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Mentoring twins was an eye opener

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POSTED April 14, 2009 4:49 a.m.
I first met them about a year ago last year. They were the epitome of youth: energetic, exuberant, poised to conquer the world, eager to learn and experience everything that they can possibly learn and experience while deeply rooted in the moral compass and Christian ethics instilled in them by their parents.
Their mother came to the office to introduce them to me and to ask if I could I be her daughters’ mentor in their high school project.
I looked at the two smiling, wide-eyed and intelligent pairs of eyes and right away I knew I was going to be in trouble. Rebecca and Courtney were identical twins and I could hardly tell them apart! But I found myself not being able to say no to their mother, Arabella Whitlock, whom I have known since I interviewed her for a story about a project she was doing for her church, The Rock, in Lathrop. Besides, I was intrigued by the project the twins were embarking on for their senior project: a two-week trip to Haifa, Israel, to interview the family’s longtime friends, Dale and Darlene Jesse of Manteca. The Jesses are members of Calvary Community Church and were on a yearlong missionary stint in Haifa.
Rebecca and Courtney, both 17 and seniors at Sierra High School, wanted to find out what missionary life is like for the Jesses. They explained that they plan to videotape the couple at work, interview them about their work and their day-to-day activities, get a firsthand experience about the life of a missionary, and at the same have a glimpse of some of the biblical highpoints that they’ve only read or heard about.
They laid out their plans to me: they will do odd jobs and hold fund-raising events to raise the roughly $3,700 money they will need for the trip; they will borrow video and digital cameras to do their videotapes and interviews; they will ask someone to assist them in the video editing. They will do all of these things with perhaps a little help from their family and friends.
About a year later, and after dozens of hours of personal meetings before and after their trip to Israel – discussing the direction of their projects, what possible topics to pursue in terms of a story that they could submit for possible publication in the print media or for a television spot, how to go about getting those done – the Timberwolves seniors’ projects are complete. One of the most fascinating things about the Whitlock twins’ accomplishments is that while they took the same trip together, visited the same places together, talked to the same people and worked together on every aspect of their visit to Israel, their individual projects were exactly that. Their separate approaches to the same trip that they took resulted in a sort of smorgasbord instead of just a single-course serving of their experiences, with their visual and written projects magnificently complementing each other. Courtney (the older of the two by five minutes) wrote about the Jesses’ life in Haifa and used that to illustrate the challenges of serving as a missionary abroad especially in a land of religious hostilities like Israel, while Rebecca focused on her observances of life in the Holy Land and how the harsh realities she saw and experienced in the land where Moses, Abraham, Jonah and other biblical giants walked ironically contrasted with the ones she imagined from stories she heard and learned in Bible School.
I’ve seen a fraction of their visual clips, and judging from the quality of their videographic work, I certainly would like to see the completed video documentary. Rebecca, an aspiring stage actress and singer/songwriter, even used her own composition as her background music. Courtney used a John Meyer piece for her video documentary.
The Jesses have since returned to Manteca after their yearlong stint in Haifa as missionaries. Courtney and Rebecca completed their projects with a follow-up interview of the couple back here in Manteca.
While I was a bit hesitant to take on the role of mentor for these two intelligent and wholesome teen-agers, that initial hesitation is gone. My experience as a mentor for Courtney and Rebecca in a project that involved a trip to the Holy Land made me feel as though I’ve taken the same journey with them. But I have to confess, I still have a hard time telling them apart.
This was the twins’ first trip overseas, but I’m sure it’s just the beginning of more journeys in life for them as they get ready to start college and prepare for a career in drama and music. Courtney, a Lobo Gold awardee with a 4.19 GPA, has been accepted at five UC campuses but chose to go to the University of California at Los Angeles. Rebecca, who has a 3.97 GPA, has been accepted at four UC campuses and has chosen to go to the University of California at San Diego.
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