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Jimenez Attends World Youth Day
Getting the nod to go on the World Youth Day trip just three short weeks before leaving, Jennell Jimenez had to do some quick work to finance the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She had the chance to attend when one of the people slated to go with the Central Valley contingent had to back out, and jumped at the offer.

"I've always wanted to go to Australia," said Jimenez, who graduated from Escalon High in 2007. "I had to write an essay, talk about my involvement with the church ... we didn't know if I was going to go, we found out three weeks before departure."

Jimenez said she wrote some fundraising letters and got donations from sponsors to help finance the trip, which featured time spent in Sydney, Australia for the World Youth Day events and some side trips for sightseeing.

She attended with a group representing Catholic churches including St. Timothy's in San Diego, St. Jude in Ceres, Sacred Heart in Turlock and St. Patrick's Church in Escalon. Three other people from St. Patrick's attended, she noted, two from Ripon and one from St. Patrick's Church in Merced.

"We left July 8 and we arrived home July 26," she explained of the trip. "We left from San Francisco, landed in Honolulu, then on to Sydney."

Able to spend a week in Tasmania as part of the trip as well, Jimenez said it was breathtaking.

"It's beautiful ... they have the cleanest air in the world," she said.

World Youth Day is hosted every three years and is an international gathering, designed to draw those primarily from 18 to 35 together to share their faith, hope and experiences.

"There were people from all around the world and you just felt so united, Catholicism is universal," Jimenez explained.

A big part of the event was the Day of the Diocese series of programs that were offered a week prior to the actual World Youth Day, which is when the Pope addressed the gathering.

Jimenez and her group were hosted by churches in the Sydney area, living with host families. They did some volunteer work in local schools and had the chance to interact with the children in Australia.

"Their first question is 'do you know any famous people?'" Jimenez said with a laugh, noting that they thought since she lived in California, she must know plenty of celebrities.