Standing Up & Standing Out

The qualities that make this group shine go far beyond demanding academic schedules and perfect GPAs. They are a compassionate, insightful and creative bunch With these kids at the helm, anything is possible

Although we never like saying goodbye to summer, we always look forward to the September issue and our annual presentation of ten outstanding teens. Motivated, curious, ambitious, driven—these are just some of the character traits that describe the young men and women featured here. All of this year’s teens have taken or are taking rigorous AP and honors-level courses while also pursuing independent seminars. Most have represented their schools in varsity sports—everything from track and field and football to cheerleading and tennis. Equally important are the ways in which this year’s teens have given back to their communities—both inside and outside school.

They are a diverse lot: One is a human rights advocate considering a career in the State Department. Another envisions a career as a heart surgeon; another is focused on urban planning and the ways in which tomorrow’s cities will meet the needs of every citizen, including the homeless; still another dreams about combining a passion for food with sustainability.

What they have in common is an insatiable desire to learn and a need to make a difference in the world. At a young age, they’ve already assumed the mantle of change agent; they are not only poised to do great work, they are doing great work. Once you read their stories, we know you’ll agree.


GEORGIA ROSENBERG
{ ST. LUKE’S SCHOOL }

Journalist, advocate, environmentalist—Georgia Rosenberg wears many hats for the causes she believes in. An early adopter of the farm-to-table movement (did we mention she is a fearsome cook, who rarely follows recipes?), Georgia channels her energy toward making her school, community and world a better place. “I have things to say, and I was able to find my voice at a young age, and I encouraged myself to use my voice.”

The high school senior’s passion for sustainability was cemented two years ago during a summer program, Sustainable Summer, at Dartmouth College. That year she also attended the Summer Institute for High School Students at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester, which focused on farming practices, cooking and sustainable agriculture and society. Inspired by all that she’d learned, Georgia and a friend cofounded St. Luke’s Sustainability Club, with the mission to raise eco-awareness among her peers. First order of business was to eliminate the plastic cups for the water dispenser.

“We yanked them away, so it was kind of a shock to people,” Georgia recalls. “This year we are getting rid of things, but we’ll make it so that on the first day of school they just won’t be there.” The club also streamlined the school’s recycling program and started a campaign called the Clean Plate Project. “The goal is to encourage people to take less food and create less waste,” Georgia says.

Georgia brings the same level of confidence and self-assurance to her coursework. This year’s subjects run the gamut from AP U.S. Government and AP Statistics to Honors Organic Chemistry and Honors Spanish. As part of the school’s prestigious Global Scholars program, Georgia will spend her senior year researching, writing and presenting a paper on a topical subject to a small group of faculty members. “The news and what’s going on in the world is part of why I’m so interested in this stuff,” she says. “If I was my age five years ago, I wouldn’t be so interested. I think lots of people of my generation are very politically active.”

She is also the editor of the school’s newspaper, The Sentinel, a key member of the school’s Center for Leadership’s Lunch and Lead Committee and has logged hundreds of hours as a volunteer for LiveGirl, a New Canaan-based empowerment program for young girls throughout Fairfield County. The youngest of four children, with two older sisters, Georgia knows the importance of strong female role models. “My sisters are twenty-three and twenty-one,” she says. “As the youngest, I’ve looked up to them. They have showed me how to handle life.”

IN HER OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact and why?
Believe it or not, my preschool teacher, Mrs. Dorne, had a profound impact on me. She taught me the basic skills of life: to be kind, compassionate and creative. I have carried these lessons with me throughout my time as a student.

What would you tell your freshman self?
Allow mistakes, learn from them and give yourself time to grow.

Advice for underclassmen?
Take advantage of the incredible opportunities that surround you, and don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone.

Words to live by?
My mom always told me: “You don’t have to be friends with everybody, but you have to be nice to everybody.”


AMIT RAMACHANDRAN
{ GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL }

Amit Ramachandran may have grown up with First World privilege, but he understands all too well the pressing issue of global water safety. “My parents are from Mumbai and we go back to visit family there,” he says. “Here you can fill a glass with tap water, but in India there is often a lack of potable water. I realized how much we take for granted.”

