Spring 2014 Super Teen Finalists
These lucky finalists are eligible for the $1,000 cash prize to be awarded by May 23, 2014. Voting on finalists will begin no later than May 1st.
“Even small gestures can make a huge impact on someone’s life.” And Geneva Bass of Michigan would know. In high school she participated in the TV-10 program, an organization that allowed her to direct, produce, create, and run on-air content in her community. That one extracurricular activity led to big things. “If I hadn’t applied to be a part of it, I would have never discovered that is what I want to do in the future,” Geneva explains. Subsequently, Geneva, a college student, is currently majoring in Broadcast and Cinematic Arts with a minor in Management.
Geneva found her passion while she was dealing with the hardest period of her life. Geneva has a condition called Growth Hormone Deficiency. “GHD is when the pituitary gland doesn’t form correctly, and doesn’t produce the hormones that are needed to grow and develop,” she says. Unfortunately, Geneva will not face this obstacle only once. “Although I did get the treatment I needed throughout middle school and am now 5’3”, I still have to deal with the consequences of this condition later in life.”
But GHD will not define her or her future. Geneva plans on finishing college and going on to grad school. She wants to study for a Master’s degree in Broadcast and Cinematic Arts with a concentration in video production. “I would like to be a director or an editor of a live event television program,” she describes. “My dream job would be directing The Ellen DeGeneres Show. And this is where Geneva’s story comes full circle. The TV-10 program, where she found her passion and her future goals, is currently struggling to survive. “I want other students to discover the passion of broadcast television,” Geneva explains, “so to help them I submitted a form to The Ellen DeGeneres Show to try and help them.”
Now, wouldn’t it be amazing if the inspiration for her dream job could be saved by her dream job? If anyone could pull it off, it would be Geneva.
“Surround yourself with people who want to raise you up, not bring you down. If you want to be a smart and caring person, hang out with smart and caring people.” That is what Carolina Sosa of Virginia believes makes someone stand out.
If this is how Carolina judges success, then she must have an excellent circle of family and friends. How else could she start Scholar Society, a program that fosters academic excellence, leadership and community service in low income or first generation families? Or participate in the Business Honor Society and Future Business Leaders of America? Or be named National Children’s Awareness Month Ambassador of Virginia?
What’s even more impressive is the fact that Carolina accomplished all of this after struggling with public speaking from a young age. Due to a speech problem, Carolina had to take classes throughout elementary school. “I wouldn’t pay attention and I would easily get frustrated,” she remembers. But she found a way to face the challenge. She decided she would rather take orchestra in middle school instead of her speech therapy. “It was touch and I did get made fun of, but in the end I was holding a violin bow,” Carolina explains.
Even though that hardship is in the past, Carolina has no plans to stop her hard work. She hopes to major in communications and minor in Spanish during college. “My dream career would be to work for UNICEF. One of the things that first caught my eye about UNICEF was that they were recently fundraising to help Colombia’s indigenous children and pregnant women,” Carolina says. Being from Colombian descent, she feels a personal connection and duty to aid the nation. Assuming that Carolina keeps her support system, there is no doubt that she will continue her successful, trailblazing pursuits.
Winter 2013 Super Teen Finalists
“Go for what you want.” That is Devany Howard’s advice for other students looking for a way to excel in life. Taking risks and chances to achieve what you want from life is the philosophy that Devany, a senior in Ohio, has adopted. In order to afford a new laptop she took on a fast food job in addition to the job Devany had worked since sophomore year. “I was so close to the edge,” Devany remembers. She wanted to quit, but she stuck with the frustrating job and got the money she needed.
In addition, Devany traveled to China by herself, even though the trip seemed overwhelming at first. “I was attempting a four-week journey to the other side of the world….Anything could’ve happened to me,” she describes. Fortunately Devany made a safe journey and fulfilled her goal of volunteering at an orphanage. It is obvious that Devany takes the leap and makes brave decisions, even if she is at first nervous to do so. She definitely goes for what she wants in life, whether that is in travel, work, or academics.
That best part of Devany’s outlook on life is that she shoots for the stars, despite the difficulties around her. When asked about her biggest challenge, Devany answered “being an Asian adoptee living in a predominantly white community.” Even though Devany has coped with this struggle her entire life, she has not let it define her or hinder her in any way. Devany excels in math at school, has a tremendous work ethic, has traveled to Peru and China and plans on working at the United Nations in New York someday. “Although I’ll have a home in New York, my actual home would be the world,” Devany declares. No matter where she ends up working, Devany’s inspiring philosophy is sure to bring her wonderful things.
