10 Teens to Watch
They have high GPAs, academic honors, maturity beyond their years, disarming charm and raw talent, not to mention the passion that puts each of these ten terrific teens at the top of the class.
photographs by William Taufic
Many teens are eager to head off to college after they graduate from high school, but not Kevin Duane. He’s heading to Waterloo, Iowa, where he’ll be one step closer to his goal of playing in the National Hockey League. It might seem like an unusual route to take for a player who has been singled out by NHL scouts and has already committed to college. But Kevin, who lives in New Canaan, senses that his trip to Waterloo will make him an even faster, stronger, smarter skater. That would be quite an accomplishment, considering that at six feet, four inches tall and 215 pounds, he’s pretty much there. His ability to score goals, see the ice and work the puck in front of the net make him an appealing player. Kevin has an imposing presence, chiseled from so many hours in the weight room, but a sweet temperament comes across in his conversation, too. This recent graduate has tenacity, which could be his greatest asset. When he first got to the Brunswick School, the level of play was challenging. “I struggled at first, but I kept at it.” Kevin first laced on skates at age four. He went from local midget hockey to the Boston Junior Bruins program, from the Waterloo Black Hawks camp in 2011 to a spot on their United States Hockey League club this year, and a place on the Junior Club World Cup team. Kevin has committed to playing Division I hockey at Boston University in 2013.
Nose for News
If there was a camera on campus at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, chances are good Nicole Bloom, who graduated in June, wasn’t far away. The Darien resident is as comfortable working behind the lens as she is in front of it. She was seven when she acted in her first show and the production left her with an appetite for the stage. It helped that dad, the late David Bloom, was a familiar face on TV as White House Correspondent for NBC, as well as weekend anchor of the Today show. David Bloom died of a blood clot in 2003 while covering the war in Iraq, and NBC subsequently donated his Today set to Sacred Heart’s broadcast facility. “It’s very surreal to be sitting there, but I love it,” says Bloom, who anchored her school’s news show when she was a junior and became its co-executive producer as a senior. Bloom reports, writes, edits and directs, and has appeared in more than twenty-five live productions. Her narrative short, A Smile Makes a Difference, won the school’s film festival. She shares her talents as a volunteer with Sacred Heart’s SASH program, which opens the school’s facilities to underprivileged kids. Bloom helped them create films about their personal experiences. "I love that these films are impacting people," says Bloom, who will attend Elon University in North Carolina.
When he was fourteen, Alex Britton pondered this quandary: How could he get his hands on money for everything he wanted when his parents declined his requests for cash and he was too young to get a job? He found the answer on YouTube. Britton broadcast his own reviews of games and utilities created for cell phones, recording his commentaries from the bedroom of his Darien home. In the process, he got to know app programmers, and then learned how to do what they were doing. Then he made his own apps. To date, Britton has developed more than a dozen and sold more than 75,000 through iTunes. Recently, he expanded his iPower Studios product line to include cell-phone cases and clothing. His handiwork attracted smart people in high places. Britton was one of 150 students selected by Apple to receive a scholarship to its developers’ conference in San Francisco—30,000 kids applied. He attended seminars with Apple engineers wearing pieces from his Money Never Sleeps clothing line while his sales increased. The entrepreneur, now sixteen, couples philanthropy with business acumen. In February he and schoolmates from King visited New Orleans to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. He was so moved he launched a fundraiser to benefit the trip and his school. Britton has pledged to donate $20,000 of his earnings to King this fall.
A funny thing happened to Darien resident Eliza Moley once she learned to sweep: She learned to focus, stay on task and push herself. And she became very good at most everything else. Sweeping is a type of rowing in which athletes propel their boat forward with only one oar apiece. The sport combines strength, stamina and mental toughness with teamwork. Moley, a junior at Greens Farms Academy, works her magic in the third seat of an eight-person shell at the Saugatuck Rowing Academy in Westport. “Rowing is really about endurance and power,” she says. “Before I started rowing, I was a bit weak mentally. In order to be successful, you have to really push yourself.” The same can be true of another one of her passions: making movies. Moley paired with a feisty interviewer and they launched a video channel for the Beachside Press, the student newspaper at GFA. Now, Moley is known around school for her quirky, thoughtful films, which are showcased at GFAN, the school’s film festival. This teen promised to make three quality films for GFAN per year, which she’s managed in each of her two years so far. Her pieces have ranged from documentaries to silent films to a murder mystery. Most often, though, the films represent her upbeat point of view. “With everything that I’m passionate about, I feel like it’s the finished product that drives me during the creative process,” she says.
Rhythm and Reason
People like to march to a different beat, and that’s fine by jazz drummer Charlie Schlinkert because he likes to provide that tempo. He lives in Darien but his drumming has taken him worldwide, from China to Luxembourg to Morocco. His first ensemble was in Darien, with his brothers. He was seven at the time and has been playing since. When he was in the eighth grade, his family moved to London, where he discovered a dearth of jazz drumming, inspiring Charlie to work on his technique. When he returned home, he joined the music program at St. Luke’s in New Canaan, where he was the principal percussionist. He decided that “not-fun practice” would be a mandate, in addition to the fun stuff. Each day, he does drills to improve his skills, such as focusing on the independent movement of his four limbs, which is crucial in drumming. The work has paid off. In addition to performing in St. Luke’s orchestra pit and blues band, Schlinkert has been invited to attend jazz workshops at Fairfield and Stanford universities and has performed with the Norwalk Youth Symphony, the Association for Music in International Schools, the Western Regional/All State orchestra and the Fairfield County Jazz Guild. His local band, Wonder Bear, has performed in several New York City clubs. This fall, he will attend New York University as a freshman.