Amit decided to do something about it. He turned to his first love, science, and developed a rapid, low-cost technique to detect harmful bacteria in drinking water. His work earned him national recognition; he was selected as a Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) 2018 Scholar, one of 300 students out of the 1,818 who entered the competition. Now, with a provisional patent pending, he is busy settling into life at Stanford University.

Among his many awards and achievements, Amit was a member of the math team and copresident of the Science National Honors Society; he completed a summer internship as a medical researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering; he was a finalist in the Paradigm Challenge, where he and three friends presented their project of environmentally responsible bamboo shavings as packing material; and he was the high school representative of the Connecticut chapter of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, a cultural organization that raises funds for a group that helps feed underprivileged children in India.

Despite his demanding academic schedule (Amit was named a National AP Scholar by junior year), he finds time to tap into his creative side. He is an avid photographer and filmmaker, who coproduced a video in Chinese for his Chinese Honors class. He is also a gifted musician who has been playing the piano since he was four years old. These days, however, he is obsessed with the oboe, which he began playing in eighth grade. “It’s very hard to play. The reed is tiny and finicky. I wasn’t very good at the beginning,” he says. But by his junior year, Amit was the principal oboe in the high school band.

This past spring, Amit attended the international GENIUS Olympiad hosted by the State University of New York at Oswego, where he presented his science research project, and earned a silver medal. While there, he befriended a young man from Kenya. “We were talking about things we liked—shows and music—and it felt like he could have been my next-door neighbor,” he says. “I realized we are all basically the same as we become more globally aware. In the world today, we often speak in monologue, when really what the world needs is more dialogue.”

IN HIS OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact on you and why?
Mrs. Lewis’ hardworking devotion to students has given me a deeper drive to assist others in need, and her inspirational love of physics has instilled an appreciation for STEM within me.

What would you tell your freshman self?
Work hard and do your best, but don’t overwork yourself. Take time to appreciate the joys of being in high school while you can—it flies by. Take care of your health—physical, mental, emotional—to ensure you are the best you can be. And, the college process does work out.

Advice for underclassmen?
Organization is key. The college process will teach you this. Without organization, you can’t function at your best regardless of your skill set. Take small steps in getting organized, but don’t let anyone make you organize in one particular way—everyone works best according to their own methods.

Words to live by?
“Success is nothing if you have no one left to share it with.” —Ed Sheeran. Don’t forget where you came from and the people who supported you.


SEAN AMILL
{ BRUNSWICK SCHOOL }

Give Sean Amill an opportunity, and there’s nothing he won’t try. Sports? He has played varsity football since ninth grade. Academics? He enjoyed everything from math and government to studio art and environmental sciences. Theater? The first time he tried out for a school play, he got the lead. Clubs? He was the vice president of Diversity in Action and the president of the 9/11 Club. But no matter how busy he was, Sean always had time to help someone in need. One moment in particular stands out: “Sophomore year in math class, I noticed someone was struggling. He seemed so lost, so I pulled him out of class and brought him to the bathroom and we talked it out. He was really having a hard time personally, but he opened up. It was just my natural instincts kicking in.”

Sean understands adversity—and how to power through. He broke his collarbone in the spring of eighth grade playing lacrosse. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, he vowed to make the best of a bad situation. “I realized I could mope or I could make my summer goal to train to make the varsity football team. I was never the biggest, the strongest or the fastest, but I always had this drive to achieve.” Mission accomplished. He not only made the varsity team as a wide receiver his freshman year, he served as cocaptain his senior year. This fall he will continue to play football for Colgate, where he just started.

More than anything, though, it’s the team aspect of the sport that he enjoys most. “Being out there and working for other players has taught me so many life lessons, like perseverance, camaraderie and empathy for my teammates. You have to work well as a cohesive unit to be successful.”