“I started to think of my life as a journey; one with a meaningful ending with hardships along the way.” That’s how Super Teen Phoo Kyaw, of John Dewey High School, dealt with the biggest challenge of her life: growing up in a new country and learning a new language on her own. Phoo emigrated from Myanmar with her parents when she was a child. While most of us would be satisfied by learning to speak another language fluently, Phoo set her sights even higher. She studied hard throughout high school, worked for an assemblyman, is passionate about science and will attend college in the fall.
Surprisingly, this is not what Phoo is most proud of. That would be her nomination for a medical program called Lead America. Through this program, Phoo traveled to John Hopkins University and worked on an epidemiology case study, observed a surgeon, and investigated the prevalence of Methemoglobinemia. As Phoo describes, “the experience that I got during this conference will never be forgotten.”
After graduation, Phoo plans to attend a research university with a top science program. Then it is on to medical school where she will train to become an anesthesiologist. “The role of the anesthesiologist is very important and I would like to experience it,” Phoo explains. “I enjoy doing the investigation, searching, and problem solving that are related to medical issues.”
Phoo overcame obstacles and a language barrier to get where she is today. And she is supportive of everyone who works hard for their goals. “Be adventurous, committed, have fun, be dedicated and be determined,” she advises. You will be very happy with the outcome.
Allie Thiesse of South Dakota told NextStepU that “I think we are able to accomplish so much more by working as a community and empowering those around us.” That was Allie’s advice on how to be super, which she follows every day.
After losing loved ones and also finding out that a friend was diagnosed with cancer, Allie decided to keep busy by helping others. She focused on community service and volunteering to get through the hard times. She has volunteered more than 150 hours in the past few months and has completed several leadership courses.
Allie is a perfect example of how great things are sometimes created in reaction to personal loss.
Allie says that her greatest achievement has been helping the friend that is battling cancer. Allie designed a T-shirt and a website to fundraise for her friend’s family and to rally the community’s support. With Allie’s help, her friend’s family received more than $7,500 and 1,100+ likes on the Walter’s Warriors Facebook page. “I would like to continue to raise awareness about the battles of children with cancer,” she explains.
Allie does not plan to slow down her community service. Although she loves studying history, she sees herself pursuing something different after high school. She plans on either becoming a zoologist or learning how to train dogs to assist handicapped children. With her sense of service and determination, Allie will succeed no matter what path she chooses.
Allie says “I think what makes someone super is following their passion and in doing so lifting up others around them.” That in a nutshell describes Allie’s actions and her philosophy. It is also why she is a Super Teen.
Nichol Vannest, of Lamoni High School in Iowa, skipped eighth grade and then took the ACT. In tenth grade, she decided to apply Bard College at Simon’s Rock and is currently an undergraduate student there. Yes, she moved 1500 miles away from home to attend college at age 15. Is there any wonder Nichol is super?
And her (extremely impressive) achievements go beyond the academic. “The thing I am most proud of is shaving my head,” Nichol says. Her best friend Bethany was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago and Nichol could not let her suffer alone. “To this day, I continue to shave my head, and will do so the rest of my life.” Nichol’s continuous support and loyalty to her friend is just one of many examples of how this teen strives to be better and do more every day.
Although she obviously works hard and has accomplished a lot in life, Nichol has not had an easy time during high school. “It is just my brother, my mom, and me; my dad lives in Colorado with his other family,” Nichol tells us. “Overcoming this challenge is very hard; I don’t think I will ever be able to overcome it.”
Despite this hardship, Nichol consistently plans for the future and works to achieve her goals. In addition to going to college early, Nichol has an idea of what she wants to do for the rest of her life. “I plan to major in photography, drawing/painting, music, or math,” she says. After graduate school, she wants to work as an architect or archaeologist, plans to open her own photography/painting studio and will work as a fire investigator on the side. Judging from her tremendous academic achievements, her strong, generous friendships, her refusal to let her personal difficulties sideline her, and her extensive future plans, Nichol’s future is very bright. She has made remarkable strides in all areas of her life.
“I believe words can create unity.” That is why Matthew Yeung, of California High School in California, picks English as his favorite subject in high school. “I believe poetry, my true passion, is both an art and a science,” he describes. Currently Matthew serves as Poet Laureate for the National Board for Young Poets, is the Chairman of the Youth Literature Board for the Americas and has worked on several publications.
