10 Teens to Watch 2011

Everyone talks about the quality of the schools in Greenwich. Perhaps more heed should be paid to the quality of the students. As wonderful as it is to have great teachers and top-notch programs at the various schools, both public and private, none of it would mean much without those youngsters who go beyond what’s expected and who try to squeeze every last drop out of their educational and life experience. We know, because we make it a practice each year to seek out a sampling of those students and introduce them to our readers.

This year’s group of teens particularly bears watching. They come from different backgrounds and have different interests. But it’s what they have in common that’s most impressive: They’re curious. They care about others. They’re captivated by, and good at, more than one subject. And they’re wildly passionate about what they do, from playing volleyball to performing on stage to expressing themselves through writing. That will carry them far, not only into and through some of the best colleges in the nation, but on into fulfilling lives. Meet our Teens to Watch for 2011. One day in the not too distant future, you’ll be saying that you knew them when.


John Cofer

Leading the Way

John Cofer was well suited to his job as drum major of the Greenwich High School marching band. He was devoted to the program. He loved music. And having held a number of leadership positions in different activities, he understood the importance of being assertive. “You have to do a lot of communication with a large group,” he says, “so you can’t really be shy while you’re doing it.”

 

From conducting the musicians to lesser duties like cleaning out the band room, the drum major has a demanding role. What’s it like to lead a musical force onto the field at football games or during parades? “Oh, man, that’s one of my favorite parts,” says John. “Especially during something like the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Greenwich Avenue, when there’s thousands of people on either side of the road cheering you on. That’s one of the best feelings in the world, leading the charge and knowing that you’re having a good time, the people playing are having a good time and the people listening are having a good time.”

 

Beyond what he calls “the community-oriented aspect of my music,” John has his personal pursuits. He plays saxophone and guitar and composes music on a computer. Math and science pique his interest as well, and he wants to explore all those areas, perhaps by way of a double major, during his next four years at Dartmouth College. For those who consider music and science two different animals, John begs to differ. “Something I’m really excited to study in college is the relationship between music and math and physics,” he says. “A lot of music is very math oriented, whether it’s the physics of sound or the synthesis of different sounds using music programs.”

John enjoys sharing his passions with others. He’s rowed crew, headed Safe Rides, worked with kids at a homeless shelter, and was a peer mentor at Greenwich High, helping a freshman get on track with his studies. “I’m not really a fan of forcing oneself to do things just for the sake of looking good,” he says. “I like getting deeply involved in things I enjoy.”


Rebecca Schreff

A Global Athlete

Traditionally, the Greenwich High School girls volleyball team breaks from its courtside huddle with a cheer of “One, two, three Cardinals!” But last November, when things looked bleakest during the state championship match against Fairfield Ludlowe High School, Rebecca Schreff asked her coach for an indulgence: “Could we say ‘Believe’ instead of ‘Cardinals’?” she asked just before the team was to return to play, down two games to none. “Because I’m not giving up.”

Whether it was Rebecca’s timely request that gave the girls the incentive they needed to take three straight games and claim the championship is open to debate. What no one can deny is the force of Rebecca’s will and the role she played in pushing her team to success.

A cocaptain, she played the position known as libero, always on the back line, digging out the toughest balls, and conspicuous in the requirement that she wear a different color jersey than her teammates. Rebecca was the team’s floor general, constantly talking, directing, encouraging. She only started playing volleyball as a freshman, following in the steps of older brother Daniel, who plays at Harvard, but by senior year was unrivaled at her position. She was named all-county as well as the team’s scholar-athlete. “Each play you’re either winning or losing a point, and it’s just an adrenaline rush,” she says. “I love how much energy there is, how much energy you have to have to be a good player, and I absolutely love that it’s not an individual sport. Collaboration is just so important in life, and volleyball is just a microcosm of that.”

Rebecca’s thoughts about teamwork fall right in line with her bigger outlook. Her guidance counselor calls her a “true citizen of the world.”

She’s long been interested in other cultures. Rebecca’s essay on nuclear nonproliferation, “A Collaborative Effort,” won an essay contest sponsored by the Greenwich Forum on War and Peace. She’s also participated in the World Scholar-Athlete Games in Rhode Island, which promote world awareness, diversity and peace. Rebecca starts at Princeton this fall and is excited about diving into its offerings in international relations. “I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do,” she says, “but I love the idea of getting to know the world and helping people outside of my immediate area.”


Lucas Siegmund

Changing the World—One Bulb at a Time

“The biggest problem with the environmental movement is that it’s been seen as a moral obligation as opposed to a practical necessity,” says Lucas Siegmund. “I wanted to revamp that perception so that people in this community understand that it’s an issue that immediately affects them and will benefit them if they take part in it.”

