10 Teens with Bright Futures
They have high GPAs, academic honors and raw talent, yet these local students also possess unique qualities that put them at the top of the class.
Photograph by William Taufic
Lily Holland — Renaissance Girl
people who first meet Lily Holland of Rowayton are sometimes surprised to learn that she was the first student at St. Luke’s School to be both a classical and a global scholar, or that when she played goalie for the school’s field hockey team she had an 85 percent save record. A graduate of the class of 2011, this eighteen-year-old was also a member of the varsity ski and softball teams.
Lily’s polish and grace belie the steely determination that’s enabled her to succeed academically and athletically. As a student at St. Luke’s, she excelled in the classics.
“I credit my teachers for helping me discover my passion for the subject,” says Lily.
She started with Latin in seventh grade, and when the classical scholar program was introduced, her teachers suggested she give it a shot. That early education led Lily to a love of the Greek poet Sappho. In fact, she has translated works from ancient Greek, pairing them with images to tell a fresh story.
Lily’s teachers and friends say she also has an adventurous spirit, and that’s probably what led her to spend a sophomore semester studying abroad in Switzerland. This fall she begins her first semester at Colby College. When we ask Lily what she wants to be when she finishes college, she says, “Everything!” At this stage she’s thinking about a career in government or journalism but says her broader goal is to travel and meet people. “I want to experience a lot.”
Summer Jobs: When she wasn’t hard at work in the classroom, Lily was a dockhand and launch operator at Noroton Yacht Club.
Hidden Talent: Lily was a competitive sailor for more than eight years.
William DeRocco — Whiz Kid
William DeRocco’s intellect is on overdrive. This honor student and senior at Darien High School read Michio Kaku’s Hyperspace in second grade and says the book enabled him to find his life’s passion, particle physics.
In person, William has the easy-going nature of someone comfortable in his own skin, a person who enjoys his social life despite his above-average intelligence. In fact, his outgoing nature has led him into some very fortuitous conversations with scientists. William got into the habit of writing professionals when he had a puzzling question he couldn’t answer. One of the people he contacted responded with a handwritten letter addressed to “William DeRocco: Future Nobel Prize Winner.” Another scientist asked William to join his lab group at Yale.
Lest you think he lives entirely in his head, this seventeen-year-old is also a dedicated runner who says the sport keeps him both healthy and sane. “I love the endorphin rush.” William is a member of the cross-country and track teams at Darien High School and also averages six miles a day during the summer months. What’s on his iPod during his long runs? Clive Cussler books, which he downloads from the Darien Library website.
Hobbies: William just finished his first screenplay and has taken up amateur beekeeping at the Darien Nature Center to help satisfy his taste for honey.
Favorites: Peacham, Vermont for vacation; Bertucci’s for dinner; Arrested Development for time spent in front of the screen, and the Wolfram Alpha calculus app.
Kate Tomlinson — Always Active
When Kate Tomlinson of Darien started playing soccer at the age of five, she was on a coed team, and though she isn’t the sort of person to toot her own horn, she was more than capable of besting the other girls and boys. She instantly loved the sport and has continued to work hard at it over the years. Kate’s success on the soccer team at Greens Farms Academy in the 2010 season earned her an All-State Selection and honors as an FAA All-League player.
During the off-season, Kate keeps the adrenaline flowing by kick-boxing, although she prefers to be outside rather than in a gym. “But I love exercising and being active, and I really like to try new things and experiment.” That could explain why she recently picked up lacrosse.
As it turns out, Kate, seventeen, is as accomplished off the playing field as she is on it. Her teachers call her a well-rounded student with exceptional aptitude for a number of subjects, and calculus and British literature are two of her favorites. As a senior this year, she’ll be participating in her school’s Global Perspective Program, which includes classes in international relations, AP English and AP environmental science. She’ll also write a thesis on the global water crisis.
“The reading I’m doing on the subject is fascinating, as well as frightening and challenging,” she says. “I can’t wait to really dive into the topic.”
