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For a healthier life
Zoë Kennison transfers to study dietetics
When Zoë Kennison, second semester freshman, goes running, she thinks back to eighth grade when she could barely run the mile in gym class. Now, she can run eight miles in about 80 minutes.
“I think to myself, ‘If eighth grade Zoë could see me now … how impressed she would be,’ ” Kennison said. “I didn’t want to run before because it was too difficult, and now I run for the exact same reason. Pushing yourself to go one more mile or pushing yourself to go a little bit faster is the coolest thing.”
Kennison came to Webster University in the fall of 2010 to pursue a degree in history and become a history teacher. At the time, she thought her interest in dietetics could be a hobby.
“This (passion for dietetics) is something that has grown and developed within her,” Kennison’s mother, Renee Kennison, said.
Zoë Kennison’s passion for dietetics began after working as a camp counselor at Camp Jump Start, a weight loss summer camp for kids ages 10 to 17. After the experience, she knew teaching children and families how to live healthy lifestyles was her purpose.
“That (being a counselor) just rocked my world. It was the most amazing thing ever, seeing the change in kids. Not only the physical change, but the emotional change and how they develop mentally,” Zoë Kennison said. “They just grew as people — it was incredible. I decided then and there that dietetics was probably what I wanted to do.”
She became a counselor at the summer camp after being a camper there herself two years ago.
Renee Kennison, Zoë Kennison’s mother, discovered Camp Jump Start’s website when Zoë Kennison was a sophomore in high school. Renee Kennison suggested the camp to her daughter. She said Zoë Kennison’s reaction was, “I don’t want to go to fat camp.”
Zoë Kennison’s doctor suspected she had Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS, a hormone imbalance, made it easier for Kennison to gain weight quickly. When she was a junior in high school, her doctor officially diagnosed PCOS.
Zoë Kennison worried that the combination of PCOS and eating unhealthy would cause her to develop other medical issues. She decided to attend Camp Jump Start in the summer of 2009.
“I like to come to my own terms of how to do things,” Zoë Kennison said. “I had to make it my own idea that I found this camp.”
Zoë Kennison spent one session, eight weeks, at Camp Jump Start. While there she took classes on nutrition and played outdoor games such as handball. She also attended class entitled WIT — wellness in teens — which discussed the emotional aspects of eating and a healthy lifestyle.
While at camp, she lost 30 pounds. Over the course of the next year, she lost 50 more pounds.
Zoë Kennison still has a passion for teaching, but wants to teach children about a healthy lifestyle instead of history.
She loves receiving emails from her campers saying they are doing better at school and made new friends.
“To know that you had a little bit of a part of that is the coolest thing ever. Not just the weight loss but the confidence they’ve built being there is incredible.”
She described Webster as her dream school, but Webster doesn’t have a dietetics program. She is transferring to St. Louis Community College in Florissant Valley and Meramec next semester. She will take nutrition classes there with hopes to eventually transfer to Saint Louis University.
“I wish she could stay at Webster,” Renee Kennison said. “But it’s a waste of time if it doesn’t have what she needs.”
Zoë Kennison’s father also attended Webster. She would like to stay at Webster, but is excited to study dietetics. She plans to continue being involved at the camp where she first discovered her passion.
She said Camp Jump Start’s program is designed so campers can keep on track at home without returning to camp. Zoë Kennison also said campers usually like to come back to see their friends and have a refresher course.
“It’s very much a family like atmosphere,” Zoë Kennison said. “Especially if you’re a kid and you’re trying to accomplish a goal, it’s so much easier if you have 66 other kids trying to accomplish the same goal. It bonds you.”
She describes her camp staffers as close friends— including camp staff members Tim and Cindy Brendel and Jean Huelsing, co-founder of Camp Jump Start.
“Jean is really a selfless human being. Giving up her entire life to pursue this one mission inspired me,” Zoë Kennison said. “She is the kind of person I want to work for.”
Zoë Kennison is grateful for the journey she has taken with other campers
“We have all grown together and now we’re counselors together it’s this pretty cool journey we’ve all been taking,” Zoë Kennison said.
In the future, Zoë Kennison would love to open a private practice where she could help children and their families have a healthy lifestyle. She would like to stay in St. Louis and remain affiliated with Camp Jump Start, but is open to opportunities in her future career.
“I don’t know where dietetics will take me,” Zoë Kennison said.