Energy conservation is a cause close to Lucas’ heart. He admits that he only got involved with a Greenwich High School club devoted to the issue because he had too much time on his hands and was looking for something interesting to do. But then, after its original leaders abandoned ship and the club became inactive, Lucas decided to reboot it and try a different approach. While his predecessors had wanted to change their world immediately—trying to get solar power for the high school, for example—Lucas concentrated on what a band of ten to fifteen dedicated kids could actually make happen. Public awareness, he decided, was the way to go.

Club members spoke to classes about the importance of saving energy. They organized and joined community events on the topic, where they met like-minded people and connected with companies and groups involved in energy issues. And, they reached out to 200 companies around town, to educate them about conserving energy and how it could save them money. Seventy-five businesses heard them out, and about thirty reported changing their practices.

Lucas, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, also held an internship in the photovoltaics division of MacDermid, Inc, a chemicals company, where his father works. Among other benefits, his experience at the Waterbury facility gave him insight into solar technology and the obstacles of bringing it to market.

Lucas is interested in politics, too. He’s worked on a few campaigns now, including Jim Himes’ inaugural run, and last summer he was an intern in the congressman’s Stamford office. Lucas is drawn to the idea of working behind the scenes as opposed to being an elected official. He likes policy matters, political debate, and the possibility of effecting real change.

That’s where energy conservation fits in. “Energy is the most significant issue we will face in the twenty-first century without a doubt, by far,” he says. “And its not just about environmental issues. It’s not even just about economic issues. It’s about national security, politics, globalization. It’s about every single thing that impacts our lives.”


Julia DeAngelo

Delicate Strength

Julia DeAngelo considers herself somewhat quiet and reserved, but when she dances one can hear her loud and clear. “It’s completely different,” the Greenwich Academy senior says. “The rules are changed. You’re nervous up until the performance, but once it starts you’re not nervous anymore; you’re just having fun.”

Julia started dancing with purpose in sixth grade, her first year at the school. When she was introduced to modern dance, a light went on inside her. Initially, the form seemed more sophisticated and difficult than she thought she could handle, but that soon became part of the attraction. “I love that it’s so challenging, that you could work at it every day and still have it be completely challenging,” she says.

Julia participated in dance through middle school, learning and refining her skills straight into high school and its Dance Corps, which puts on two concerts a year. Since eighth grade, she’s also been taking ballet lessons outside of school, a good foundation for the most efficient, technical and aesthetic ways of moving. Last year she choreographed her first piece, a four-minute number that had six dancers performing to the song “Ocean,” by Australian musician John Butler.

She is inspired by her teachers, fellow dancers, guest artists who visit the program, and the dance companies she’s watched from the audience. “With New York City so close I get to see a lot of companies perform at their top level,” Julia says. “I just want to get home as quick as I can and take as many classes as I can.”

She’s also a member of her school’s prestigious Madrigal Singers, an endeavor that’s more like dancing than one would think. Both require synchronization, and if one person comes up short, the group suffers. “It’s similar to dance in that it’s very team oriented,” Julia explains. “A lot of times you’re listening for cues from other parts, and just hearing other people sing you can learn a lot about your own voice, what you want to sound like, and what you need to work on.”


Joey Doyle

Bound for the Great White Way

Everyone likes to debate whether a given movie is better than the book that it’s based on. But how many teenagers do you know who can get worked up over whether someone can make a film version of the Aeneid that would ever compare to Virgil’s epic poem? Meet Joey Doyle, who is devoted to acting and the theater but who also has a passion for the classics, of the Greek and Roman variety.

Joey, a freshman at Notre Dame, says his love of the theater is rooted in the many hours he has spent watching movies as well as seeing his sister perform in school plays. He waited until ninth grade at Brunswick before he got involved himself by taking an acting class. That year, he had a part in the school production of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It. Sophomore year he landed a leading role in Les Miserables. He’s also had memorable parts in Arsenic and Old Lace, A Winter’s Tale and Laughing Stock, among others. For his senior project, Joey wrote and directed a well-received play called Searching for Signal, about two men who find themselves without cell phone service and the bigger questions their predicament raises.

Theater has opened new vistas for Joey’s imagination, through acting, writing, and working behind the scenes. “It’s been a great way for me to dispense all this creativity that I didn’t know what to do with,” he says.

Studying the classics, meanwhile, has also helped him see the world through new eyes. It’s no coincidence that Joey keeps a copy of the hefty Oxford Classical Dictionary close at hand, just to leaf through. Translating Latin has been particularly rewarding, he says. It’s thrilling to chip away at a piece of literature that has survived the ages. But the real payoff is to be able to read such a great work in its original form.

