17, Senior, Beaumont School
Adventure Time: Cogan is a veteran of the Rotary Club's Project YESS (Youth Empowered to Succeed through Sailing) program, spending two summers in the weeklong tall ships program. Leader Ship: Cogan spent a week leading a watch team aboard the S/V Denis Sullivan — a working replica of a 19th-century ship — on Lake Michigan. "I like adventures and the outdoors," says Cogan. "It's not every day you get to be aboard a tall ship, so I figured I'd give it a shot and see what happened." Deck Hands: Cogan and her crewmates, including four other students from Beaumont, learned the particulars of sailing through experience. As the crew for the three-masted schooner, the students had the run of the ship — everything from manning the helm to bow watch. "We do everything that the crew would do," she says. Wind in the Sails: But steering the ship wasn't the only perk of being on the water. "Being able to see the sunrises and sunsets over the lake when there's no land around you, it's amazing," she says.
16, Junior, St. Joseph Academy
Starting Varsity: Kean learned how to play rugby by watching her brother's high school team. After quickly picking up the game, she made St. Joe's varsity as a freshman and has won two straight state titles. The experience helped her land a spot on the Ohio Elite Girl's U19 Rugby Team, which finished third in the Midwest Championship Tournament and fourth at the Challenge Cup in Pennsylvania over the summer. Learning Curve: Kean, who plays scrum half, was eager to improve her game by learning from more experienced players. "It was a little intimidating at first," Kean says, "but my coach made sure I knew that age doesn't matter. It's all about whether you have the skills." New Moves: While rugby is growing as a women's sport, the number of teams is still rather small. So the Ohio Elite team gave Kean the opportunity to play against different talent. "I loved getting to face new competition," Kean says. "When you get exposed to different players, you learn different styles of playing, which improve your own game."
17, Senior, Hawken School
Winning Vote: Fulton can now add "governor" to his resume after winning a 17-candidate race for the position at Buckeye Boys State, the summer leadership and citizenship program sponsored by the American Legion. Elected governor on the third day of the eight-day program, the Hawken senior spent the following time running the mock government with the rest of the elected officials. Acting Official: Fulton helped craft and debate legislation that would be shot down or passed by the end of the day. The group considered legislation about issues such as education and the state budget. "You definitely learn why sometimes it seems like it takes a long time to accomplish things," Fulton says. "The democratic process is a slow one, and it's very layered." New Perspectives: Fulton also learned about what it takes to be a good leader, which meant relying on his team. "I saw quickly that in my position I couldn't do it all by myself," Fulton says. "I had to trust my team and allow them to do their jobs when I couldn't be everywhere at once."
17, Senior, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School
Way Out: This summer, O'Reilly went outside her comfort zone. Way outside. For her first overseas trip, the NDCL senior was one of 15 U.S. teens chosen to be an Outbound Exchange student in Norway. Shorn the Way: O'Reilly's host family lives on a rural sheep farm, where she stayed for three weeks, helping with chores and getting a taste of Nordic life. "They were very friendly, very welcoming," she says. "They did a lot of outdoor things, which matched my personality." Culture Shock: O'Reilly's 4-H Club-sponsored trip was a journey of cultural discovery. "Even though it was summer and there were lots of things to do, they were very relaxed," says O'Reilly. "Here in the states, we're always out and about and doing something." Confidence Boost: The final week of O'Reilly's trip was spent at the Norge Country camp on the island of Tautra. The entire experience helped her become more confident. "I had never stayed that long away from my family," she says. "I increased my openness to new experiences and new opportunities."
Principal, St. Mark Lutheran School
Whether it's hiking the Appalachian Trail or corralling rowdy students, Dittmar knows how to plot a course through the wilds. This summer, the dedicated principal and outdoorsman hiked about 72 miles over the course of six days to raise money for his school, with sponsors pledging for every mile hiked.
Family Time: Dittmar has bonded with his son, Andrew, through hiking since he was in sixth grade. Though the hiking trips are fewer since Andrew went to college, Dittmar is keeping the tradition alive. "I truly enjoyed the time that it gave me with my son," he says. "My job is very work-oriented, and I find myself at school 12 to 14 hours a day sometimes. But I'd always look forward to the week we'd spend hiking." Claws Out: On the first night of an 8-mile leg of the trail, a bear ate Dittmar's food and forced him to double back. Back Packing: "I always get done with the hike dead tired," he says. "But before I get back to Cleveland, I'm always planning next year's hike: how I'm going to make it better, what I'm going to do." Trail Model: Since he started 10 years ago, Dittmar has covered the about 600 miles of the trail from Pennsylvania to Virginia. He's been incorporating anecdotes about the trail into the school's reading program, which made this hike special. "I thought, I'm going to show them or try to be a model for them," he says. "I chose St. Mark because it's my first love."