2 teens visiting from Northern Ireland


July 29, 1998|By Kathy Curtis | Kathy Curtis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

TWO TEEN-AGERS from Northern Ireland -- one Catholic, one Protestant -- are getting an opportunity to meet on neutral ground during a six-week stay at the home of Jim and Cathy Sheridan of Bryant Woods.

Robert Robinson, 16, of County Tyrone and Raymond O'Kane, 17, of County Fermanagh arrived in the United States on July 3.

Their visit was arranged by the nonprofit National Children's Friendship Project for Northern Ireland.

Part of the cost of the trip is being paid by St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church.

St. John's "wanted to make a practical contribution to the situation in Northern Ireland, one of the world's trouble spots," said Tom McCarthy, a member of the church's social ministry committee and the area coordinator for the National Children's Friendship Project.

In Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants grow up having little contact with each other, he said. When they come here, they have the opportunity to become friends.

"At a minimum, they learn that the other side is human," McCarthy said.

Before the young people visit, their families meet several times and agree that the teens will be able to continue their contact after their visit to the United States.

Host families are responsible for room and board, but not necessarily for entertainment.

"The idea is for them to spend time together," said McCarthy.

At the Sheridans' home, Robert and Raymond have not been idle.

They have attended a reception in Washington with the wives of the British and Irish ambassadors, kayaked on the Eastern Shore and visited Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Jim Sheridan has also been taking the boys along on the two days each week that he volunteers at St. Ambrose Family Outreach Center in Baltimore.

Robert and Raymond helped pick up donations of food and bagged them for the needy. They also worked in the kitchen and dining room at the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen.

The Irish teen-agers accompanied inner-city children from Camp Ambrose to an outing at Loyola High School in Towson.

"They're very good with the kids," said Sheridan.

Still to come before their departure Aug. 16 are visits to Ocean City, a yacht cruise in Annapolis, trips to amusement parks and a tour of New York City.

In between, Robert and Raymond are enjoying swimming in Columbia's neighborhood pools where they find the water pleasantly warm.

Sheridan has found his guests "very open to everything."

He described them as "very witty" and added that they are "nice to have around."

While the Sheridans' four children are grown and no longer living at home, other host families include young couples with small children, McCarthy said.

Many more hosts are needed, he said, because there is a long waiting list of Irish teen-agers who want to make the trip. He added that some funds are available to assist host families with expenses.

For more information on serving as a host family, call McCarthy at 410-744-0102.

Growing up with camp

Among the teen-agers performing this week in the Slayton House Conservatory Camp production of "Cinderella" will be a young man who has grown up with the camp.

Joshua Sternfeld, 19, who first attended the Camp of the Arts when he was 10, will be playing second keyboard, assisting music director Doug Lawler.

"It's a really great place to meet friends your age who are interested in theater," Sternfeld said.

The Hobbit's Glen resident originally attended the Camp of the Arts because his older sister, Jessica, was a counselor there.

The next summer, the Conservatory Camp opened. Joshua auditioned and was accepted.

He made many new friends during the intensive four-week camp.

Some, like Sternfeld, continued to attend the camp for several years.

He recalled that in his fourth year at the Conservatory Camp, he played the part of the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz."

His mother, Gail, made his costume out of a gray suit that she stuffed with plastic foam.

After the performance, camp director Pam Land asked him if he would like to work at the camp the following summer.

Sternfeld is in his fifth year as a music assistant. He provides accompaniment for the performers, goes over singing parts with campers and fills in for the music director.

"I was OK at singing, dancing and acting," he said. "But I enjoy playing in the pit more than on stage. My strong suit is playing the piano."

He started playing the piano at 6. For 11 years, he was a student of Lynda MacNeil.

When he was 11, he was hired to play background music for

theater productions at Slayton House. He has continued to perform there occasionally for village events.

A 1997 graduate of Centennial High School, Sternfeld will be a sophomore at Princeton University this fall. He plans to major in history and audition for a certificate program in piano performance.

Jessica Sternfeld is in graduate school at Princeton, working on a degree in musicology.

Performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" will be presented at 6 p.m. tomorrow and Friday at Slayton House on Wilde Lake Village Green.

Tickets are $5; seating is limited.

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