“And the style of Latin poetry is something that really can’t be matched by anything we have now,” Joey says. “The difference between English prose and Latin poetry is that Latin poetry is more than just getting a great story. It’s being able to put words in certain order to really strengthen your meaning.”


Caroline Antonacci

Look Out, Cannes!

Caroline Antonacci goes beyond helping people through community service. She uses documentary filmmaking to let others share in the experience. From the lessons she learned as a clown performing for children to the individuals she met at a center for developmentally disabled adults, Caroline’s short films allow the rest of us to enter the places she’s been and meet the people she’s met. “I think it’s important not only to do the work,” she says, “but to let people know about it, so they understand, so they can see all the different things we can do to help better the world.”

Her films, which she completed as part of her broadcast-journalism studies at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, are Big Shoes to Fill: Clown Academy 2009 and Disabled, Not Unable. The first tells of what it’s like to learn clowning and share it with inner-city children. (Caroline was part of a group that attended Clown Academy in Princeton, New Jersey, a summer program open to students from Sacred Heart schools around the country.) The second takes us inside St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center in El Cajon, California, where Caroline worked as a volunteer, also through the school.

For the latter project, she interviewed clients, giving them a voice that the disabled are often denied. “One girl I spoke to had difficulty talking but once she got her words out, what she said was just so amazing,” remembers Caroline. “So even though it made my piece longer, I kept a main chunk of her interview with all her pauses and stuff in.”

Caroline, a senior, has also worked in front of the camera as anchor of Sacred Heart’s news show, Today from the Heart. This year she will be its director.

Caroline wants to be a doctor one day. She’s been busy the last two summers working as an intern at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where she studied the use of viruses to fight cancer. In July, she joined classmates on a less scientific mission, a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, renowned for its curative water. She left her video camera at home, all the better to enjoy the journey herself. “Neverthess,” she reports, “I was truly impressed by my experience and hope to return one day with camera in hand.”


John Hayden

Future Hall-of-Famer

John Hayden was already among the top schoolboy ice hockey players in the United States. Now he’s on a path to get even better. That’s a thought that both thrills and saddens Brunswick hockey fans, who watched No. 15 tear up the ice, and the opposition, during his freshman and sophomore years. Starting this month, John will be competing as part of a highly selective developmental team of young players from around the country, all with an eye to top-tier college play and the NHL. After tryouts in March, USA Hockey, which oversees the sport’s amateur ranks, chose him for one of only twenty-two slots on its Under-17 team. For the next two years, John and his teammates will be living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and competing in tournaments around the U.S. and abroad.

John, who is six-two and 205 pounds, has been playing hockey since he was five years old. He thrives on the competition and the camaraderie. “Everyone on your team is like a brother,” he says. “Every day you go out and train and get on the ice and work as hard as you can to be the best you can be. It’s like a family.”

The sport occupies much of his time. When he’s not actually on the ice, he works out four or five times a week. For the past couple years, he’s been training alongside a number of NHL players at a private gym in Darien. Seeing their dedication and intensity has given him insight into what it takes to make it to the upper reaches of the game he loves. “Every day I get a perspective on how hard I need to push to get to that level,” he says.

John’s a good student—at Brunswick he especially liked history and Spanish—and has verbally committed to play for Yale. He also likes golf and simply spending time with his friends and family. When his skating days are done, he thinks he might like to try the business world. “But right now my primary goal is to make it as far as I can in hockey,” he says.


Giulia Caterini

Headed to the Top of the Masthead

It’s easy to envision Giulia Caterini’s byline in the pages of Vogue or some equally formidable publication not too many years down the line. Her name alone—she was born in Italy, and Italian is her first language—sounds like that of someone they would dispatch to interview the Princess of Monaco or to tour Tuscany. If Giulia stays on the path she’s on, such a scenario may not be far-fetched.

She entered Duke University this year. If her efforts at Greenwich Academy are any indication of what is to come, Giulia is only going to grow as a writer and editor. In high school, any class or program that had anything to do with writing found her in the thick of things, coediting both the school paper and the literary magazine, and contributing her own work to both. Her essays have evolved from personal investigations to explorations about others, oftentimes strangers like the young girl she saw at the emergency room one day, and have won her a stack of awards in student writing competitions. “I like the idea that you can have an insight into a person and capture them the way they are,” she says. “I like being able to do that with words.”

