cease Fire in Israel.

"It doesn't have to be huge," she said, "It can be little. The world isn't going to change unless we start. I am going to change the world."

"And I'm going to help," said Shane Penn.

New York campers lived in tents on wooden platforms.

During free time, Penn joined other campers to build a tree house swing and a Navaho hogan.

"Clocks and watches were taken away," he said, "to prove we didn't have to be slaves to a clock."

Penn learned how to fence, do martial arts and appreciate "slam poetry," which is similar to rap.

In turn, he wrote a lesson and taught others how to make a duct-tape wallet.

Penn put out a 22-page newspaper, "the longest one that summer," he said, with a section on culture and another on world problems.

"I learned to trust people," Penn said. "I had trouble with that before."

His experience transferred to his behavior at home. "I do dishes a lot more. I had fun doing it at camp. I clean up and don't just lay around."

Nicole Winters said her summer experience included personal insights.

"I learned a lot about myself," she said. "I learned to be more patient with people."

"A lot of people judge others," Winters said. "You need to get to know someone before you judge them."

She took part in a "hunger banquet," and was in the low-income group that only got a little rice while another group of girls received a lavish meal with flowers on the table and ice cream.

"I understand what hunger is all about," she said having participated in a similar program at her church.

The group that got all the food felt so guilty they couldn't eat it, according to Winters, who would like to host a similar banquet at Park High School as a fundraiser.

"It only takes a little money to buy a farm animal for a village to help them produce food," she said.

For the first half of the camp, Winters said she wanted to participate in all the activities.

"I'm very self motivated and get good grades," she said. "But I learned I don't have to do everything. I learned to wind down."

Winters is considering a medical career and wants to work with children.

All three teens want to return to the camps as counselors and Winters and Schilmoeller are looking into what it takes to join the Peace Corps.

"I want to make a difference," Winters said.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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