This nineteen-year-old brings that same spirit of inclusivity into everything he does. As a senior peer leader, he was one of eighteen seniors from Brunswick and Greenwich Academy tapped to mentor the incoming freshman class. He also played a key role on the school’s Leadership Board. Despite his grueling schedule, Sean managed to find time this past winter to mentor a young Brunswick student. “His parents both work a lot. I’d go to his house and help with his homework.” That strong sense of family was instilled in him from an early age. “My parents are my biggest cheerleaders,” he says. “In a town like Greenwich, which is so competitive, they have been supportive of any decision I wanted to make.”

IN HIS OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact on you and why?
My English teacher, Mr. Gilsenan, junior and senior years. He taught me there is so much more to life. He’s an English teacher but also a little bit of a life coach. He taught me how to handle and persevere through adversity, that life is what you make of it and the importance of being a good person.

What would you tell your freshman self?
Enjoy every moment. Now, as a senior looking back, I realize there are moments when the days are long, but weeks and years are short. I spent so much time wanting to get to senior year, I forgot in the process to enjoy the process.

Advice for underclassmen?
You won’t be at Brunswick forever, so take advantage of everything it has to offer. Don’t be closed-minded. You can achieve so many things.

Words to live by?
“Don’t cheat the guy in the glass.” It’s a line from a poem by Dale Wimbrow. It’s saying you are the only person who knows if you’re being honest with yourself.


LULU MEISSNER
{ GREENWICH ACADEMY }

As far back as she can remember, Lulu Meissner has wanted to be an actress. At just seventeen years old, the Greenwich Academy senior is well on her way. Last year, Lulu got her first credited role in a film, Red Joan, starring Dame Judi Dench and directed by Trevor Nunn. “I’m over the moon about it,” she says. “It’s the culmination of a dream that’s been a long time coming.”

Lulu developed her acting chops at an early age. “At school in London, acting classes are mandatory,” she says. “The goal is for kids to get comfortable being on stage.” She remembers her first role: Whoopsie Daisy Angel. “Tripping across the stage at the right time was a hard thing to do at that age,” she says.

Lulu was in sixth grade when she entered GA, after her family moved to Greenwich from England. (Her mom is also a GA grad.) Since then, she has jumped at every opportunity to hone her acting skills—taking roles in everything from drama to comedy to cabaret. The turning point in her nascent career came two summers ago when she returned to London to attend the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art (LAMDA). It was there that she learned of an open casting call for Red Joan, about the woman accused of being the longest-serving KGB operative on British soil. “Even though I’d lived in the States for five years, I could still put up an accent.” She got the part, playing a waitress at a small tea shop on the British Coast during World War II. One of the highlights was getting to meet the young actor Tom Hughes. “He told me he remembered how special his first time on a movie set was and that I should take it all in and savor every moment.”

Academics are also important to the burgeoning actor, and this year her honors-heavy course load includes Chinese, U.S. History and English—her favorite subject. She is editor of the school’s online lifestyle magazine, Tartan, and works on the staff of the literary magazine Daedalus. Recently she’s been helping the theater director produce middle school plays. “It’s been a huge thing for me to step behind the lens, so to speak.” And, like any aspiring actor, she reads the trades, including Backstage. “I go into New York for auditions when I can,” she says. “I’m lucky. As a student it’s not my number-one priority right now.”

Instead, she is focused on college, where she hopes to major in international relations or linguistics. One of her role models is Emma Watson, who catapulted to fame with the Harry Potter movies. “She took time off to go to Brown, and now she’s in a position where she can take on projects she likes and do her activism work. I want to get a real academic degree and then use [acting] as a platform to do good.”

IN HER OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact on you and why?
Mr. Borowka, who has been my acting teacher since sixth grade and my advisor throughout high school. He gave me my first lead role when I was new to GA, and that was a significant highlight of an otherwise difficult year. He has consistently advocated for me and found parts to challenge me ever since.

What would you tell your freshman self?
Don’t be afraid to be a little different from your peers. It’s okay to not fit the mold. Focus on things you love and find more ways to get involved in them; write your own parts if you have to!

Advice for underclassmen?
There are so many ways to make your high school experience your own. You just have to advocate for yourself.

