Teens Become Mentors at Camp

Article excerpt

Alex Mazanowski, of Berlin, Somerset County, made a couple of new friends at summer camp, and he plans to keep in touch with them over the next school year.

Although he's going to be a junior at Berlin Brothersvalley High School, he doesn't mind that the boys are just in sixth and seventh grades.

He'll be like a big brother to them, and that's what the summer camp he attended was all about.

Kristen Faidley, 16, of Meyersdale, Somerset County, also befriended two younger girls, ages 8 and 10, at the same mountain camp and is going to be like their big sister.

Mazanowski, 16, and Faidley, a high school junior in the Meyersdale School District, trained to be mentors at Outdoor Odyssey's Leadership Academy 2006, a high-adventure camp in Boswell where teens learn to be role models for younger, at-risk kids in their own home towns.

"There are some little kids out there who might be going the wrong way and they need help and guidance," Mazanowski said. "I wanted to help them out."

He became familiar with the camp three years ago when his older sister, Lauren, trained to be a mentor and was assigned to two young girls from their district.

"I liked what the camp was all about, how everybody there is so upbeat and positive," Mazanowski said. "It's unbelievable. You wouldn't think there would be that much energy anywhere."

This is the eighth season for the camp, which was founded by retired Marine Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Jones.

"In high school, I was on probation for the second time, and one person interceded and changed everything," Jones said at one of the orientations held for parents.

Jones, 59, attended college and joined the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War. He made a career of military life and retired from a Pentagon position to pursue his lifelong dream of giving other kids the same chance that someone gave him.

When he heard that the former Boy Scouts camp was for sale, he began the long process of purchasing it and turning it into a high- adventure camp that challenges teenagers to become leaders and enables younger children to strive to be their best.

Jones is the president and executive director of Outdoor Odyssey, and his son, Brandon, 33, serves as director of operations. Of the 24 people on staff, 18 are former mentors, and most of them are in college.

Recruitment begins in January, and this year there were more than 1,000 applicants to fill 260 slots. …