Oh, The Places They’ll Go!

Portraits by Jacek Dolata
Furniture Courtesy of Design Within Reach
Studio Courtesy of Curtain Call

It happens every year. Just when it seems that no high-schooler can outperform the previous class of Ten Teens to Watch, along comes another batch of nominees that leave us amazed. Clearly their families—and the schools these cool kids attend—are doing something right. But our credit goes to them for what they achieve and what they dream to become. Oh, the places they’ll go!

 


ANTONIA BERLAGE

Academy of Information Technology & Engineering

Describe your most successful study tips.
Find a good playlist that helps you to focus. No Instagram. No Snapchat.

What is your personal motto?
And of some have compassion, making a difference—Jude 22
I think that being kind to others is invaluable. People often don’t realize how simple acts of compassion can affect another person.

Describe a highlight of your summer.
I went on a mission trip to Northern Ireland where I participated in a program called RIOT (Revival in Our Town) that works with local teenagers in a youth center. It provides tutoring, teaches youth leadership and raises suicide awareness.

What is important to you?
My involvement with the Landmark Baptist Church. I work in the children’s ministry as a teacher, and I spent part of my summer working at the Vacation Bible School and in the kitchen for a weeklong meeting in August.

Role model?
My parents. My mom showed me the value of a good education and being a working woman while still being a great mom. My dad taught me to always work hard and to go outside my comfort zone.

Favorite food?
Cheeseburgers

Biggest pet peeve?
People who do not properly use their car blinkers while driving.

Pre-game ritual?
Before a big [ski] race or lacrosse game, I like to spend some time alone and think about my goal for the day. If I’m skiing, I think about my last few times and ways I can shave some seconds off. I [also] love to listen to music and have a good time with my teammates while warming up to take the edge off.

What nonprofit are you most dedicated to?
The non-profit organization Ability Plus, which is an adaptive sports program that I volunteer for at Mount Snow [Vermont] in the winter. People of all ages with both physical and cognitive disabilities come to learn skiing and snowboarding. I worked with them last winter and will continue to in the following seasons.

Secret talent?
Drawing

Creative outlet?
Cooking and baking

How do you unwind?
By golfing with my dad and best friends, Cooper and Ryan

I’m in the middle of binge-watching… Prison Break.

I aspire to learn… sign language.

The last book I read was… The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

If I could change the world, I would… do it.

Career goals?
I eventually want to go to medical school and [specialize] in pediatrics. My dream job would be working as an emergency care pediatrician in a hospital.



JOHN KRILL

St. Luke’s School

What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced?
I spend a lot of time away from my school community to play water polo, a sport that I am highly committed to. I have had to figure out how to balance both.

How do you give back?
I teach five- to seven-year-olds how to play water polo every Friday during the school year. I also teach tennis during the summers at the Stamford Youth Academy. My twin brother and I also help families in need for Thanksgiving and Easter, and donate Christmas presents through Domus.

Describe a highlight of your summer.
I trained for the Junior Olympics through the end of July [after which] my water polo team went to California to compete.

Role model?
My mom. She taught me that you can pursue charitable goals at the same time as achieving business goals. She was CEO of a company focused on women, and her company raised more than $30 million for breast cancer research. I am proud of her work ethic, but mostly her ability to give back to help others.

Favorite movie?
The Avengers

Go-to study snack?
Annie’s mac-and-cheese

What is the biggest dilemma today’s teen faces?
I think the Internet is great for accessing information. However, using it too much can hinder creativity and prevent the development of problem-solving skills.

Pre-water polo game ritual?
I put my headphones on and listen to music so I can get pumped up and focused. I also make sure I eat well before my game so I have good energy.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I am a certified Rescue Scuba Diver and I am working on being a Master Scuba Diver.

How do you unwind?
I watch two YouTube channel series: SciShow and MinutePhysics. I also draw, and listen to music.

Guilty pleasure?
Playing the GamePigeon app with friends

I’m in the middle of binge-watching… Homeland.

