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Holy Innocents' student climbs to new heights
by Mary Catherine Thomson
August 07, 2012 11:38 AM | 1363 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Holly Shaw, daughter of Chris and Leanne Shaw of Buckhead, celebrates her successful climb in front of the sign marking the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Holly Shaw, daughter of Chris and Leanne Shaw of Buckhead, celebrates her successful climb in front of the sign marking the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
For high school students, summer presents an opportunity to take on exciting challenges and discover new horizons, an idea which Buckhead teenager Holly Shaw took to heart.

Shaw, a rising junior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs, recently traveled to Tanzania, where she successfully climbed 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro. The trip was hosted through Rustic Pathways, a Willoughby, Ohio-based international travel and service program for students.

“Our programs expand [the students’] horizons, teach them about their wonderful planet, challenge them to dream, and pump them full of positive energy they can carry home for future use,” David Vennings, chair of Rustic Pathways, said in a statement.

The trip featured a four-week program divided between service and adventure objectives. Shaw’s group consisted of 12 other teens from across the country, ranging from rising sophomores in high school to rising freshmen in college.

“I really wanted to take a trip without my friends that would force me to branch out and learn more about myself,” said Shaw.

During the first two weeks of the program, the students temporarily suspended their goal of climbing Kilimanjaro, and instead devoted their time to serviceable action in a small village in the Arusha region of Tanzania. While there, the group completed various construction projects for the village, including building houses and installing toilets, showers and septic tanks.

The group also was able to contribute to the village through personal interaction with its people. Over the course of the two-week period, the teens were able to meet and connect with many of the individuals living in the village, and even held English classes for the village’s youth. For Shaw, it was the social interface that proved the most impactful.

“It was very eye-opening to see how happy the people were despite how little they had, and it was great for us to be able to come in and help the village as a whole,” she said.

After this portion of the trip, the group then shifted its focus back to the goal of climbing Kilimanjaro. The actual ascent lasted five days, during which the group hiked to three separate camps, through five different climate levels, a grand total of 50 miles. Shaw, along with her counterparts, summited Mount Kilimanjaro July 2 at 6 a.m.

“It was a very rewarding and emotional moment when we finally reached the summit,” she said.

Despite the excitement that follows summiting the tallest mountain in Africa, Shaw has found the personal lessons she learned during her time in Tanzania to be just as significant as the achievements themselves.

“I was nervous initially that I wouldn’t summit, but I proved to myself that I could overcome

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