In addition to his academic extracurricular activities, Matthew is Founder and President of the Hope Circle. This is an organization that counsels and mentors youth in the San Francisco Bay Area by utilizing the environment and self-expression through writing. “My peers have the opportunity to visit a community botanical garden and build a supportive group…To me, there is something very special and beautiful with nature,” Matthew describes.
After graduation, Matthew plans to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, eventually wants to attend college in Europe to study philosophy, and will pursue ministry at a divinity school. Matthew’s devotion to his education and passions, as well as to helping his community is inspiring. It is even more notable when you know about the challenges Matthew overcame to achieve all of his triumphs. He spent a large amount of his childhood in the Philippines with his parents. Matthew’s mother was raised in a poor farming village in Manila, while his father grew up in government housing in Hong Kong. His passion for writing has helped him cope with his past: “I’ve learned through my writing that no matter where you are on the map, people face similar challenges, and it’s up to our generation to solve them.”
Matthew’s discovery that his passion in life connects to all other facets of his experiences is just one of the many reasons he is a tremendous student and person. There is no doubt that he will continue to do great things with his poetry and his service to those around him.
Fall 2013 Super Teen Finalists
One of the biggest challenges of Yaime Espinoza’s life was facing the unknown when it came to college. As Yaime of Texhoma High School in Oklahoma says, she is “the first generation in [her] family that is going to college.” Understandably, she felt intimidated to be the first person to take this step. However, she rose above this difficulty by “joining Upward Bound” and attending summer camps at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. At these camps, Yaime received the opportunity to learn and to “experience a true college lifestyle.” This Super Teen took the initiative to take the challenge and prepare for college on her own time. When it is her turn to go to college, not only will Yaime be prepared and confident, she will be majoring in Biology and will eventually pursue a career as a dentist.
In addition to her impressive pre-college summer work, Yaime was also one of only 100 students in the country to be part of the esteemed Disney Dreamers Academy. Yaime says she was “truly blessed to receive such a great honor” and earning this once-in-a-lifetime experience is evidence of her hard work being recognized. Yaime’s selection in the program just goes to show how her “hard work throughout school has paid off.” Yaime enjoys being a mentor to younger students, and her achievement in the Disney Dreamers Academy is just further proof of how she is an extraordinary role model to others.
Elizabeth Liu of California says she wants to be “a voice for the unheard.” After overcoming severe depression, Elizabeth has realized that there only needs to be one person “to make a positive change” and has dedicated her life to others. Her hardships have led her to understand her own value and have inspired her to realize that she wants to help the world. She even plans to join the United Nations after college.
Elizabeth stresses that “non-profit organizations are not only a mere extra-curricular activity,” but are actually “a lifestyle.” She advocates that every person should be entitled to an education and founded the Supply Education Group Chapter during her sophomore year of high school. In this group, Elizabeth hopes to empower children living in urban slums by “building one secondary school at a time.” Currently, Elizabeth and her group are focused on building the Jumba Lenana Academy and the Matopeni Secondary School in Kenya. According to this Super Teen, it is her “duty to see that everyone deserves a fair chance,” no matter what background they come from.
On top of these amazing accomplishments, Elizabeth is also an excellent student. Her favorite subject is AP Human Geography and World History because it has helped her further understand the world and has reminded her of “archaic traditions, philosophy, and mistakes, but also of ways that our ancestors were able to overcome the everyday.” Elizabeth’s passion for the futures of the underprivileged is only matched by her interest in the past and how we descended from its challenges. Not only has Elizabeth excelled in this class, she has been inspired to fulfill her “responsibility as a global citizen.”
When Danielle Mackson, of Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School in Florida, was asked to explain why she is a Super Teen, she replied that she has always “worked extremely hard to be responsible, respectful, honest and helpful.” Her hard work throughout high school is definitely proof of that. Danielle is a founder of a quarterly newsletter called Choices for Children, participates in community service with her synagogue youth group and has also worked with underprivileged children. Danielle’s achievements in community service even resulted in her being awarded the school “Humanitarian Award.” Even though she goes to school with 2,800 other students, this Super Teen manages to stand out. She is, indeed, a “role model for [her] peers.”