Words to live by?
“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
—Albus Dumbledore


CHRISTIAN LESUEUR
{ BRUNSWICK SCHOOL }

As a kid, Christian LeSueur didn’t spend much time playing video games: “My parents always encouraged me to be outside.” A natural athlete, he gravitated toward soccer, baseball, golf and—most notably—ice hockey. From the moment he first laced up a pair of skates at the Greenwich Skating Club he was hooked. “Especially in middle school during winter break, we would play stick and puck all day, starting at 8 a.m.,” he says.

Christian earned a spot on the school’s varsity hockey team beginning in ninth grade and was elected cocaptain his junior year. Last season, from his position as offensive wing, he led the team to its first NEPSAC title. “That was a huge accomplishment,” he says. “Not only for me and the team but also for the school and the program.” In the process, Christian was named to the 2018 All-NEPSAC West Hockey Team as well as the 2018 All-USA Boys Hockey Third Team. Additionally, he was a key contributor on the Mid-Fairfield hockey team, which won the 2017 Tier 1 U-18 USA Hockey Youth National Championship. This fall he started his freshman year at Dartmouth, where he was recruited to play his favorite sport.

An outstanding student with an affinity for the humanities, Christian says his experiences on the ice helped him develop the discipline and perspective necessary to be an effective leader. During his time at Brunswick, he was a Peer Leader and Senior Prefect. In addition, he started a tutoring program for middle schoolers, was a member of the Diversity in Action club and volunteered at the Pacific House shelter (with fellow Teen to Watch Wesley Peisch). Last spring, he put those leadership skills to the test when he moderated the school’s first student union. “The goal was to give students the chance to see what respectful discourse looks like, even when there are philosophical differences,” Christian says. The union held its first debate in March, a month after the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The topic was gun control. “It was a hot-button issue,” he says. “This was our first go-round. It was a good experience, and for the kids listening who may not have known too much about [guns], it was a chance to learn more.”

One of the highlights of his high school career was a trip to Tanzania in 2016. He and seven classmates first summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, then spent eight days volunteering at an orphanage for girls, some of whom had lost parents to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “The two parts of the trip were so different. The climb was incredible, but then going to the orphanage was really special. That’s not something you get to see in the U.S. in general or Greenwich in particular.”

IN HIS OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact on you and why?
It’s difficult to narrow it down to one because so many impacted me, but I would have to say my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Callahan. He is one of the warmest, most thoughtful persons I’ve ever met. He was there for me whenever I needed anything, whether it was with school or something going on outside of it.

What would you tell your freshman self?
Just enjoy the time you have. It goes by in a flash, and if you’re always stressing and overthinking things, you’re not going to enjoy everything. It’s a special time, so just try to soak it all in and have fun.

Advice for underclassmen?
Don’t be afraid to try different things. It’s cliché, but there’s a reason why people say it all the time. If you’re willing to give stuff a try and have an open mind, you can maximize all that you get out of it and find out what you’re passionate about. Not to mention, you make a ton of friends along the way.

Words to live by?
I don’t know where I first heard it but, “Success isn’t owned. It’s leased. And rent is due every day.”


LIZZIE ESSAID
{ KING SCHOOL }

On the surface, figure skating and human rights may seem to have little in common. But for senior Lizzie Essaid, they represent the passion and commitment she brings to everything she tackles.

A gifted athlete, Lizzie has been a competitive synchronized figure skater since she was nine years old and she has won four national championships with her team, the Skyliners. As a student ambassador for Letters of Love, she arranges for teens in her community to write letters to kids in refugee camps. As a member of King’s Diversity Council, she organizes community events such as the King MLK celebration and Diversity Day for the Middle School.

But it was her experience with the Maine-based Seeds of Peace international leadership camp in the summer of 2017 that ignited the changemaker within. “I’ve always wanted to help people who are less fortunate,” she says. During her first year at the camp, she was a member of a Palestinian-Israeli conflict dialogue group. That led to a King Talk about her camp experience. “It was really scary but also pretty awesome,” she says. “It got me over my fear of talking in front of people and raising my hand in class.” (Next summer, Lizzie will be one of a small group of Seeds of Peace campers invited to participate in its leadership and mediation training program, Paradigm Shift.)