I aspire to learn… how to dance and cook before I go to college.

The last book I read was… Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.

If I could change the world, I would…. help kids all over the world have free access to a good education.

If I could travel anywhere, I would visit… the Great Barrier Reef.

College goals?
Engineering, architecture, chemistry and physics appeal to me. I’d like to be able to combine two or more of these areas in a creative way.



RICHARD FOCKE

King School

What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced?
It occurred when I transitioned from middle school to high school and adjusted to the rigorous new course load. This challenge made me seek help from teachers and peers; I realized that you need to use all available recourses and never be afraid to seek help.

Describe your most successful study tips.
Do not wait until the last minute to study. Break up studying over multiple days and do not try to cram in information the night before the test.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
That German is my first language and the language we speak at home

Favorite teacher?
Dr. Khiznechenko. She taught my Algebra II and Trig classes. Even though her class was extremely hard, I learned a lot. Dr. K is also a very fair teacher, and my advisor.

Favorite app?
Instagram. Even though I do not post many pictures, it is always interesting to see what others post. It makes it easy to keep in touch with people that you might otherwise fall out of touch with and see small snapshots of their lives.

Favorite movie?
Miracle on Ice

What nonprofit are you most dedicated to?
The Ferguson Library, because I started to learn English there. Being a first-generation American, English is not the primary language spoken in my household, and as such, the library (and the programs they offered) was one of the first places where I learned English.

Favorite subject?
Math

Who is your sports idol?
Jaromir Jagr

Pre-hockey game ritual?
I always arrive to every game at least one hour in advance. I then warm up with my team and listen to music in the locker room. I also re-tape my stick before every game.

What is your personal motto?
Lead by example. If you tell others what to do or how to do something without doing it yourself, nobody will ever listen.

How do you unwind?
By watching hockey games or highlights.

If I could travel anywhere, I would visit… London.

The best part about my school is… my friends.

College & Career goals?
I would be interested in majoring in finance or economics. My goal is to one day be an investment banker.



KATHERINE JANIK

Trinity Catholic High School

Describe your most successful study tips.
My mother always suggests that I work out or take a walk if I’ve been studying for a long time. Taking a break and getting my body moving makes me feel much better and ready to focus.

How do you give back?
Ears for Years [is a] fund in California that helps provide solar-powered hearing aids to needy children in developing countries. [Since] I am deaf in my left ear and depend on a hearing aid, I was inspired to start a club at my school to raise money and awareness for this cause. This year alone we raised enough money to provide five children with hearing aids. We also teach teens in my school how to protect their own hearing. This year we promoted the 60/60 rule: Limit earbud use to sixty minutes at 60 percent volume to prevent permanent hearing loss.

What is your personal motto?
Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. I love this saying because it helps me remember that even when I’m not the best, or do not have natural talent at something, I will be successful if I work hard.

Celebrity prom date?
Country singer Sam Hunt

Favorite movie?
The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Favorite food?
Chicken fajitas with beans, avocado, corn and sour cream. The ones my mother makes are so good! I always have these for my birthday dinner.

Biggest pet peeve?
When people litter or throw their cigarette butts out a car window.

Guilty pleasure?
Definitely chocolate. I have a very big sweet tooth.

What do you want to major in?
Architecture, environmental design, or visualization, which is a type of computer animation. I really love math and art, and I think architecture is a great combination of both.

Sports idol?
Simone Biles, the 2016 Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast. I was a competitive gymnast for most of my childhood, and I always enjoy watching the Olympics. Simone is so talented and dedicated, but also authentic and humble.

Go-to study snack?
Ice cream!

Secret talent?
I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than one minute, on average.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
That I’m one of five sisters

I’m in the middle of binge-watching… nothing now [but] I’m anxiously waiting for the new season of Stranger Things.

If I could change the world, I would… stop all wars.

If I could travel anywhere, I would visit… Australia and New Zealand. I want to see where they filmed The Hobbit.