Favorites: The iTunes word-game app Text Twist and the TV shows Modern Family and Friends
Secret Talent: Swimming. Kate spent this past summer as a lifeguard at Noroton Bay.
Where to Find Her: The Sugar Bowl in Darien is one of her favorite eateries.
Greg Zales — The Communicator
When this New Canaan High School STUDENT arrived for our photo shoot and announced that he crews for Saugatuck Rowing Club, we got the impression Greg was the coxswain even before he broke out his cox box (which holds the PA system that helps him communicate with the rowers). Greg takes great care when choosing his words, relishes leading a conversation and is adept at stating a mission. “I’m responsible for something more expensive than a Mercedes. I am responsible for steering safety, as well as race strategy and motivation.”
In June Greg coxed at the Youth National Championships, finishing fourteenth in the highly competitive Varsity 8+ category. He’s also very involved in community service—as a talent chair and member of the executive board at the Outback Teen Center and a member of the New Canaan Service League of Boys. This language buff has studied Latin and Spanish and is one of relatively few people in the world who speaks Esperanto, created in the 1800s as a politically neutral language to foster understanding among people from different regions.
“Greg is an unusually poised young man,” says Ari Rothman, assistant principal at New Canaan High School. “He has great creativity and accomplishes a lot. The fruits of his efforts really speak for themselves.”
Aspirations: “I plan to make my own path.”
Unsung Accomplishments: Gold medal winner of the national Latin Exam, treasurer of the National Honor Society, director of the New Canaan High School jazz band, and second-degree black belt in karate
Keiran McQuilkin — Soccer Superstar
New Canaan’s Keiran McQuilkin, a senior at King Low Heywood Thomas, has maintained a four-plus grade point average during his entire high school career. Academically gifted, this seventeen-year-old is also copresident of his class and a member of the chess club. Yet the accomplishments he’s best known for have occurred on the soccer field. Kieran is an outstanding goalie and one of the tricaptains of King’s team. He earned spots on Connecticut All-State, FAA All-League Varsity Soccer and WNEPSSA All-Star Varsity Soccer in his junior year.
Now a senior at King, Kieran doesn’t plan to choose a college based on his soccer-star status. “Although I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do yet, I think about going into advertising or marketing, a field that will allow me to be creative.”
Kieran is also known among his peers for the work he does with CT Storm Hockey, a league for students with developmental disabilities. Finding time to commit to the organization can be challenging, but Kieran makes it a priority, and, as a result, the organization benefits from his natural leadership skills. King Soccer Coach Enzennio Mallozzi has seen this side of his player.“I believe that Kieran is a wonderful leader and a model scholar-athlete,” he says. “He has a bright future ahead of him, not only as an athlete, but as a man in tomorrow’s society.”
What Might Surprise You: This all-around athlete and top student is also a songbird. McQuiklin is a member of King’s a capella singing group and is teaching himself to play guitar.
Erika Jensen — Poised to Achieve
Erika Jensen’s perfect posture gives her away as a ballerina. This senior at New Canaan High School, seventeen, started dancing at the New England Academy of Dance when she was just three. She takes her craft seriously, practicing six days a week. (She averages two hours per day, with more time in the studio on weekends.) In addition she spent the summer attending the Joffrey Ballet Intensive Program in New York City. But dancing is just one passion of this incredibly well-rounded student. She’s also a member of the National Honor Society, the New Canaan Cares Leadership Program and the National Charity League (in which she has held the posts of president, treasurer and corresponding secretary). Though she’d like to dance in college, at this time Erika doesn’t plan to pursue ballet as a career. She is more interested in broadcast journalism. In fact, she’s now fine-tuning the skill set she’ll need to succeed in that field. Erika juggles the roles of producer, writer and editor at New Canaan High School’s TV production program, where she has covered a variety of events, from sports to school plays.
Good Works: Erika has done a good deal of community service for local organizations such as the New Canaan Food Pantry, Norwalk Emergency Shelter, Kids in Crisis and the Mikey Czech Foundation.