Lizzie spent part of this summer attending the University of Chicago’s Pathway Program in Human Rights. That was followed by a week in Washington, D.C., for the ACLU’s Summer Advocacy Institute, with speakers, debates, and seminars on civil liberties and social justice issues. Now back at school, she will continue her work toward her Global Studies distinction, a rigorous course of study that includes Global Studies, AP Economics and AP Comparative Government and requires the completion of a Capstone Project. Lizzie plans to focus on the water crisis in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Somehow, she still finds time to captain the school’s skating team. “Skating is a nice way to feel connected to something. I learned discipline and time management. I learned how to be away from my parents because we traveled a lot. I learned how to set a schedule for myself and stick to it.”

She also learned the benefit of having a goal. “I definitely think it’s true that change is possible,” she says. “I’m working really hard now, so I can go to a good college and after I graduate help make the world a better place.”

IN HER OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact on you and why?
My junior year English teacher, Caroline Patten, had the biggest impact on me. She was fully invested in me as a student and a person.

What would you tell your freshman self?
Take advantage of opportunities, but make sure you enjoy life along the way, too.

Advice for underclassmen?
Don’t stress out too much; things will work out.

Words to live by?
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars and see yourself running with them.”
—Marcus Aurelius


WESLEY PEISCH
{ BRUNSWICK SCHOOL }

During his junior year, Wesley Peisch was one of four students in the world to earn a perfect score on his AP Studio Art: 3-D Design Portfolio exam. But don’t call him an arts and humanities guy. At his core, Wesley, now a freshman at Stanford, is all about STEM.

He has a passion for urban planning; sophomore year he designed a computer simulation of a city transportation system. He entered his project in the state science fair, where he won the United Technologies Award and the Barker Mohandas Transportation award. “It was a huge learning curve for me,” he says. His junior year project, a “Hyperloop”—Elon Musk’s proposed transportation method—won three state science fair awards.

When he wasn’t envisioning the city of the future, Wesley turned to other areas of school life: As cocaptain of the cross-country team, he led the Bruins to their fifth FAA championship. A reluctant athlete, he came to the sport as a freshman. “I wasn’t really coordinated and I was skinny, so sports like football were out. I started running and I was relatively good at it,” he says modestly.

A Model UN delegate since freshman year, Wesley was named best delegate at the Fordham conference last year. To hone his negotiating and public speaking skills, he joined the school’s debate team. “I was interested in learning how to speak publicly and have my ideas come out clearly and concisely. That experience really changed my perspective on how to communicate with people.”

Outside of school he volunteered at Pacific House, a men’s homeless shelter in Stamford. His older brother started the school’s Pacific House Club, and Wesley served as president for two years. “The homeless issue is a big part of urban planning today. Cities are finally interested in finding ways to help them and not just finding ways to kick them out.”

Not surprisingly, he brings the same level of commitment and passion to his academics, which most recently included a post-AP Computer Science Seminar and an independent study in Urban Planning and Architecture.

He took his first computer science class freshman year and was hooked. “It’s one of the reasons I chose Stanford,” he says. As for that rare result on his 3-D Design Portfolio Exam? “I made twenty sculptures over the course of a year. I got my scores back and I earned a five. Seven months later I looked on the college board website and my profile was shown as an example of six out of five, which I didn’t know was possible. I thought it was over and done with, so that was kind of fun.”

IN HIS OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact on you and why?
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Montanez. She was my science research advisor for two years and normal advisor senior year. She supported me in pretty much everything I did, from my science projects, which she directly oversaw, to my art projects, which she directly enabled by providing me with materials and equipment.

What would you tell your freshman self?
I would tell myself to care less about what other people think and to do my own thing. I wasted too much time being self-conscious, but I’m happy it didn’t debilitate me much.

