Today marks the first of monthly conversations I will be having with teens who are TEEN-ACIOUS. In a word, tenacious is determined, and if you stick around for the following interview, and all those to follow, you will see that our world is full of Young Adults who are determined to do good things. In fact, each month when I feature a teen, I will be looking for him or her to focus on one of these questions: WHATCHA READIN’, WHATCHA WRITIN’, OR WHATCHA DOIN’?
I didn’t have to ask the question of Penelope Chirolde, because she happens to be my next door neighbor for a little while longer, and all I have to do is look out my window to see that she’s been DOIN’ enough good stuff to make your head swim. I knew Penelope was in for an awesome adventure when her parents asked me to write a letter of encouragement that she would receive during a long trip sponsored by Teens Camping Tour of the West. When I looked into TCTW, I found that it had been organized some 47 years ago with the purpose of fostering leadership and spiritual development in teens on the premise that raising up spiritually strong leaders leads to a better world.
LP: Penelope, I’m so glad to welcome you as my very first Teen-acious Teen, and I’m anxious to hear all about WHATCHA BEEN DOIN’. Most immediately, I’m dying to hear all about your fabulous summer adventure.
PC: I just got back from a 23-day camping trip with TCTW (Teens Camping Tour of the West) where I slept in campgrounds with fifty-nine other teens, ages 15 to 19, from around the country as we traveled to California. Along the way we had constant talks that reminded us to love ourselves, love others, appreciate nature, realize that we were given unique gifts, and that it’s our responsibility to use those gifts to help others back home.
LP: Wow, it sounds like a wonderful trip. How did you hear about it?
PC: I originally went to a slide show with my friend, Amy Grace, to support another friend, Hilal, who had told us about it. It seemed unrealistic for me to go on the trip, but when I told my parents about it, they really wanted me to go!
LP: What were your feeling before and after the trip?
PC: I was very nervous about making friends because I tend to get shy around strangers and I was going to be surrounded by at least sixty of them! But after the trip, I realized I had a better understanding of myself and others and I definitely appreciate the great outdoors more. I didn’t really come to the trip expecting anything except having a good time, and I did.
LP: What was the most challenging part of the trip for you?
PC: Being away from home for that long was definitely the most challenging. I had never been away for more than four days before this trip and twenty-three days is a long time to be away. I also didn’t have many opportunities to speak to my parents on the trip because we weren’t allowed to bring our cell phones. I was actually glad about that, and stopped using my phone a day before the trip, so I would be ready!
LP: Have you had time to read this summer, and if so, what have you read? What is your favorite genre?
PC: Yes! On the trip we were required to read some books before day twenty. There were books available on the van, and I chose Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I’m also reading 1984 by George Orwell and I’m enjoying it. My favorite genre is fiction, and one of the best I’ve read (and of course I’ve seen the movie) is The Fault in our Stars by John Green.
LP: Oh, I’m with you there. I don’t usually cry at movies, but I sniffled all the way through that one! Before we leave, I want to hear about PFO, another program you are involved in during the school year. I know that on their website they say this: “Playing for Others (PFO) provides a space for teens to explore and answer the questions, “Who Am I?” and “How will I give of that?” through programming in Personal Development, Service and the Arts.” Tell us how this translated into your own experience.
PC: The best part for me was the Buddy program, which means I mentored a nine-year-old child with cerebral palsy. We couldn’t communicate verbally, but we were able to connect in other ways. Each month all the PFO participants met together with their buddies and joined in a group activity. At the end of the school year, we produced the play Thirteen and all of our buddies came to see it. I plan to stay with this program through high school, and next year I will have a different buddy.
LP: I’m all about living a balanced life and maintaining a good mental attitude. It sounds like you are on the right track, Penelope. Any advice for your peers as you head back to school for your Junior year at Providence?
PC: Going into the school year with a positive attitude will go a long way, because dreading it isn’t going to help.
LP: I know you have a specific reason for this advice. Care to share?
PC: I knew we were moving before I went on my trip, but I didn’t think it would be this soon and I didn’t think I would have to leave Myers Park High. When my parents told me (in the car on the way home from my western trip) I freaked out, because I was really worried about losing my friends. But I know now it will be good for me to meet new people, and one of my new friends will be Justine, a foreign exchange student from France that will live with us and go with me to Providence.
LP: Penelope, thanks for telling us WHATCHA BEEN DOIN’ and best of luck at your new school. With all the things you have going on in your busy and productive life, I’m sure you will have a successful Junior year.
ATTENTION PARENTS AND TEACHERS: If you know of a TEEN-ACIOUS TEEN who is reading, writing, or doing something tenaciously, I will love to give them the spotlight on this page!!