This focus on community service and leadership is a result of going from a small, private school to a large, public high school. While the transition was difficult, Danielle believes that “it was the best decision” that she could make. She says, “I have been able to excel in my new school by doing well academically” and being part of various activities including “President of Junior Class” and “serving as the Entertainment Editor of the school newspaper.” Danielle’s hard work made the absolute best out of a stressful situation.
And it seems that Danielle will not be changing that pattern of hard work anytime soon. After she graduates, Danielle plans to major in communications, but still plans on participating in leadership roles and community service. She says that she wants to “gain the most from my college experience, while giving back to others.”
As a worker for CAVATA, a clothing company that donates profits to low-income schools, it is clear that Bianca Palumbo of Melrose High School in Massachusetts is always willing to “reach out to those who need a hand.” She is always interested in community service that involves helping children or raises money for a good cause. Bianca emphasizes that she is especially dedicated to “promoting businesses who contribute to a good cause.” Her community service clearly reaches to several areas of her life.
As Bianca says, she has made a happy life for herself by “fulfilling academic achievements,” participating in community service, holding many jobs and having “unique interests and personality traits” that help her stand out. Some of these academic achievements include reaching Honors or High Honors each quarter of Bianca’s high school career. In particular, Bianca “excel[s] in History and English” and loves to “read and write poetry.” Bianca will continue with these high academic standards next year, when she plans on taking AP and other high level courses. Bianca says that she is “proud of [her] performance,” and with this track record, she definitely should be.
Bianca plans to follow this trajectory by majoring in Marketing in college and then going on to earn her Master’s or Ph.D. degree in the field. Bianca has chosen this field of study because she enjoys “interacting with all different people and succeeding in selling a product.” The drive that has helped her in high school will surely help her in her future endeavors, as well.
As a First Sergeant in the JROTC, Kaitlyn Sands, understands what it means to overcome challenges and balance different commitments. As Kaitlyn, of Jefferson County High School in Tennessee, explains, her biggest trial was maintain good grades throughout high school. Her mother was unemployed for about six months, and Kaitlyn’s family “sometimes wondered where [their] next would come from.” Keeping good grades in high school and facing those kinds of difficulties as a teenager demonstrates exactly whey Kaitlyn is a Super Teen. She knew good grades and excelling academically would help her “make it somewhere in life.”
Her family’s perseverance and Kaitlyn’s hard work certainly paid off in the long run. Army JROTC is now Kaitlyn’s favorite subject, and is also the subject in which she particularly shines. Kaitlyn stresses, “the thing I’m most proud of is my surpassing in JROTC.” Her commitment to this subject is admirable and has helped her attain the high position of First Sergeant.
In her five semesters of JROTC, Kaitlyn has completed three community service projects and has volunteered at six nursing homes. These rare experiences will help her when she plans to major in nursing in college. Kaitlyn’s ultimate goal is to be a Registered Nurse at The University of Tennessee Hospital. As she explains why she picked nursing as a career path, Kaitlyn says “no matter the mood I’m in I’ve always had the urge to help people.” Kaitlyn’s experience in JROTC, her vast community service and her selflessness will certainly help her become a great nurse.
Not many teens can say that their creative writing has been published. But this is not the case for Hillary Tang of California. On top of her impressive GPA, volunteer work, and dance career, Hillary has published several articles and poems. She’s even published a 300 page novel entitled Depth over Distance. It is no surprise that Hillary excels most in English class and is a senior editor and publisher for the Los Angeles Youth Newspaper. This Super Teen says she enjoys “taking readers to a different dimension and writing topics that relate to others.”
Her hard work has resulted in Hillary being awarded Editor’s Choice for her article entitled “The Struggling Race of the Admissions Game,” and her poem, “Dark,” has also been well-received. Her love of writing and storytelling stems from a prolonged hospital stay in her middle school years. Although she was forced to be on bed rest, Hillary learned to express herself and her emotions through her words. It seems a difficult time in her life helped her find her passion.
Hillary says that she hopes to “continue advocating, writing, performing, and helping others,” and wants to do that by majoring in Business Law when she attends college. Her love for public speaking, performing and writing has paved the way for a new passion: debate. Hillary’s love of the written and spoken word, her debate skills, and her love of helping others will most likely help her fulfill her goal of becoming a lawyer. Hillary herself says it best when she describes how she loves “helping others and advocating for better human rights.” This dedication will ensure that she becomes an excellent lawyer and is why she is definitely a Super Teen!