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A Long-Distance Date

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Harnessing the power of satellite technology, she cast her net across the 30-state area served by Educational Service District 101 in Spokane, Wash.

"It was all a joke to begin with," says Twyla, an 18-year-old Washington State native who has lived on the Alaskan island for two years.

Although video dating is not unusual on distance-learning systems, Twyla's offer to pay the man of her dreams to fly to her prom probably makes her experience unique.

At the urging of an English teacher on the network, Twyla agreed to look over photos of some of her electronic classmates in her search for potential escorts.

She was "pretty impressed" with a photo of Dustin Wambeke, a senior and a football player from rural Freeman, Wash. After seeing a facsimile photo of Twyla and talking with her on the telephone, Dustin returned the compliment.

So, early last month, Dustin boarded a plane for Ketchikan, Alaska, where he caught a floatplane to the island.

The prom, preceded by a barbeque on the beach and followed by a dip in a hot tub at the Thorne Bay Inn, "was perfect," Twyla remembers.

But, she says, the national media attention that surrounded their date was not. "It kind of got annoying after a while," she says of a television camera crew. "They got in our faces a lot."

And the media interest has yet to wane. Last month, Twyla declined a request for prom photographs from the National Enquirer.

Twyla's only other regret is that Dustin's departure for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York State may upset their plans to meet again before she leaves for college in Riverside, Calif.

All in all, though, she says, her experience in distance dating met her expectations "... and more."--pw

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