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Rachel Newhouse Wins MTV Contest and Donates Proceeds to Charity

Latin singer Shakira pictured with Rachel Newhouse C'2005

CHICAGO, IL (March 15, 2007) – A 2005 North Park graduate with a degree in sociology and Spanish, Rachel Newhouse points to a late night of nannying in the fall of that year as an unexpected turning point in her life. Tuned in to MTV while the children slept, she saw a brief advertisement for a contest where entrants, by submitting a 200-word essay, could vie for the opportunity to be a fan correspondent for Latin singer Shakira’s upcoming 2006 tour. On an impulse, Rachel entered.

The following March, she was on a plane to New York City to compete with nine other finalists – happy at that point, she says, because "I was getting a free CD." After an intense interview with representatives from Epic Records, Teen People magazine, MTV Productions, and Shakira's personal staff, including an impromptu "ice breaker" where she was required to perform a Shakira-esque dance routine, Rachel found herself the stunned winner of a host of prizes – a MacBook laptop, Sony HD digital camcorder and camera, and $25,000 in cash.

By June, she and a guest of her choice, which ranged on various trips from boyfriend Aaron Zirk C’2002 to her father to her small group leader from high school, were whisked to exotic Shakira tour locales including Spain and the Canary Islands, the East Coast, and Panama and Venezuela. Her assignment was to find out "what makes a tour tick" and included countless interviews with producers, band members, personal assistants, fans, and even Shakira herself on numerous occasions. The results of Rachel's work for MTV are currently viewable at shakira.mtv.com under "Shakira's Secrets Revealed!"

Rachel was no stranger to travel, however, having journeyed to Mexico, Armenia, and Argentina during her North Park years. In fact, it was experience gained through one of these trips that inspired her to use her $25,000 cash prize for a purpose many found surprising – support for Armenia's Children's Home of Kharberd, where she had led a ten-person University Ministries trip in 2005.

"I had planned to stay on for six months after the others left, but had to come home due to circumstances beyond my control," she shares. "I felt so helpless, leaving them – like I had failed to help them. I see now that God had a larger plan – to bring me back to the U.S. to win this money and to help these children in a way I could have never imagined."

Rachel's mentor and North Park professor Lida Nedilsky and husband James Sison, a Chicago nonprofit professional, were Rachel's guides through the complex process of establishing her own foundation, the Twelve Baskets Foundation, through the Chicago Community Trust. Another North Park professor, Leona Mirza, traveled with Rachel to Armenia and helped her connect with an Armenian fund, the Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief (SOAR), through whom she will eventually make her donation. Rachel plans to travel to Armenia personally this summer to meet with the orphanage director and determine the exact best use of the gift.

In addition to enabling her to become a philanthropist much earlier in life than most, the MTV contest brought some other positive life changes for Rachel, as well. Thanks to her experience covering Shakira, she plans to pursue a career in global broadcast journalism, combining her love of travel and other cultures with a sense she's always had that "there's a story a tell." Currently pursuing acceptance to Northwestern University’s Master in Broadcast Journalism program, Rachel's goal is to continue to go, to listen, to report, and to make a difference.

For more information about the Twelve Baskets for Armenia Foundation, click here to contact Rachel directly.