By Megan Kelley
Kenzie Parsons is a 17-year-old senior at Oakland Christian. Though she may seem like a regular high school student who has fun with her friends and plays on the varsity soccer team, her ambitions extend much further than that.
During the summer of this year she was selected to be a member of the 2018 U.S. Twirling Delegation in Peru.
She, along with 13 other advanced/elite twirlers from all over the U.S, traveled to Peru for two weeks to participate in the 68th International Festival of Spring that is hosted by Lions Club International.
When she was young, her mother, Michele Parsons, encouraged her to try different activities and when she was nine she signed up for baton twirling.
“She found a community ed. class and signed me up for it, she just wanted me to get involved in something, and I tried different sports and I didn’t really like anything and the first class I went to, I fell in love with it,” Kenzie said. “I was watching the older girls and I was like, ‘I want to be able to do that,’ and so I started getting better and practicing.”
Kenzie quickly outgrew the community education program and began training with her current coach, Patti Jankowski, when she was 11.
When she started with Jankowski, Parsons had already had Peru in her sights.
“I was searching up YouTube videos to try and learn some new tricks and I found some videos about the Peru trip and was like, ‘Oh that’s kind of cool to be able to twirl and travel at the same time,’” said Kenzie.
Kenzi and Jankowski set the trip as a goal despite how difficult it would be to reach, considering she started twirling later than most girls in her age group.
“I was like, ‘No, I’m going to do it,’” Kenzie said.
Though being warned that it would be a difficult goal to reach, she was approached by Kathy Harris, trip organizer, at nationals in July with a questionnaire regarding her aspirations and other things that would come along with being apart of the Twirling Delegation.
“They want someone with a servant’s heart,” said Michele.
Kenzie explained that though she was a part of the Twirling Delegation, she wasn’t just there to twirl.
She visited a number of social events including a nursing home, an orphanage, the international flag ceremony, a coronation, a five-mile parade around the city of Trujillo and so many more.
“You never have downtime. You get up early in the day and put on whatever your first outfit was. You’d get back on the bus and you would have 20 minutes before you get to the next place to change or to fix something, grab new batons, things like that… and then you would be gone all day and have like an hour to get ready for the cocktail party that night and you’d be gone for like five hours at a cocktail party,” Kenzie explained.
Parsons came equipped with gifts of chocolates shaped like mittens to pass out to the people who came to see them.
The Peruvians were very excited to witness the American girls, so much so that the delegates had their own set of bodyguards who followed them at all times and a police escort to every event they attended.
The girls were also expected to help advertise for the trips sponsors.
“It was kind of funny because every event we went to we’d have a Coca-Cola product and we would have to hold it up and smile…We had Pizza Hut and KFC as our sponsors, so we had to go there one night and have to take pictures of us eating the pizza so they could use that as advertisement,” Kenzie laughed.
They were on the news and in newspapers every day for two weeks straight.
“The best moment was going to the orphanages. The children were so cute, they loved watching us and I had never performed for a crowed like that. I’ve always been a competition twirler… I think that it was just cool performing for the kids and they were just kind of in awe of us and I think that’s kind of when I realized why they do this trip and why it means so much to them to have us there,” Kenzie said.
Next year, Kenzie is hoping to twirl in college but she won’t know where she will attend until she goes through tryouts in the spring.