In ten years, i’ll be… working at an architecture firm designing and building new homes, or creating special effects for the newest Pixar film. I hope to be married and thinking about starting a family.



NICHOLAS VANBELLE

Brunswick School

What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced?
I have been fortunate, but the biggest challenge was having my dad as a teacher at school. He was my hockey coach and considered a ‘cool’ teacher. It felt like I had no [independence]. But with age I realized I enjoyed having him there. He could help me academically with the teachers and he could help me athletically.

I aspire to learn… more about the world.

Share a lesson you recently learned.
I learned that not caring too much about what other people think is extremely important in life.

How do you give back?
By trying as much as possible to help the younger kids navigate high school, whether in sports or in the classroom or through the peer leadership program. Or even through my role as president of the school, I felt that I was giving back.

What is your personal motto?
Always give 100 percent. I live by it by trying to make every day as productive as possible. It doesn’t just have to do with working hard in school. It’s also about giving 100 percent in my interactions with others.

Describe a highlight of your summer?
I had a three-week internship in [NYC] working at a financial services firm. Aside from caddying, I worked out and skated in preparation for hockey at Williams College.

Favorite teacher?
My math teacher, Mrs. Allwood. No matter how hard the material is, she can teach it with ease. Also, the tests are extremely challenging but always fair.

Role model?
My mom. She puts her head down and works hard, yet never complains. I envy her confidence.

Favorite movie?
Austin Powers

Go-to study snack?
Clif Bars

Favorite food?
Steak with mashed potatoes

What nonprofit are you most dedicated to?
BuildOn. I raised money for them by climbing Kilimanjaro, and raised money to build a school. Since then I have grown attached to buildOn.

Favorite app?
Snapchat

Guilty pleasure?
Ice cream

Who is your sports idol?
Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers

Secret talent?
Because I am an athlete, my secret talent is being good at math.

Biggest pet peeve?
People eating close to me when I am studying. I think it annoys me because I am jealous of them relaxing when I am trying to focus.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I like to run.

How do you unwind?
I watch Netflix.

I’m in the middle of binge-watching… Entourage.

The last book I read was… A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

If I could travel anywhere, I would visit… Rome.

College & Career goals?
I want to major in economics or mathematics. I want to pursue something I am interested in. [I want] to enjoy my job.



MEGHAN PRABHU

Westhill High School

Why do you love the piano?
I’ve been playing it for thirteen years; it is the best way I can express myself without words.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced?
Being naturally shy, [performing on the piano] in front of crowds was daunting and overwhelming. Years of challenging myself to play for audiences helped me overcome this fear, as did being a debater for the past three years.

Describe your most successful study tips.
I try to complete my assignments close to when they’re given out because procrastinating just stresses me out more. Doing this gives me time to edit each assignment before submitting it, too.

How do you give back?
I use music to help others in the community. I play piano at Brighton Gardens senior center, teach piano at Chester Addison Community Center, and volunteer at the Shakespeare on the Sound theater company.

What is your personal motto?
She believed she could so she did.—R. S. Grey.
I try to always work hard and remind myself of this quote to help me through tough times.

Celebrity prom date?
Dave Franco

Style signature?
All black, all the time

Favorite movie?
My Cousin Vinny

Go-to study snack?
Any kind of fruit; pineapple is my favorite.

Favorite food?
Sushi, especially spicy tuna rolls

What is the biggest dilemma today’s teen faces?
Teens face pressure from social media and are prone to compare themselves to others. Constant exposure to others’ seemingly perfect lives becomes a source of dissatisfaction in oneself.

Guilty pleasure?
Chocolate cake

Favorite subject?
Psychology

Share a lesson you recently learned.
It is important to stick to who I am rather than trying to always be someone I’m not.

What is your pre-performance ritual?
Before a concert, I wash my hands in ice cold water.

What are you listening to right now?
“Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran

Secret talent?
Baking

Creative outlet?
Journaling to get my thoughts out

I’m in the middle of binge-watching… Gilmore Girls.

I aspire to learn… how to speak Italian.

