1 As you read this, Ariel Vardy is on his way to a seriously big adventure. The recent Skyline High School grad from Sammamish will spend a gap year — a non-academic year between high school and college — as a fellow of the Global Citizen Year program. After seven weeks of training, first at Stanford and then in Dakar, he’ll spend seven months in a remote Senegalese village. He won’t find out which one until he gets to Dakar, but expects “a rural and possibly undeveloped village” with minimal electricity and other conveniences. Senegal’s national language is French, but Ariel — who speaks decent Spanish and passable Hebrew — will likely need to learn some Wolof, the typical tribal language.
Ariel decided to take a gap year when he didn’t get into his preferred college. He was influenced by three weeks volunteering for the Israeli army last year, living on a base “overlooking Syria and Lebanon” with volunteers “from all over the world.” He says it “made me more interested in seeing other cultures.”
He thinks the Israeli approach to college, in which most students have completed military service and travelled abroad, results in a more mature student who is eager to learn. He hopes his gap year will have that effect on him.
“If I am more experienced living in the world I will make better choices,” Ariel says.
Global Village Year was started three years ago by Abigail Falik, who looked to create a Peace Corps-style program for high school students. Ariel admires Falik and her attempts to change the fact that only 1 percent of Americans come in contact with our planet’s more than 1 billion people living in poverty. (The World Bank estimates 1.4 billion live on less than $1.25 a day.) The point of the program is primarily just to live in that world, though students can help with projects if asked.
A pianist and singer who plays in a rock band, Ariel went to the Jewish Day School, where his mother, Nancy Cohen-Vardy, is a teacher. An alum of Young Judaea leadership camp Tel Yehuda, he’s also been to Israel a few times. His family attends Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation, where Ariel got to deliver a d’var Torah before he left.
An aficionado of endurance sports, Ariel recently rode his bike from Sammamish to Vashon Island and back in one day. “I’ve been on 16-hour bike rides, 12-hour walks…I feel like this trip is one big endurance activity.”
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Is it good news or bad news that Kevin Brashem and the 12 bachelors featured in the “Mensch of the Month” calendar got to keep their shirts on? (Photo by Elizabeth Margarita Shapiro)
Speaking of mensches (menschen, really), Kevin Brashem has earned himself a page on the “Mensch of the Month: Chosen but not Taken” calendar, featuring eligible Jewish bachelors from the San Francisco area. Kevin was nominated by a friend as the “perfect example of a Nice Jewish Boy” and was chose from a pool of 50 nominees.
Last we featured Kevin, a.k.a. Mr. February, it was 2005 and he was a high school student at Bellevue’s International School, receiving his Eagle Scout badge for a youth literacy project.
Even back then he had a combined love of helping and adventure, and had logged 700 hours with King County Explorer Search and Rescue. Now he’s a trained paramedic-firefighter in Santa Clara, Calif., where he stayed after graduating from Santa Clara University in 2010 with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering.
Right now he works part time in his field and volunteers at his local fire department while looking for a full-time position in that competitive profession. It’s important, he says, to “put in your time and prove to firefighters and crews that you’re a good hard worker and they want you around.”
The not-for-profit calendar is available for $20.13 at www.menschofthemonth.com. It benefits SMART, an educational non-profit, which helps high-achieving, low-income children attain academic and personal success (www.thesmartprogram.org).
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Runner Terry Robinson, who will spend next July competing for Team USA in Israel’s Maccabi games. (Courtesy Terry Robinson)
Terry Robinson, who won the men’s division of the Seafair Torchlight Run 5K with a time of 17:23, has won or placed in a number of local races recently. Team USA Maccabi has been keeping tabs on his results and recently “sent an acceptance letter [asking him] to run for Team USA in the half marathon in Israel for the 2013 games July 17th-30th!” He adds, “I hope to bring home a medal, we’ll see!”