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Teen beats odds, makes a difference

Sarah Angelini, here with her teacher, Vicki Petrouneas-Mantzios, plans to spend a couple weeks this summer working for the environment in Costa Rica. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
May 26, 2010 - Sarah Angelini overcame many challenges to reach this point in her high school career.

She has one more.

The graduating senior at Renaissance High School is set to go to Costa Rica this summer as part of the Rustic Pathways eco-service program.

"She's a great kid, an amazing kid," said Vicki Petrouneas-Mantzios, one of her teachers. "She's very dedicated to her studies."

"I'm interested in environmentalism we have green houses, chickens, eggs," said Angelini, 17, who lives in Springfield Township with her parents, Mary and Mario.

The group of teens travels to Rancho Margot in Costa Rica, July 13-21, for its ecological program, working on community gardens and a wildlife preserve.

"I looked at a variety of trips, and this one fit best," she said. "It's the right kind of experience to help in college. It's the whole environmental thing, a way to help."

She volunteered in Pennsylvania last summer, working with scientists to study bacteria in the soil.

"It was a competitive scholarship, out of about 6,000," she said.

In her admission essay, she wrote about how she overcome obstacles in her life, including brain surgery in 2008.

She was diagnosed in October 2008, with Arnold Chiari Malformation Type I, a neurological disorder in which the brain descends out of the skull and crowds the spinal cord.

Surgeons removed the bottom part of her skull to relieve the pressure on her brain stem and spine.

"I missed two months of school it took a long time to get back on my feet," Angelini said.

Symptoms affecting her for years included severe headaches, dizziness, and insomnia, hurting her work as a student in Holly Area School District, and she enrolled at Renaissance High two years ago.

"I'm doing better I've been really motivated," Angelini said. "I had all A's and B's in my senior year."

"I'm really proud of her," Petrouneas-Mantzios said.

"She stands up for what's right she doesn't back down. She's a driving force here. If she sees a classmate who's feeling down, she stops to help."

"I just care a lot about people," Angelini said. "I see goodness in everyone, and feel the need to help them."

After graduation, she plans to attend Oakland Community College for a year, then Columbia or Warren Wilson college.

"I want to make documentaries about what families can do to be green that's my passion," she said. "I'm always taking photos. It would be a good mix of people and photography."

Cost of the Rustic Pathways trip is $1,695, plus airfair.

Angelini hosts a bowlathon fund raiser, 7 p.m., Saturday, May 29, at Cherry Hills Lanes, 6697 Dixie Highway $20 donation for three games, pizza, and pop. Donations can be made care of Renaissance High School.

For more information, email Angelini at sarahsrusticpathwaystrip@gmail.com.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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