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Fixing the world, one extracurricular at a time

by Ryan Torok

June 8, 2011 | 12:41 pm

<b><big>Jaclyn Kellner</big><br />
Shalhevet School<br />
Going to: Eco-Israel agriculture program in Israel, Brandeis University</b>

Jaclyn Kellner
Shalhevet School
Going to: Eco-Israel agriculture program in Israel, Brandeis University

On the Web site for The Boiling Point, Shalhevet High School’s student newspaper, Jaclyn Kellner’s biography says she spends more time at school than most of the teachers do.

That’s because Kellner, who will spend five months working with Eco-Israel, an agricultural program in Modi’in, next year before attending Brandeis University in fall 2012, is involved with more extracurricular activities than seems possible for any 18-year-old.

The class salutatorian has had an award-winning tenure with the school’s newspaper — she was community editor during her junior year and is now deputy editor-in-chief, in addition to serving as Torah editor, and she won two awards from the National Scholastic Press Association. Kellner is also chair of her school’s community service committee and has worked with Shalhevet’s drama club, both as an actress and stage manager.

Not to mention her out-of-school extracurricular activities, which include six weeks volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to help construct homes for low-income families near Little Rock, Ark., and assisting in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, as well as working with the childcare program at her synagogue, B’nai David-Judea, and volunteering with KOREH L.A. and Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles.

“You have to be able to really enjoy it and make it meaningful,” Kellner said of the key to her success in all these activities.

“I never understood the college-as-motivation type thing,” she said, dispelling the idea that she did it all to get into a good school. “Obviously, you want to do well enough that you’ll have choices, but I never did tailor what I was doing to get into a specific college.”

Her wisdom also has informed difficult journalistic decisions. In 2010, when a Hebrew teacher at Shalhavet was sentenced to five years’ probation for an art-heist-related felony, and the incident received considerable — if uneven — coverage in the Los Angeles Times, Kellner long debated whether it would be productive for the school’s paper to run a story on the teacher, given that the teacher was already suffering. Ultimately, the paper ran a story, but Kellner wrote an accompanying piece that examined why it was OK to do so, according to Jewish law and the rules governing lashon harah (spreading gossip).

“If something is wrong, and you have the power to fix it, why wouldn’t you?” Kellner said. “I felt like we had the power to go and fix it.”

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