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I recently spoke to Jonathon Walls and just like all of the students going on Winterline's trip, he is also a dynamic teen. I can certainly see how his family background, personal hobbies, and quest for learning has helped shape his path to Winterline. Right away Jonathon chimed in, "My parents chose to name me Jonathon instead of Jonathan, which always trips people up." Right from the get-go—starting with his slight name variation—I knew he would be so interesting to talk to.

During our conversation, Jonathon told me that he enjoys reading and digesting Grey's Anatomy, the most read textbook for those studying medicine, as a hobby. He explained, "I read it section by section and take notes. I find it fascinating, especially because I want to go to medical school and be a surgeon someday."

Looking more closely at alternative medicines is also why he is so drawn to visiting India with Winterline. "I am excited about going to all of the locations on the trip, but Southeast Asia is one of the places that so intrigues me. I have only been out of the country (U.S.) once to Mexico," he added. Along with exploring medicine in that part of the world, he revealed, "I have always been intrigued by religion and spirituality, as well."

He continued, "My mom had gone to a Shaman once and encouraged me to try it. It was an experience that I truly appreciated." The Shaman broke down my life into a series of steps. The numbers range from 1-10 and I am at an 8 right now, which represents a time of deconstruction and reformation." This realization kind of makes perfect sense right now, since his family just moved to Plantation, FL from NC. "I am renewing myself," he said.

"I am challenged with what any kid faces when moving. Meeting new friends, exploring my area, etc. Thankfully, it was after my senior year of high school when I would be going off to college anyway and experiencing much the same," he added.

 Jon says he can't wait to meet the other 15 Winterliners this fall. He admitted, "I am the kind of person that gets overwhelmed when I'm surrounded by people for long periods of time, so I'd say that I'm looking forward to meeting the other Winterliners and testing my bounds for social interaction."

Again, that is also part of his excitement to join Winterline. His move somewhat parallels his quest with Winterline. Making new friends and discovering as much as possible about the different countries and cultures he, and all of the students, will be going to.

Probing further as to why he picked Winterline from among a few other gap year programs he explained, "The arts and theatre units jumped out at me, too. During high school I was in theater and chorus. I love the performing arts and art history." Matter of fact, he was awarded several local "Blumey" awards, a mock Tony award for high school musical theatre programs held at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC.

In addition, Jonathon's mom is actually a working artist who taught classes and displayed her work at  several galleries back in NC. She plans to do the same in Florida where she's currently shopping around for the right gallery that fits.

Wrapping up our interview, I asked Jonathon to describe his personality in 5 adjectives. He mentioned these:

1. Independent

2. Honest

3. Whimsical

4. Consistent 

5. Confident 

He was extremely concerned that these adjectives—paired with the fact that he hasn't traveled much—didn't make him sound quite as interesting as some of the other students. But it is in my opinion from personally interviewing him, that he is more than just interesting; he's inspiring and so much more. Welcome to Winterline Jon!


Caption: Jonathon Walls  playing William Barfeé from the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. (2nd from the R)