Ten Teens to Watch
As another school year starts, we read about ten teens who prove that hard work is worth the effort
Sky-high GPAs, AP classes, and academic awards, check! Extracurricular clubs, sports, volunteer work, check! More impressive than their remarkable scholastic and humanitarian achievements, these ten teens have also thrown themselves into their personal passions with gusto. Keep your eye on these budding doctors, artists, lawyers, and entrepreneurs.
St. Luke’s School
Cameron Wilson started playing golf with his father at a young age. He recalls, “My dad used to take me with him to the golf course when I was little. I had some cut-down clubs when I was two or three and I loved whacking balls around. I always protested when it was time to go home.”
Today the recent St. Luke’s graduate, who achieved first honors all four years in Upper School, is Golfweek’s No. 8 ranked junior player. He’s modest about it, though, saying, “I don’t pay much attention to rankings. It’s more about the tournaments I’m playing in. I’m looking forward to being at Stanford and playing collegiate golf there.”
Locally, Cameron enjoys rounds at Shorehaven Golf Club in East Norwalk, where he started playing as a child. Other favorites? He says, “Baltusrol [in New Jersey], Friar’s Head [on Long Island], and also Country Club of Fairfield are pretty nice.”
In good weather—or not so good—you can find Cameron out on the links, but during cold, golf-free winters in Connecticut, Cameron enjoys the challenges and intensity of squash. He says, “I was lucky to have excellent coaches at St. Luke’s, and the team was pretty good. I play only in the winter, and it keeps me fit.”
Cameron also shared his golf talents by working with the U.S. Challenge Cup Junior Foundation, a nonprofit that supports junior golfers. Over the summer Cameron had tournaments every week, in different parts of the country and even abroad. “The week after graduation, I played in Japan for Team USA in the Toyota Junior World Cup,” he says. Next year he will be attending college at Stanford, along with his twin sister, McKenzie. Do the two compete? He answers, “My sister and I always root for each other.”
St. Luke’s School
It would be easy to envy McKenzie Wilson. After all, she received first honors all four years in St. Luke’s Upper School (like her twin, Cameron), won countless academic awards, and was valedictorian of her class. She shrugs it off, saying, “I really just looked to take the classes that interested me and didn’t pay much attention to grades. Honestly, I just did my own best work.”
A 2010 Global Scholar, McKenzie followed a rigorous academic track during her senior year, which incorporated in-depth study of a significant global issue (such as the health crisis in Haiti), intensive foreign language study, and an international service learning project. When asked how much time a week she spends studying, she smiles and says, “Not as much as people think.”
Her high school experience wasn’t all work and no play. McKenzie also participated in two varsity sports (soccer and lacrosse) and made time for fun. She jokes, “Every senior gets senioritis, including me. I really enjoyed my senior year both in and out of class.”
McKenzie’s now interested in getting to know the world through travel and global studies. In particular, a trip to Kenya with the Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership inspired her desire to help Mathare Roots, a youth group that serves some of the most impoverished people in Kenya. She notes, “I just want to do my part in helping the people behind the program expand their youth soccer and other community outreach activities.”
Eventually she sees herself working in the field of health care delivery systems. “I’m a long way from that,” says the grad who, like her brother, is bound for Stanford. Are the two rivals? No chance. She says, “I’m Cameron’s biggest fan.”
New Canaan High School
Kimmy Glerum is an ace on the tennis courts, moving from the No. 4 singles spot in New Canaan up to the No. 1 doubles spot in one year with partner Alyssa Baker. She and Alyssa played at the New Canaan Field Club as kids. “I was excited to get this opportunity to play with such a good friend, excellent tennis player, and someone I had always looked up to. We immediately caught onto each other’s game, and something about the way we played together just clicked on the court.”
The New Canaan team won the FCIAC championship and M-class state championship, while the duo of Kimmy and Alyssa went undefeated the entire regulation and postseason, dropping only two sets along the way, and swept the FCIAC MVP for the second year in a row. Kimmy will serve as tricaptain of her team in spring 2011.
When it comes to competitive matches, the former singles player now prefers doubles. She says, “Being the State Open runners-up in doubles two years in a row, the excitement and competition up at Yale for the finals was so much more than I could have asked for from my high school tennis career.”
Kimmy maintains an excellent GPA and takes a roster of AP math and science classes as a precursor to a career in medicine. Moreover, she worked with the Names Can Hurt program. She says, “We attended several training sessions where we learned the meaning of being “an ally,” “a perpetrator,” “a victim,” and “a bystander”; shared personal stories; and brainstormed ways we could portray what we learned to 600 NCHS students. Working with Principal Pavia and my peers on such a project was one of those high school experiences that far surpasses SAT scores, AP tests, or championship tennis matches.”