David Fitzpatrick — Enlightened Entrepreneur
Darien’s David Fitzpatrick has the easy charisma of a guy who has figured a few things out. After starting the Sustainable Agriculture Club at Brunswick School, this seventeen-year-old senior determined that he could make the organization more popular with students by organizing a couple of social barbecues during which the vegetables grown by the group would be roasted and passed around. David also found a way to pay for the blueberry bushes he wanted for the club’s garden: He coordinated a plant sale just prior to Mother’s Day and sold half the bushes he had bought for twice the initial cost, putting the profit into the group’s bank account.
An entrepreneur by nature, David founded Atlantic Entertainment, a DJ business he and his brother run in the summer and during holidays when they aren’t bogged down with schoolwork or sports. (David is captain of the varsity water polo team). Oh, and while biking across the country in the summer of 2010, he worked out a way to raise $6,000 for the Waterside School, a charter elementary school in Stamford.
Not surprisingly, Fitzpatrick doesn’t let any of these activities keep him from his studies. This honors student recently won the Brunswick Language Award for Mandarin, a subject he’s pursued for three years.
What He Won’t Tell You: When David started the agriculture club at school, he invested a lot of sweat equity in the garden, lugging over a thousand pounds of soil to the site. He distributes the vegetables to families in need.
Reputation: David’s teachers describe him as thoughtful, hard-working, caring and polite. Despite his vigorous schedule and accomplishments, this teen remains humble and modest.
Emma Tuzinkiewicz — Goal Oriented
This eighteen-year-old graduate of the Darien High School class of 2011 is a young woman with razor-sharp concentration. “Emma is one of the most focused young ladies I’ve ever known,” says Al Gurney, who coaches the girl’s ice hockey team at the school. Emma Tuz, as she is known around town, became captain of that team even though she didn’t start playing hockey until she was twelve years old.
“My younger brother played, and I was dragged around to all these different rinks until I finally wanted to try it myself,” she says. “I was one of the worst kids on the house team but I loved the sport and I just kept playing. I’ve been really lucky to have amazing coaches who believed in me.”
In addition to hockey, Emma also played lacrosse at Darien, and she’ll continue to do so at Columbia University, where she’s now enrolled as a freshman. For all her athletic achievements, Emma is also extremely goal-oriented in other areas of her life, including community service. In her junior year at Darien High School, she founded the Eco-Citizens Club, which promotes sustainability both globally and locally—the club has worked with the Darien Land Trust to plant trees and bushes at Olsen Woods.
“There’s no one who works harder, on the playing fields, in the classroom or in the community than Emma,” says Gurney.
Childhood Dream: When she was in second grade, Emma wanted to be an astronaut, and that aspiration still holds great appeal.
Secret Passion: Asteroids, which explains why she elected to intern with a Yale astronomer two summers ago
Julia Tuttle — The Humanitarian
Julia Tuttle says her life profoundly changed when she read Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. The book details one heroic doctor’s efforts to bring medical services to the desperately poor. The idea that each person can change the world is one Julia runs with.
She’s traveled to Ghana five times to work in the Good Shepherd School and Orphanage, which the Tuttle family supports through the nonprofit organization they founded, the Ghana Children’s Fund. “I help take care of the kids,” says Julia. “I teach them and provide them with lots of love and attention.” Although this senior is actively doing her part to make the world a better place, she doesn’t let her global work get in the way of her responsibilities as a student at New Canaan High School. She’s captain of the soccer team and plays varsity lacrosse. She is also president of the National Honor Society and founder and president of Hope 4 Ghana, a club that raises money to help children in that country receive a high school education. She has done independent study on humanitarian aid in developing countries because the issue is one she wants to continue to pursue after high school.
“Julia has a preternatural calm about her and a maturity beyond her years,” says her AP history teacher, Richard Webb. “Julia has not only excelled in school, but she has been a resource to others. She’s remarkably compassionate.”
Quote: “There’s pressure in these towns and I’m an achiever, but I try very hard not to let the pressure be the thing that drives me.”
Favorites: Costa Rica as a vacation destination and the Fruit Ninja app
Her Future: “I think she’ll be a game-changer in whatever field she chooses,” says teacher Richard Webb.