The Marie Drake Planetarium

Where the stars always shine in Juneau, AK

Newspaper Articles - 2004

Actor, astronomer, church deacon, Eagle Scout graduates from JDHS
June 04, 2004 by Eric Fry for the Juneau Empire

The interests of Jason Ginter, a Juneau-Douglas High School graduating senior, combine intellect, artistry, body and soul.

Ginter, 18, plans to study astronomy at Denison University in Ohio on a scholarship next fall. He's also an actor and technician in school plays, a soon-to-be Eagle Scout, and a deacon in his church.

Sometimes Ginter would just go home after school. "Other times I'm doing everything at once. I don't like having nothing on my plate. Having nothing to do gets really boring," he said. "If someone asks me to do it, I'll probably do it."

Ginter has been volunteering in the Marie Drake planetarium for about five years. Like the other people who work in the volunteer-run program, he presents information to children and adults before the shows.

People volunteer "to learn more about astronomy, thinking we could learn more as we teach other people," said Michael Orelove, who works at the planetarium. "It's been a great pleasure to have him on the team."

Ginter said he went often to the planetarium as a child and found it interesting. His Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School "rites of passage" project involved working there.

At the planetarium, Ginter and other volunteers use slides, models and the audience members themselves, wearing T-shirts with the planets' names on them, to illustrate astronomical concepts. The children are as young as 4 and 5.

"Those kinds of demonstrations are really fun, because it gets people active," he said.

"I'm not outgoing by nature, so it's a challenge whenever I'm up there presenting in front of people, but it's fun. And I'm involved in theater as well, so I've learned to deal with stage fright, so I can handle that all right."

The appeal of astronomy is the sense of adventure, Ginter said.

"Not many people have done this sort of thing before. It's only since the beginning of the 20th century that we've learned about astronomy," he said.

Ginter enjoys studying math and science in general, but especially the "hard" sciences of physics and chemistry.

"With math, you solve the problem. When you solve it, everything works out. In physics and chemistry, you work through this problem and you solve it. Then you have the solution and it all fits."

Theater offers a different kind of enjoyment. Ginter has acted in a number of plays and musicals at JDHS, and served on the technical crew for two productions.

"It's exciting to be up there, to be in costume, to be someone else" he said. "You turn into someone else for a few minutes or an hour. You don't have to worry about being yourself. You're this other person, and you can invent things that you do."

Ginter said that scouting, nearly a lifelong interest, has been very important to him. It's an opportunity for canoe trips, snow camping, hiking the Chilkoot Trail and fellowship.

His Eagle Scout project was to build a gazebo at Saturday Creek at the Eagle River Methodist camp. The 350 man hours of work included help from his parents, troop members, their parents "and pretty much everyone we could get our hands on," he said.

As a deacon at Northern Light United Church, Ginter puts out coffee and snacks for church members and helps set up for communion.

"The church has been very important to me since I was real young," he said. "I've always been interested in helping out."

Don Gotschall, a church member who helped Ginter with his Eagle Scout project, said Ginter is the youngest deacon by far. The position recognizes Ginter as a reliable and mature person, Gotschall said.

"It's kind of an honor. It's kind of a stepping stone to church management or responsible positions within the church structure," he said.