Greens Farms Academy
David Morgan is part techie, part entrepreneur. After going to Web design conferences and working as a freelance designer for almost a year, the enterprising junior from Darien realized, he says, “What I really wanted to do was launch my own app, to be not only a designer but also a developer and a business owner.” He found that too much of being a freelance designer was client meetings and working on seemingly endless revisions of the same design. “I didn’t own a business, I only owned a job.” So, at the ripe old age of sixteen, David decided to work for himself.
In fall 2009 he was inspired by one of the founders of 37 Signals, a small Web app company. He says, “Their philosophy struck a chord with me. They emphasized minimalism and just doing it, buckling down and not letting anything stop you from creating your business. I took their principles to heart.”
For the past three years, David has worked part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer at GC Infotech, an IT firm based in Stamford. He says, “In my role as a technology consultant, there were no tools that allowed me to manage my tasks based upon a calendar. All of the solutions I found either lacked the features I needed or had far too many features and were too complex. I decided to scratch my own itch and to develop an application that would fully solve my problem. My inspiration to start a business and my plans and design for this software merged to create this new business. I taught myself the PHP programming language and began working on the application.”
He consulted with local businesspeople and students to find out if they had the same problems with task management. Sure enough, “I learned of new problems and I was able to redesign my software to solve these problems as well my own.” So as he enters his senior year, David is a full-fledged business owner—and he did it his way.
New Canaan High School
Bridgette Lemoine grew up on musicals like Funny Girl and Phantom of the Opera. She says, “My earliest memories revolve around all things musical, whether it was singing along to Peter Paul and Mary on long car trips with my family or playing those drums that look like lollipops in rhythms class.” Is it any wonder that Bridgette, a senior at New Canaan High School, has spent the past few years honing her skills as a singer-songwriter?
With New Canaan’s Concert Choir and Madrigal Ensemble, she recently appeared at the London International Choral Festival under the direction of David Gomez. She marvels, “It was an eye-opening experience performing at these enormous locations, including Westminster Cathedral. In these great halls, our voices seemed to ring out powerfully, which, by a somewhat ironic twist of fate, made me feel like a very small part of something great.”
Bridgette is also a top student, taking a heavy load of AP classes. She says, “Although music is an extraordinarily important part of my life, I’d like to keep my options open with college applications on the horizon, and that means I need to keep my grades up.”
Bridgette is also president of her school’s Anime Club, where, she says, “I get the chance to introduce elements of Asian culture into the high school by viewing movies and television shows based on the Japanese art of anime.”
Her ideal job? “Performing music with my band, Ballet for Athletes, and perhaps augmenting it with a teaching position in either the study of history or English. I’ve also considered picking up more on anthropology and archaeology.”
Kevin Leitao was first introduced to campus ministry activities at Fairfield Prep, a Jesuit Catholic high school, and went on to become a Eucharistic minister and lector. In these roles he enjoyed attending and leading retreats at school and in his parish and helping with the school masses. “It also introduced me to the March for Life in Washington, D.C.,” he says. “It was one of the most rewarding parts of my high school experience.”
As a freshman Kevin joined the Political Awareness Club, moderated by Mr. Szablewicz. “He ended up being one of my favorite teachers,” Kevin says. “At the time I was not interested in, or knowledgeable, about politics; however, I stayed a member through my senior year. It was a great experience that spanned the political spectrum. I learned a lot from students who had very different views than I.”
During his junior year with the Jeopardy Club, Kevin’s team participated in The Challenge, a televised competition, winning one game but losing in the second round. “Senior year we were not as fortunate,” he laments. “It was still special because we were able to wear shirts on the air in support of a classmate who was struggling with illness.”
Kevin looks forward to a career in medicine after he completes his studies at Brown. As a senior he put his interest into practice during a stint with Dr. Paidas, an OB/GYN at Yale–New Haven Hospital who focuses on blood disorders during pregnancy. He says, “I helped him with research, shadowed him while he met with some of his patients, stayed with him for a night while he was on call, and saw a surgery. I helped him with a research project on the role of DNA in adverse pregnancy outcomes and helped with some research on a protein found in women during early pregnancy.”
New Canaan Country School
This fall Hugh McGlade enters tenth grade at Groton School. Witty and urbane for a student so young, Hugh’s passions put him front and center: politics and theater.
Hugh was drawn to the stage after seeing the annual musicals at New Canaan Country School. He recalls thinking, “Wow, one day I want that to be me.” In seventh grade he signed up for Bye Bye Birdie and played Harvey Johnson. “Even with a small part like that, I loved being onstage.” His most memorable role? Harold Hill, the fast-talking, charismatic salesman in The Music Man. He says, “If there is one role in theater written for me, it is Harold Hill. He is loud, persuasive, and gregarious.”
