Amy Spens teaches us how to win awards: Get dirty!

On Tuesday, May 17 at the Chamber’s 32nd Annual Awards luncheon Amy Spens will be receiving a Community Award for Environmental Excellence from the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce.  The award, which is normally given to an adult, recognizes her work for and commitment to the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

Amy and Friends at a Mountain to Sound Event

So how does a high school senior win such an award?  It is probably best to let Amy tell you in her own words. “Most of my outdoor volunteer work has happened with the Mountains to Sound Greenway. When I was little I was one of those kids you can’t keep clean. I’d ruin one pair of jeans in the dirt, then change into a fresh pair and roll into a mud puddle. Needless to say my mom was not pleased (and now I understand why!)”

Amy hiking on Granite Mountain

“Nowadays, I still love playing in the dirt, and volunteering with the Greenway gives me plenty of opportunities to work with my hands, teach others, and yes, get dirty. After almost 3 years I’ve accumulated over 400 volunteer hours, led multiple Summer Camps for kids from 11-18, and spoken in front of the director of the National Forest Service to convince him of the Greenway’s importance as a National Heritage site (the speech was also for the “America’s Great Outdoors Act”.)”

“Additionally, I just found out that I’ve been chosen from almost 800 applicants to receive a Teens in Public Service internship for the summer. Teens in Public Service partners with local non-profits to provide students ages 13 to 19 with minimum-wage summer jobs in a variety of categories: seniors homes, conservation groups, and summer-school tutoring programs; all receive TIPS interns to work 20-30 hours a week, for 6-8 weeks. I’ll be working with the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society on grounds maintenance, plant collection/documentation/mapping, volunteer event coordination, and public event organization. I’m very excited to be working outside in the sunshine all summer!”

And just in case you were wondering, yes, this is the same Amy Spens who is a National Merit Finalist this year.

Guess getting dirty pays off.

The Stars Come Out At Hillside!

Late last month, the Hillside 8th graders shared some of what they learned in their astronomy night with the Hillside Community in during Astronomy Night. The students each developed a travel advertisement for a location in our solar system. Brochures, posters, and even sandwich boards worn by Ari and Andreas told guests of the wonderful sights and activities to be found at destinations such as the Asteroid Belt, Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, and Saturn. Potential travelers were also warned of hazards such as being poisoned by hydrogen sulfide clouds on Venus, or freezing to death on Neptune.

Although the advertisement projects were wonderful, the highlight of the evening for me was watching the students’ presentations on their chosen astronomy topics. The students prepared well and presented themselves professionally, teaching their parents, peers, and teachers about their chosen topics. We learned about the astronomical significance of ancient European megaliths, the life and discoveries of Johannes Kepler, the causes, myths, and history of eclipses, the life cycle of stars, the life of an astronaut, the history and future of Mars exploration, the fields of astrochemistry and astrobiology, and the potential for deriving energy from space based solar power in the future. It was a fascinating evening, and I think the students impressed even themselves with what they were able to accomplish.

Hillside’s Alex Nolan opens in “Macbeth”

 Alex Nolan, one of Hillside’s own veteran actors, will be taking the stage tonight at Studio-East’s production of Macbeth, directed by Simon Pringle.  Alex will be lending her considerable talent and experience to the roles of Duncan, King of Scotland and Siward, Earl of Northumberland, general of the English forces.

The play, known among theatre circles as “The Scottish Play” because it is said to bring bad luck if the actual title is spoken, is a tale of brutality and deception.  It shines a light on some of our more base instincts.  It’s not an easy play to perform under the best circumstances but the teen ensemble has had some unusual challenges.

The decision to do the play came only in January.  Alex was actually out of town competing in a horse show when the rumors began to fly that the ensemble would be given the opportunity to perform.  A little later the “official email” arrived giving the members a choice between Twelfth Nightor Macbeth. Alex and her fellow actors were hands down in favor of Macbeth.

The late announcement lead to a shortened rehearsal period worked around other groups that were using the space – not the easiest of conditions.  But Alex refers to her fellow actors as “dedicated, hard working, loving what they are doing and exhausted.”  In fact, they are so engaged in the process that the group is hoping to mount their own production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a park this summer.

Alex as Starveling in Studio East’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Asked what has been the most challenging aspect of the production for her, Alex points to the scene where Siward learns that his son has died in battle.  Alex wants to convey the depth of feeling behind Siward’s stoic façade; to get the audience to reflect on the loss before the moment is swept away by the dramatic entrance of McDuff with Macbeth’s bloody head.

Alex has spent a lot of time honing her theatrical skills. She went to theatre camp until she was twelve or thirteen, spent some time with the Bellevue Youth Theatre, joined Studio East’s Teen Ensemble for their recent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and of course has had many wonderful roles in the dramatic productions staged at Hillside.

Alex loves being part of the Hillside drama program, “Jean does a great job with it, teaching kids the skills needed to be good actors and building their confidence at the same time.” She explained, “If you’re going to be in a play, you need to trust in others, and be able to live up to the trust others have in you…. I love how many people come out of the Hillside drama program willing to take risks and to look silly, knowing that the play will be better and they will have more fun for having done so.”  Alex also appreciates the improvisational work she does in the weekly drama class, “That is actually a pretty rare thing in youth theater today; a solid improv education can be a huge deal. I know lots of really talented young actors who freeze up when you ask them to act without a script. So I’d say the Drama program at Hillside is fantastic.”

Please go see the performance. It should be an amazing show. And then come back here and share your experience in the comment section of this post.

“Macbeth” will be performed by Studio East’s Teen Ensemble on April 29, 30 and May 6, 7 at 7:30.  More info at (425) 820-1800 www.studio-east.org — all tickets $10.

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