Amy Woodruff sees travel as a way to shed fear about the world.
“If you’re in a world you’ve built by yourself, it’s easy to become complacent and self-validating and stay the same,” she said. “When you travel, you have to open yourself up to everything good and bad, and you realize it’s almost always good; even the bad has some good in it.”
Woodruff has explored Africa, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Morocco, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Guatemala, Costa Rico and Mexico. She dreams of visiting Israel, Iceland, Nepal and India, but for the next 27 months, she will live in Ecuador as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Woodruff first explored Ecuador when she was 10 years old. Now, at 24, she returns to live and work.
When applying to the Peace Corps, volunteers can suggest three regions they would like to be placed. In the end, however, the Corps assigns individuals based on their abilities and experiences, and how those relate to project needs in various countries. It wasn’t until she got her acceptance letter in the mail that Woodruff found out she would be returning to Ecuador.
“I was thrilled to find out I was heading back to a place I visited when I was so young,” she said.
Every year, Homer youth take to the high school’s Mariner Theatre stage, delighting audiences with performances of everything from dancing and singing to gymnastics and hula hooping.
This Homer Council on the Arts annual showcase of youth performance artists is “Jubilee.” Now in its 27th year, the celebration of youth talent also acts as a fundraiser for the Council’s Youth Summer Fine Arts Scholarship fund.
This year, more than 50 kids auditioned in front of judges who looked for poise and comfort on the stage, length of piece, variety offered for the show, age-appropriateness, suitability for a family audience and preparation.
Participating youth — ranging in age from 7 to 17 — will perform some 20 separate acts. And, for the first time, students from Seldovia, as well as a foreign exchange student from Kazakhstan, will also take part in the performance.
Watching Kevin Bell teach toddlers how to skate was a bit unnerving in the beginning. Not generally known for his calm, nurturing approach, Bell barked out instructions like a drill sergeant.
But the kids loved him. He showed them respect — and they gave it back. He held high expectations for them, and they rose to the occasion. Kevin Bell was the kind of coach who made you work hard, and then burst at the seams to tell you how proud he was of you. His passion for both skating and coaching were hard to miss.
So was his zest for life.
Bell and his wife, Mary, moved to Homer in 1984, where he began working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a deckhand/cook on the research vessel Tiglax in 1987. In 1995, he became the ship’s captain. By that time, Bell had already started Homer’s youth hockey program, and the Homer Hockey Association he helped establish had two seasons of hockey under its belt.
Kevin was instrumental in turning used boards from Anchorage into Homer’s first ice rink, and spent countless hours shoveling snow off the outdoor rink.
Homer High School art teacher Alayne Tetor considers herself a mountain-loving art fiend.
Growing up in a densely wooded area of Pennsylvania, close to the Appalachian Mountains and New York City, Tetor’s proximity to nature and art inspired in her a deep appreciation for both.
Tetor views art and creativity as both transformative and transcending.
“I love to see the creative energy pulsing through students,” she said. “I work a lot to help students move through fear and self-judgment. It’s wonderful to see a student start to open up, embody more of themselves, learn how to express their creativity and feel good about expressing it.”
Tetor and Matt Tucker, Homer High’s special education teacher, were instrumental in creating “Colors of Homer.” The student-driven group encourages local youth to share their creativity with each other and the community.
“It’s been wonderful to see students supporting one another as they grow from being nervous about performing to owning the stage they’re on,” she said.
A junior at Homer High School, 16-year-old Jonas Noomah is passionate about his work, his music, performance art and living a life of adventure. He is inspired by individuals who express their own passions openly, honestly and freely.
Noomah thrives in Homer’s music and theater scene. For the past five years, he has played marimba, a Zimbabwean instrument that resembles a gigantic xylophone. He is one of six youth who play marimba in Williwaw, the 10-member youth/adult group. He also plays the Mbira, a smaller Zimbabwean instrument.
“Marimba is one of the coolest instruments to play in front of people in a concert or outside,” Noomah said. “You get to hit things with sticks as wildly as you want and people seem to really enjoy the energetic sounding music.”
Thirty years ago, during a guided naturalist walk on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, Betty Siegel fell in love with birding. From then on, she knew she wanted to pursue it — and pursue it she has.
Since 1991, Siegel has birded all over the world, including Alaska, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Bhutan, Antarctica, Africa, India, Panama, Mexico and Guyana.
In Alaska, over the course of 12 consecutive years, she explored the Kenai Peninsula, Denali, Denali Highway, Nome, Dalton Highway to Deadhorse, the Pribilofs, Attu and the Arctic Refuge.
Every year, Haven House honors women who demonstrate outstanding leadership and who are generous and compassionate in their efforts to make the community better. These are the Haven House Women of Distinction.
Nominated by fellow community members and chosen by Haven House board members, this year’s Women of Distinction winners are Martie Krohn – Woman of Distinction, Mary Lou Kelsey – Woman of Wisdom and Zoe Story – Young Woman of Distinction.
In addition, Haven House staff selects one individual as a Hero of the Heart. This year’s hero is Doug Koester.
The Woman of Distinction award honors women who go above and beyond in their endeavors, inspire others to be their best, volunteer in the community and have a passion for life.
How many people can say that they’ve lived inside a gigantic Twinkie and worked inside an even bigger potato? Denise Jantz can and she has pictures to prove it.
After receiving a degree in communications and journalism and then tramping around Europe for six months, Jantz was living in Chicago, but dreaming of life in Alaska.
“When I was a child, a family from Fairbanks moved in down the road from us,” she said. “I listened to stories of how dark the winters were and how light the summers were. I thought it must be a very magical place.”
In the spring of 1992, Jantz and a friend packed up her truck and headed north.
At just 10 years old, Emmet Meyer began composing original, classical music.
“Emmet began home schooling in second grade, and made it clear that the first topic he wanted to study was classical composers,” said Emmet’s mom, Kate.
In his early years — age 7 — he started taking piano lessons with teacher Gabriela Husmann’s. With Husmann’s guidance, Meyer wrote his first two compositions for piano at the age of 11. He played them from memory at a piano recital while dressed as Mozart.
While Meyer appreciated his teacher’s support, he wasn’t smitten with the piano. He switched to the cello when he was 12, and for the next seven years, took lessons from Lisa Schallock.
A descendant of a family forced to flee Spain during the Inquisition — and an immigrant himself — Jack Oudiz has always been drawn to the plight of those who are exploited and oppressed, as well as issues of social justice.
Born in Cairo, Egypt in 1949, Oudiz’s early life was one of privilege.
“My dad was an engineer and we lived a pretty cushy life,” he said. “We belonged to the country club and I attended a private French school.”
When he was seven years old, the life Oudiz had become accustomed to came to an abrupt end. The Suez Canal Crisis began, and the army came to his family’s home and told them they had to leave the country the following day.