I would love to cure… cancer.

If I could change the world, I would… reverse climate change.

If I could travel anywhere, I would visit… Italy.

Career goals?
A dream of mine is becoming a doctor.



NATALIA KOTOWSKA

Academy of Information Technology & Engineering

Describe your most successful study tip.
Use online study tools such as Quizlet, which are amazing for memorizing tough-to-learn terminology.

How do you give back?
This year I had the honor of holding the title of Miss Stamford’s Outstanding Teen. Throughout my reign, I raised more than $2,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and spread [the word] about my personal platform Young Women and Men in STEM. I also work as an assistant teacher at the local Polish school, embracing the culture I grew up in and teaching children the power of loving where you came from.

What is your personal motto?
Make it happen. Shock everyone. Ever since I was a little girl, I always dreamed big, [though] people put me down, saying that some dreams are too big to [become] reality. I am more than happy to prove everyone wrong.

Describe a highlight of your summer.
Aside from completing summer [homework] and studying for standardized tests, I hung out with my besties at the beach!

Celebrity prom date?
Ed Westwick, who plays Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl

Favorite teacher?
Mrs. Weber, the AP Chemistry teacher. She always pushes me to do my best, inside and outside of school. Even when I give up on myself, she is always there to lift me up and encourage me to finish the task, no matter how hard it is.

Role model?
My mom. She immigrated to America from Poland and restarted her life to make sure that I could have a better life than she had.

Favorite food?
My grandmother’s pierogi

What is your biggest pet peeve?
When someone is on their phone when they are hanging out with me. I think that it is rude.

What is the biggest dilemma today’s teen faces?
Deciding on college

Describe your favorite family vacation.
It dates to my childhood in Poland. I remember vacationing in Mazury, which is a lake region. We stayed in a camper and danced to live music every night.

Secret talent?
Doing makeup

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I have been a competitive ballroom dancer for ten years.

How do you unwind?
By watching Netflix in my heated blanket with my doggie Coco

Career goals?
I want to major in premed and hope to become a cosmetic surgeon. I plan to open my own practice in California.



JORDAN ORDONEZ

Stamford High School

What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced?
Learning how to speak, read and write the English language after [arriving] from Ecuador. I remember I used to be frightened of speaking up in the second grade, fearing that my peers would make fun of me. I would spend hours reading books, listening to the TV, and jotting down new words I came across.

Share a lesson you recently learned.
Letting go. Although this might be a difficult task, it is a necessary one because it allows us to clear our minds and experience [new] things in the future.

Describe your most successful study tip.
Explain a concept to a peer because it requires true understanding of the material.

How do you give back?
During summer, I volunteer at Stamford Hospital in facilities management, and I play guitar and piano for the elderly at the rehabilitation center.

What is your personal motto?
Never stop learning. I try to educate myself every chance I get.

Celebrity prom date?
Jennifer Lawrence

Role model?
My sister, Joselyn. I am a better person every day because of her.

Favorite food?
A bacon-cheese omelet

Biggest pet peeve?
When students stand in the middle of the hallway during passing time. There is only so much time allotted!

What is the biggest dilemma today’s teen faces?
Teens face a tremendous amount of peer pressure on how to dress, talk, and behave. [Amid] all this, it can be very easy for one to lose self-identity.

Guilty pleasure?
Watching countless hours of physics documentaries on YouTube.

Favorite subject?
Chemistry

What are you listening to right now?
Milky Chance’s “Flashed Junk Mind”

Secret talent?
I can do a kip up like in Kung Fu movies.

Creative outlet?
I love to draw nature [scenes] in my sketchbook.

I’m in the middle of binge-watching… The Office.

I aspire to learn… Mandarin Chinese.

I would love to cure… discrimination.

The last book I read was… The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

If I could travel anywhere, I would visit… Easter Island.

The best part about my school is… its diversity.

Career goals?
I would like to do a double major in electrical engineering and music. My dream job would be to work at NASA.