A natural leader, Hugh was also editor of The Column, the school newspaper. He says he enjoyed “talking to possible writers, giving them an idea, watching them work on a piece, and eventually publishing it.” And his peers nicknamed him “The Senator” after he convinced the head of the Upper School to let him lead assemblies.
This active teen aspires to be a prosecutor. He explains, “In my opinion, Law and Order is the best television show ever created. Ever since my obsession with it began, I have dreamed of being a prosecutor. Last year a senior state’s attorney [a prosecutor] came to my school. He gave a presentation about Internet safety, and when he finished, I walked up to him and asked, ‘Do you like your job?’ His response was, ‘I love going to work every day.’ To hear those words from a real lawyer and not a scripted actor reassured me that my dream is very worthwhile.”
Darien High School
Nicole Granath holds leadership positions in virtually every prominent extracurricular activity at Darien High School. She is also cocaptain of the golf team and, in senior year, the captain of the debate team. She loves being involved in what’s going on around school and rose through the ranks to become vice president of the Student Council.
Excited about effecting even greater change, she has worked to instill more school pride in the student body and to improve homecoming. She says, “I enjoyed being vice president so much that running for president wasn’t a difficult decision.”
Further, on the debate team, off-the-cuff verbal sparring has improved her speaking skills and confidence. So much so that she addressed the entire high school faculty as a member of the State Student Advisory Board on Education and also spoke at budget-cut hearings to the board of education and board of finance. She says, “The debate team has enabled me to cultivate a life skill, and I believe it is a club more kids should take advantage of. As captain next year, I am going to try to make sure that they do.”
What motivates her to work with so many different groups? “Each club or activity represents a unique interest or talent I enjoy pursuing and honing. I love all of the the groups so much that it would have been difficult for me to not participate.”
With so many balls in the air during the school year, did Nicole kick back for summer? No way. She taught sailing, volunteered as a crew leader at evening Vacation Bible School, played in a couple of golf tournaments, and participated in lab experiments toward a treatment for celiac disease with a professor from Columbia University.
New Canaan Country School
Aside from being a top student, classical and electric violin player, and soprano singer, as well as cocaptain of varsity soccer and tricaptain of varsity basketball teams, Sarah Wyllie rose to the challenge of being editor-in-chief at New Canaan Country School like a pro. She says, “I enjoyed taking on the many responsibilities—from convincing other students to write to distributing the final product. Juggling many tasks made working on The Column team a rewarding experience.” She would love a career in journalism.
At school the outgoing student attacked her roles of ambassador for the admissions office and chair of the leadership council with zeal, sharing her experiences with prospective students and their parents. For the leadership council, she spoke to, and collaborated with, peers on behalf of the student body on issues of pressing importance.
When it comes to community service, Sarah is eager to lend a hand and a big smile. She volunteered with the Horizons Friends Corps, a mentoring program that partners eighth graders with fourth graders from area public schools. She also volunteered at Stamford’s Waveny Care Center, serving dinner to residents, and helped organize the Special Olympics on campus.
At school Sarah takes her roles seriously, but, at home she showcases her sillier side. In fact, her family has “a plethora of quirky nicknames for me,” she jokes. “Petunia, Junkyard, and Potie Crazy, to name a few.” Her guilty pleasures include popcorn and chocolate, and she’s a self-professed Gleek (or huge fan) of Glee.
During the summer Sarah hones her entrepreneurial leanings by running a small day-camp at a neighborhood beach with a few friends. The best part? “Camp lasts for about a month, and the rest of my summer is free,” she says with a smile.
Darien High School
As a big sister to two brothers and a religious education teacher at Saint Thomas More Church for years, Rachel Hathaway surprised no one when she began working with children from abusive homes at the Domestic Violence Crisis Center (DVCC) through PeaceWorks. “I try to help children find ways to recognize and deal with their anger without using violence,” says the Darien High senior. “The best way to stop someone from abusing others later in life is by teaching them strategies when they are young.” She also was a cofounder and president of Teen PeaceWorks at Darien High School, a club that, she says, “brings awareness about domestic and teen dating violence to high school students.”
Rachel also enjoys her art classes, which range from drawing to ceramics to advanced art. “Art has become my passion,” she says. So much so that she will be majoring in art education at the University of Dayton. She is excited about becoming an art teacher and hopes to earn a master’s degree in art therapy: “It would be the ideal job—the perfect combination of my two passions—art and helping people.” She cites two high school art teachers, Ms. Stuart and Ms. Bosler, as the inspiration behind her career choice. “Their guidance made me the art student that I am today.” Her other role model is brother Noah, who has Asperger’s syndrome. “Living with someone with special needs has made me more compassionate and sensitive.”