Her typical day is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, with many distinct pieces. Sometimes Kira Schott, who lives in New Canaan and just graduated from Greenwich Academy, plays sports; she lettered in basketball, lacrosse and soccer and at graduation was awarded the school’s top athlete award. Sometimes she sings. Kira and her fellow Madrigal Singers trilled their way through Spain and France this summer, wowing audiences with everything from sacred to pop music. Often, she camps, hikes and kayaks. In June she was awarded the Girl Scouts Gold Award for developing the curriculum for a Mommy and Me program at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. Very often, though, she puzzles over things, whether a science challenge or a math problem that dares her to devise a solution. Schott has been solving problems ever since the first grade, when she formed an Odyssey of the Mind team. She and her friends captured the OM world championship in the fifth grade and she kept on competing through high school. (This year’s team staged a skit on the periodic table of elements starring a handcrafted skeleton, shown below.) “Acting and singing are great training grounds for a person’s charisma,” says Schott. “Performing, whether you like it or not, is part of life.” Schott will study computer science this fall at MIT.
Tired of spending your summers doing the same old thing? If so, tag along with Reed Morgan. The senior from Darien splits his summer building roofs on trailer homes in West Virginia; making bluebird houses for his Eagle Scout project; and conducting archeological fieldwork in southwest Greece, where he’s trying to unravel the Linear B script on pre-ancient Greek tablets. “It’s absolutely fascinating,” says Morgan, who is fluent in modern Greek. Morgan was born in Greenwich but moved to Australia with his family when he was four. Morgan returned to the States at age seven, became a Cub Scout and explored all things outdoors. The teen seems wise beyond his seventeen years. As captain of the Darien High School debate club he argues both sides of an issue in current events. (He placed in the top ten at the Yale Invitational Parliamentary Debate.) He loves to perform, and played the roles of Van Helsing in Dracula, and Action in West Side Story. He was selected to the Connecticut All-State Festival as a top tenor in the state. Morgan also is a member of the Model U.N. Club, as well as the Math Club and the Freethinkers. Oh, and he earned perfect scores on his SATs. When he’s not racking up awards, he enjoys reading, running cross-country and growing peppers.
Stick-carrying athletes beware: Olivia Hompe—ice hockey and lacrosse All-American and MVP of the state lacrosse championship—is strapping on her pads at New Canaan High School for one more year of domination. Hompe, who was called “the LeBron James of girls lacrosse” after she scored nine goals to lead New Canaan to victory in the state finals, and whose hockey team has won three straight state titles, hopes to four-peat as a senior. Yet it’s not sports that the seventeen-year-old competition queen seems most excited about. “In the fall, I am going to be on The Challenge with three of my friends!” she says, eager to match wits with all challengers at the academic quiz show televised on the MSG Varsity network. Olivia is no stranger to battling with her brain off of the field. As a sophomore, she and her teammates in the Junior Engineering Technical Society captured first in the state championship with their solutions to the Smarter Energy, Cleaner Planet challenge. And last November, she and her teammates from the New Canaan Model U.N. delegation came in twenty-fifth in the nation at the Model United Nations Simulation at Brown University. “It’s very academic but it’s also very competitive,” says the student, who is now in her senior year.
Perhaps you came across Peter Barston’s name in the sports section of The New York Times. It’s intriguing to this Darien teen that his story was news at all. It pointed out something he’s suspected all along: Kids who play sports just want to have fun. For a project at Fairfield Prep, Barston surveyed more than 1,000 youths in Darien to learn their reasons for playing. He discovered the majority of kids value fun more than winning or getting a college scholarship. In an age of sports tutors and travel teams, Barston is an anomaly. He prefers playing hoops in the driveway over organized versions of games. “As a freshman in sports, I felt all of that pressure bearing down on me,” says Barston, who gave up interscholastic sports at Prep in favor of something more enjoyable. “I like to play soccer with my friends without all the adult scrutiny.” Barston, who graduated summa cum laude in June and was a member of the National Honor Society and a national merit scholar, is heading to Georgetown University to study the business of sports. When not consumed by games, Barston invents things like apps and does more than his fair share of good works for the community. Barston won Prep’s St. Peter Claver Award for service and leadership.
To the Rescue
Seniors spend restless nights pondering what their future holds. Not Danielle Karp. This New Canaan teen spends nights saving people’s lives. Karp, a senior at King, moonlights as an Emergency Medical Technician. “As a child, whenever I heard an ambulance I asked my parents to chase after it,” she says. “And I was a doctor for every Halloween.” Karp believes she can trace her passion for medicine back to her birth, when she spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit. As she grew older, she returned for visits and, later, to shadow the doctor who cared for her. “Then in my freshman year I took bio and loved it. It turned me into a good student,” says Karp, who has earned high honors ever since. At age fifteen she signed up for EMT classes at Norwalk Community College. Half of the class dropped out, but not this tenacious teen. She passed all four state tests and racked up more than 140 hours of training in five months. These days she works the Thursday night shift, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., at the New Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corps, before heading to school, where she maintains a 3.96 GPA. When she’s not out saving lives, Karp plays varsity soccer, volunteers with special needs peers and is active in a host of school clubs. She derives the most satisfaction from work, though. “When my phone goes off and I’m not on the rescue call, I wish that I were.”