United Nations meets on Fountain Square

Alan, Kenny, Joe, originally uploaded by hjoew.

Alan, Kenny and I went to Colerain High School together, class of 1992. Back then we were all very much involved in the Colerain (now Clippard) YMCA’s Leaders Club, a volunteer service group for teenagers.

Being in Leaders Club and the many friends I made and re-made during that time made a huge impact on my life. The group of about 25 people – of about which 10 were very active – were some of my closest friends in high school.

We traveled each summer to the YMCA’s Blue Ridge Leaders School in Black Mountain, North Carolina for a week where we partook in everything from learning to be a lifeguard to gymnastics to garnering a deeper spirituality.

It may sound completely corny, but sitting on the steps of Lee Hall (the main building at Blue Ridge) looking out at the Black Mountains and listening to James Taylor sing “In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina” over a loudspeaker really can get a kid to thinking. Lots of tears were shed by lots of people. I think my Leaders Club experience would be similar to the many others who have also participated in this group.

I made lifelong friends out of this group. Though Alan (pictured here) and I have been friends since we met in kindergarten, I would have to say (and I don’t know if you would agree, Alan, or not) that our experience in Leaders Club solidified our friendship for life. We learned a lot about growing up, each other and how to get along during those times. I’m so glad I did.

So, last week when I went to meet Alan on Fountain Square he was standing next to the fountain talking to a guy who I barely recognized at first. But as I got closer I realized it was Kenny, the guy I had so much fun with back in Leaders Club but had lost touch with probably 15 or more years ago. I was truly happy to see him and gave him a huge hug.

We chatted for awhile. He told me he read my columns in CityBeat and had seen the blog and other stuff. We exchanged e-mail addresses and phone numbers and plan to keep in touch.

Whatever comes next – whether we rekindle old friendships or are just happy we ran into each other again – it is so nice to harken back to the old days and reminisce with old friends.

One standing joke came back immediately. We had a diverse group back then. Our old joke was that when we all hung out it was like the United Nations meeting in Colerain. It was nice to meet again.

In fact, thanks to the social networking phenomenon sweeping the nation (uh, the world), I have been reacquainted with loads of people from the Y and other places that I, frankly, doubted I’d ever hear from again. And that’s wonderful!

I don’t know how many teenagers had experiences like that, but my guess would few. I wish for everyone who wants an opportunity like I had, so one day, you can have those UN meetings, too.

Author: Joe Wessels

Joe Wessels is a freelance journalist and photographer. Wessels covers local news events for Thomson Reuters news service and features for About.com's Cincinnati Guide site, plus is the executive director of hyperlocal news site, iRhine.com. He wrote for The Cincinnati Post, covering Cincinnati City Hall and Hamilton County government and wrote a weekly political column, which continued weekly at Cincinnati CityBeat. Previously, he was a reporter for the Cincinnati Business Courier and writes or has written for several publications in Cincinnati and around the country including The Cincinnati Enquirer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine and the Sacramento News & Review. He is a native of Colerain Township, one of Cincinnati's western suburbs, and now lives in Over-the-Rhine near downtown Cincinnati. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a journalism writing certificate from the University of Cincinnati. He also graduated from Colerain High School, is an avid photographer, news junkie and was once a roller rink disc jockey, and sometimes rides a scooter around town.

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