What I did on my summer vacation...

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By ELENA LEVENSON

Editor's note: Can you go back to school without asking? We found some OPRF students whose summer experiences went beyond hangin' at the pool. Elena Levenson?#34;editor of OPRF's student paper this fall?#34;spent her summer as a WJ intern.

 

If a coach were to offer Oak Park and River Forest High School junior Scott McAdams steroids, McAdams would know exactly what to do.

"First, I would ask him why he thinks I should, and after he gave his reasoning, I would explain to him why they're bad for you, why I shouldn't do it, and other ways you can get bigger or stronger," McAdams said.

"So instead of just saying 'No,' you get the other person to understand."

McAdams is one of four OPRF junior-athletes who attended the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Camp at a Colorado ranch this summer to learn refusal, help and self-help skills.

"It was awesome. We would get up in the morning at 6:30, and...we'd go horseback-riding, got out to the ropes course, whitewater rafting, paintballing," he said. "There was also a fitness room with a pool and a spa. We'd hang out there when we had free time?#34;not that we had much free time."

The athletes?#34;two OPRF boys one week, two OPRF girls the next?#34;spent most of the seven-day leadership sessions discussing drugs and alcohol and role-playing.

"At the beginning of class, we would take a quote and analyze it...then we would go over an activity that would help us reflect on our lives," McAdams said.

He and the other three juniors who attended J. Kyle Braid this summer, along with some former J.K.B. kids, hope to visit area junior high schools to discuss what they've learned at camp.

 

Senior Amanda Roeder may be an accomplished actress with credits from OPRF's theatre program and Circle Theatre in Forest Park, but that doesn't mean she doesn't get nervous.

On her second day at Northwestern University's National High School Institute theatre program (commonly known as Cherubs), participants had to perform a monologue, a process that Roeder described as "really nerve-wracking.

"I think it's a lot more stressful because we knew that everyone on the faculty was very talented, and...that our peers were very talented," she said. Some were people that Roeder already knew. "But there were people from all over," she said. "My roommate was from Sweden."

Cherubs don't have much time to spend in their rooms: classes went from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Then the students had group meetings, lunch, and elective classes until 5 p.m., and, after an hour break, rehearsals until 10 p.m.

Classes were intense. "Our voice and movement teacher made us run up and down stairs, and one day-?#34;it was like hell-?#34;we'd be running around, and he'd tell us to drop [and do push-ups]," Roeder said.

If this experience sounds like a sports camp, don't be fooled: Roeder also took classes in dialect, Alexander technique, and character exploration.

The third class was a particular favorite of hers, Roeder said. "It was really cool, actually, because of my teacher, Michael Fogworth. He did a one-man show for us [where] he had been his whole family, and the next day [in class], we had to be our parents."

The class changed how she thinks about developing a character, Roeder said, and helped her prepare for her role in one of the Cherubs shows.

But while each of the Cherubs shows had two performances, Roeder's favorite part of camp was going to class.

"The great thing about the camp was that I learned so many different things every day, because the teachers just threw everything they knew at you," Roeder said. "They kept talking about how it was going to be a life-changing experience and that you'd have friends for life...I think I just feel like I'm just more comfortable with myself. And I did end up making amazing friends."

 

Sophomore Noby Edwards spent the summer learning Swahili, camping on top of Ngorongoro Crater, and studying Masai culture as one of 13 students who took field biology on OPRF's first summer trip to Tanzania.

"I'd never been to Africa before, so it was a whole new world of things to do," Edwards said.

She found out about the two-week trip from her biology teacher, Jamie Bender.

"I visited Tanzania two years ago, and realized that it was really the perfect location to visit with students," Bender said. "Tanzania not only has the wildlife/conservation aspect, it's also called the Cradle of Life...humans are thought to have evolved there six million years ago."

In addition, she said, "Tanzania is, as far as Africa goes, a very safe country."

Bender submitted a proposal to the OPRF administration and within eight months had developed an itinerary.

"We stayed at three different lodges, and then we camped for two days in Serengeti National Park on top of Ngorongoro Crater," Edwards recalled. "We didn't see anything [while camping], but you could hear some [animals]...I've never really been camping before, so I was a little shocked."

Other highlights of the trip included visiting a model Masai village, where tribespeople demonstrated everyday activities; participating in a community service project through Roots and Shoots, a program founded by Jane Goodall; and visiting a Tanzanian school.

"They taught Swahili there for a day. We got to meet the kids...they spoke English really well," Edwards said. The OPRF kids' Swahili, though, wasn't quite as good.

"It was a little pathetic, to tell you the truth."

The teens didn't study too much while traveling, although they did in the months before the trip. They completed homework, wrote natural history reports and took a final. The trip was part of a field biology class, for which the students will receive a year of science credit.

Bender hopes to offer the trip again in summer 2007, which would allow students more time for fundraising.

"I'm so happy with the way it turned out," she said. Edwards, too, found the trip to be "amazing," adding, "I would do it again in a heartbeat."

 

While his classmates may have gone abroad to hone their French or Spanish language skills this summer, junior Andy Soffer traveled to Evanston and learned Java.

The computer programming language is one of the myriad topics offered at Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development, which hosts three weeks of summer classes for students entering grades one through 12.

Soffer has attended the camp off-and-on for four summers. For the past two, he has focused on computer science, learning C++ and Java.

"You write programs, you learn certain techniques...you go through classic problems that come up, like how to sort a bunch of numbers the best way," Soffer explained. "I just find it interesting, the different techniques that the programming people use."

As a resident this summer (campers can also commute), Soffer also got to experience life in Evanston. A typical day there was much like at school: class started at 8:30 a.m. and continued until 3 p.m, with a break for lunch.

After class, the students played sports and took trips to downtown Chicago. Trips to the beach were also an option, although, Soffer said, "no one really went on those."

Friday-night field trips, however, were mandatory, and while students could choose where to go, the trips weren't always welcome.

"I chose Ravinia because I was told there was space to play Frisbee," Soffer said, "but as soon as we arrived, we were told, 'You can't have that here.' It sucked, we had to listen to classical music for...three hours."

Despite this minor aggravation, summer camp will yet prove useful for Soffer. He will be able to use his C++ and Java skills this fall as the webmaster for the OPRF high school newspaper, Trapeze.

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