MOLLY MURRAY

Trinity Catholic High School

How do you give back?
Through basketball. I learned to play [the sport] through the Stamford Youngtimers Basketball league, [and today] I like giving back through coaching. Basketball has taught me about teamwork, hard work and positivity. I coached a fourth-grade House team this year and we made it to the league championship game, and even though we lost, it was a great experience that I will never forget.

What is your personal motto?
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.—Les Brown. I value goal-setting. If you set your goals high enough and do not reach them, you can still be successful but maybe in another way.

Celebrity prom date?
Leonardo DiCaprio

Style signature?
I always have my nails done.

Role model?
My parents. They are such hard workers and have instilled in me the values that help make me the person I am today.

Favorite movie?
Titanic

Go-to study snack?
Peanut butter

What is the biggest dilemma today’s teen faces?
Social media. It is a vortex that kind of sucks you in and people often become addicted to their appearance and how the world views them instead of focusing on what really matters.

Guilty pleasure?
Taking a nice, long shower

Sports idol?
WNBA’s Skylar Diggins

What are you listening to right now?
“Check Yes, Juliet” by We the Kings

Creative outlet?
Making collages. I love to rip apart a couple of magazines and find a bunch of meaningful happy pictures that I can then decorate all over a piece of cardboard.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I love baking.

In ten years, I’ll be… living in New York City.

The last book I read was… The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

If I could change the world, I would… look for opportunities for Syrian refugees.

The best part about my school is… the small size. Everyone knows and supports one another. The sporting events are largely attended and it is great to see Trinity’s community of students, faculty and alumni together in one place supporting the team.

Career goals?
I want to learn more about business and aspire to work on Wall Street. I learned a lot about the stock market in school when I participated in the Stock Market Challenge at King. It is something I can see myself [doing].



KIRAN JAGTIANI

Stamford High School

Describe an accomplishment.
I took a chance [and created] an independent photography business during the summer of 2016. Since then I have been able to successfully promote my photo skills and services, grow my repeat client base, and cover a growing number of events including parties, fundraising galas, small weddings and community events.

How do you give back?
As someone who really wants to go into a profession that involves children (pediatrics and education), I love helping kids. For the last couple of years, I’ve been going to Yale-New Haven Hospital in the fall to meet pediatric patients and do crafts with them.

Describe a highlight of the summer.
I did a short internship for the Boston Globe to improve my photography skills.

Celebrity prom date?
Adam Levine

Style signature?
Rocking a T-shirt, sweatpants and my hair in a messy bun.

Favorite movie?
V for Vendetta. I’ve watched it at least twenty times.

Favorite app?
Pinterest! It allows me to embrace my crafty side. I’ve come across so many unique recipes, outfit ideas and photography techniques that I probably wouldn’t have found without it.

Go-to study snack?
Animal crackers. They’re super addictive.

Biggest pet peeve?
Dirty dishes. They creep me out.

What is the biggest dilemma today’s teen faces?
Time management is something that most teens struggle with. With extracurricular activities, challenging courses and the need for downtime, teens have a difficult time prioritizing and managing their time effectively.

Guilty pleasure?
Sleeping

Sports idol?
Novak Djokovic

Why do you love the piano?
I love the way it sounds. I learned to play it on my own, without any professional help. When I was younger, I used to play the piano to relax and change my mood.

What is your pre-tennis match, ritual?
I discreetly kiss my fingers and touch them to the court before I start a match. I picked this up from one of my soccer teammates a couple of years ago. She believed [in thanking] the Earth for providing a place to play on.

What are you listening to right now?
“All for Leyna” by Billy Joel

Secret talent?
Making s’mores in a conventional oven. They come out perfect every time.

How do you unwind?
Watching an episode of Gilmore Girls

I aspire to learn… Arabic.

I would love to cure… autism.

Career goals?
I want to spend time directly working with people either to help them or to understand them a bit better—where I can see a direct result of my efforts. Perhaps this is why I am leaning towards medicine, journalism or education.

 

 

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