Recently, Giulia’s been intrigued by journalism. Last year, she held an internship at Marie Claire. She was a regular contributor to the Greenwich Post’s “Growing Up Greenwich” column. Meanwhile, she spent much of this summer as an intern with Barnes & Noble in New York, learning about the digital side of the company and paying special attention to the progress of the Nook e-book reader. (She also put in time helping out at a law firm.)

Besides the United States, Giulia has lived in Italy, Austria, Brazil and Greece. And while she considers herself fluent only in English and Italian, she can hold her own in French, Spanish and Portuguese. Language means a lot to her, particularly proper usage. So it is that she finds as much pleasure in editing as she does in writing. Perfection, she insists, is attainable. That’s good news for readers, but a red flag to those who might want to friend her on a social networking website. “I’m that person who will go on Facebook and correct the word ‘your’ if it should have an apostrophe and an ‘e’,” she says.” I’m obsessive about that kind of thing. If you’re a native speaker, you’ve got to get it right, come on!”

Sam Dealy

A Powerful Voice & A Curious Mind

He had done no singing of any significance before his freshman year at Greenwich High School, but when Sam Dealy finally decided to give chorus a try, the rewards quickly began to reveal themselves and have yet to stop. The friends who looked askance at him when he signed up for singing didn’t understand the camaraderie that one experiences, or the sense of accomplishment, or the pure fun of being part of a choral group. Nor would they ever know the awe that one experiences in contributing to the mighty sound of a large choir. “Your voice is part of this bigger voice,” says Sam. “It’s really easy to take a step back for a moment and say, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’”

In four years Sam took part in most every program available to singers at GHS: freshman choir, the all-male Witchmen, the coed Chamber Singers and the 88-voice Combined Select Choir or “super choir.” And when there wasn’t a group to satisfy his interests, he and his friends created one, the Barbershop Quartet Appreciation Club. “Voice is one of the best musical instruments,” says Sam, who also plays the saxophone. “You don’t need that much practice with technique to be able to recreate songs or even to start singing.”

One of his best memories was the combined chorus’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem, backed by a professional orchestra, this spring at the First Presbyterian Church in Stamford. “It’s unbelievable music,” says Sam. “It was just an awesome experience to be able to sing with all these other kids and to sing this amazing piece of work.”

Sam, who started at Yale this fall, has an innate curiosity that goes beyond singing. Last year, for example, he felt he wasn’t getting enough out of his physics class, so he asked if he could do an independent study in astrophysics. The Big Bang and black holes captivated him so much that he was anxious to learn more when he got settled in New Haven. He was also captain of the volleyball team. And though his interests are often different from one another, Sam tends to find something greater than the activity itself in everything he does. “Music, for instance, isn’t just pressing buttons,” he says. “It’s connecting with other musicians. It’s expressing your emotions. And astrophysics, some people might say that’s the study of stars or something, but it’s more about the universe, what is life, why are we here.”


Caroline Lazar

A Writer’s Soul

“It’s not that I like it,” says Caroline Lazar, when asked about her passion for writing. “I love it. I have to do it. It’s as natural to me as breathing.” The Connecticut College freshman backs up those sentiments with a prolific outpouring of columns, essays, reviews, plays and stories for all kinds of outlets, and more than a few honors to show for her efforts. She’s most proud of the yearlong column she wrote for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, the literature and humor website run by writer Dave Eggers. (She was only sixteen when she got the gig in 2009, winning an all-ages writing contest put on by the site.) Despite its quirky title (“Oh My Gawd: A Column About a Teenager Navigating Religion”), her column touched on everything from religious faith to her aging dog’s last days. “They gave me free rein,” Caroline says. “They never said this is too wacky or too weird.”

Not one to limit herself, she’s also contributed to the Greenwich Time; served as entertainment editor for The Beak, the Greenwich High student newspaper; blogged about music; and most recently worked as an intern in the fashion section of the New York Post. She’s always coming up with ideas to write about and will frequently jot reminders to herself, in ink, on her hands or knees, much to the dismay of her mother. “She really does not like that,” says Caroline. “She’s always buying me notebooks to supplement my skin.”

Caroline also has a second love: the theater. She got involved with the program at Greenwich High freshman year and was off and running. She’s had a wide range of roles in Annie, Grease, Twelfth Night, and The Crucible. And her experience with the school’s Improv Troupe, she says, changed her as a person. “It was this freeing experience,” she says. “You just have to throw yourself at the mercy of the audience and hope they will enjoy what you’re doing. Usually they do.”

Writing and acting may be different modes of expression, but each can have a powerful effect on its audience. “It’s incredible that you might have the ability, if a person is good enough at their craft, be it writing or the theater, that they can draw up an emotion in someone, a laugh or a tear,” Caroline says. “That, to me, is the most incredible thing.”

 

 

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