Students Explore Summer Possibilities.


David Becker, Staff Writer

Miramonte students are nothing less than extraordinary in the classroom, which would lead many to believe that they must be trekking mountains and saving lives with all of their free time during the summer. Well, that assumption isn’t too far off. A few lucky Miramonte students were given opportunities to do things like work in cancer research labs and travel overseas this past summer.

Juniors Kyle Rechnitz and Adam Noble traveled with North America Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) to Israel from June 24 to July 23. In that month, Rechnitz and Noble, along with 47 other Jewish teenagers from the Bay Area, traveled throughout the whole country: from the dreadful heat of the Negev Desert, to the salty water of the Dead Sea, to the culturally diverse capital city of Jerusalem.

One of Rechnitz’s highlights from the trip was the Dead Sea. “I loved the weightless feeling of the Dead Sea; it was a whole new experience,” Rechnitz said. Rechnitz was able to float in the Dead Sea is because the salt content of the Dead Sea is 33.7 percent. That is around 10 times the salt level of the Atlantic Ocean.

Another upside to the trip was making new friends. “Since you are isolated with a group of people for a month, it isn’t difficult to make new friendships that can last forever,” Noble said.

One of the biggest challenges for the travelers was the lack of sleep and the early morning hikes. “Sleep was precious,” Noble said. “We were forced to wake up at three in the morning a couple of times so we would beat the heat when we went on hikes.”

One of the times they had to wake up early was to climb the mighty Mt. Shlomo. “The early wake up was worth it; the view was spectacular from the top,” said Noble. From the top of Mt. Shlomo you can see four countries: Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

Another mountain Rechnitz and Noble hiked up was Masada. “The hike up was easier up than down,” Rechnitz said. “Fifteen minutes up and a half an hour down.”

Sophomore Andrew Deaver traveled to South Africa. Deaver, along with his family, went to Kruger National Park, Gansbaii, and Cape Town. Their three-week journey to South Africa started on June 24 and ended on July 11.

Deaver’s favorite part of the trip was shark cage diving in Gansbaii. “It was an unbelievable experience that I will never forget. Being in the cage really puts things into perspective and shows you how massive these creatures are,” Deaver said.

Sophomore Stefan Marinac traveled to Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary in a total of 15 days. In those 15 days, he walked around the streets of each country with his family.

His favorite part of the trip was wandering the streets of Berlin and eating street food. “Being able to eat wurst (German sausage) everyday was the best part of the trip,” Marinac said. He wishes to go back to Salzburg when he is older.

One of the downsides of his trip was being in a rush all of the time. “We had a really tight schedule in Europe and every place we went was really crowded so it took a long time to get everywhere,” he said.

Senior Lucy Baker participated in a three-week long program at the Infectious Diseases Institute in Emory’s Pre-College program. “I knew I wanted to go to ‘Nerd Camp’ but after a little looking and a lot of guessing, I chose the one that sounded the nerdiest,” Baker said. She and her class of eight people were essentially college freshmen: staying in the dorms, eating in the dining halls, and even using their own ID cards which gave them a discount at J. Crew, a huge plus for Baker. She worked alongside Jim Curran, the man who changed GRID to AIDS, Bill Foege, the man who eradicated smallpox (Baker’s personal hero), and Gene Gangarossa, whose work with Cholera has been making a substantial impact worldwide.

She participated as a full-fledged lab member, doing everything from changing cell’s media, counting their confluency, and tagging them with UV tags to see under the microscope. “It was mildly nerve-wracking, but utterly fascinating and wonderful,” Baker said.

She said that the program left a monumental impact on her and solidified her hopes to go into oncology someday. “The program is open to juniors and I recommend it to everyone,” Baker said.

Senior Brigitte Legallet worked at a Christian camp called Young Life Capernaum, which works strictly with kids who have special needs, like Legallet’s sister Genna, who’s been part of the program for years. There are about 25 campers with special needs and 25 leaders, each assigned to one camper. Unique activities at the camp include water-sliding into the huge man-made lake, paddle boarding, kayaking, and playing games in the large mud pit.

Legallet thinks that the volunteer aspect really brought her closer with the other leaders and helped them bond with the campers.

“It was an amazing experience. It was hard work to connect with someone who has a disability, but it was a challenge that led to an amazing friendship. I can’t wait to go back again next year,” Legallet said.

Senior Lina Mathkour was one of two Orinda Rotarians from Miramonte who was selected to participate in a week-long camp called Camp Royal, the Rotary Youth Leadership Award Conference held each June in Northern California. At the camp, they listened to speakers who stressed the importance of hope and what it takes to be a good leader.

One of Mathkour’s favorite parts of the camp was the symbolic rope course. It represented problems that are placed in their paths and how they acted out how to overcome these challenges as leaders. When Mathkour was not overcoming challenges, she was swimming in the lake nearby, lounging on the grass, and making new friends who she says she’ll keep for a lifetime.