Advice for underclassmen?
I’d tell them to do whatever they want to do, because ultimately that’s what they’re probably going to be best at. Obviously, care about self-improvement, but don’t let it feel defeating.

Words to live by?
I don’t really have a motto, but a general principle I have for myself is to always have an idea of where I want to be in the future. In short, always have a plan.


DOMENICA ECHEVERRIA
{ TRINITY CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL }

Domenica Echeverria was just two years old when her parents moved to the U.S. from Ecuador. At the time, money was tight, and the infant slept in a suitcase for two months. But no matter how much they had to scrimp, Domenica’s parents were determined to give their daughter a good education. “It was really hard at the beginning. We barely had any money. But my parents kept me in private school because they believed education is the key to the whole American dream thing,” says the high school senior.

The only thing they couldn’t afford, however, were the pricey after-school programs. So, when she was just six years old, they sent her to Camp Simmons, offered by the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich. “It was scary at first,” she recalls. “I was very shy, and I didn’t know anyone.”

With the help of the counselors, Domenica turned a scary situation into a good opportunity. “It was one of the best summers I’ve ever had,” she says. She vowed to pay it forward as soon as she was old enough; when she was thirteen she became a counselor in training and within three years was working as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the camp. She joined Keystone Club her freshman year and in 2017 went to her first national conference. She had to skip this year’s conference, though, because she was so busy attending to her duties as the Boys and Girls Club Connecticut Youth of the Year—the first time the Greenwich Club has come out on top since 1991. “That experience has changed my life,” she says.

Motivated, ambitious, kind and compassionate, Domenica is known for her sunny personality; she goes above and beyond to help those in need. “At the Boys and Girls Club, I try to lead by example,” she says. “Especially for younger kids. It’s such a critical point in their lives. You have to show them right and wrong, so they won’t make bad choices later on.”

At Trinity, she juggles a demanding academic schedule, serves as class president, is involved in the school’s Teenage Peaceworks Club and still finds time to coach cheerleading after school. But it is her thirst for knowledge that drives her forward. An unexpected chance to dissect a frog in a ninth-grade biology class sparked an interest in medicine. And not just any medicine. “I want to be a cardiothoracic surgeon,” she says. “That’s my end goal. Side note: I love Grey’s Anatomy.”

Though she gravitates to STEM (her favorite class last year was Honors Pre-Calculus and Trig), this year, in addition to Anatomy and AP Physics, she has added AP Psychology, AP Literature and Composition, and Intro to Law into the mix. “My two choices are pre-med and pre-law. It’s good to have a backup,” she says.

IN HER OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact on you and why?
My current math teacher, Ms. Barber. Before this year I disliked math because it didn’t completely make sense. But now I enjoy going to math class, and it has become one of my favorite classes.

What would you tell your freshman self?
Don’t stress so much over small things. If it won’t matter in a year, you shouldn’t be stressing over it now.

Advice for underclassmen?
It’s so important that you balance school, extracurricular activities and time to yourself. School can be very overwhelming, so it’s important to take time to relax, but it’s also essential to stay on top of your assignments and classes.

Words to live by?
There are 1,440 minutes in a day, which means you have 1,440 opportunities to make a positive impact on others and to better yourself as a person.


CONNOR LARSON
{ HACKLEY SCHOOL }

Since 2014, Connor Larson has sailed competitively with the Royal Canadian Yacht Club during his annual summer visit with his grandparents in Toronto. This year was different. Before starting his freshman year at Princeton, the seventeen-year-old decided to backpack through Europe. “This is my last summer to not have to focus on the bigger picture of what comes next,” he says. “But it’s strange not to be sailing.”

Sailing is just one of Connor’s passions. He is also a gifted academic. In particular, he gravitates toward physics and math and says his love of learning is derived, in part, from a desire to know how things work. “I’m always striving to learn more about the world around me. As a kid, I’d constantly take things apart and put them back together.”

At Hackley, Connor earned numerous accolades including the school’s Mathematics award as a junior and senior, as well as being named class salutatorian. As the cofounder of the Model UN club, he helped grow the membership from six to thirty-plus. He was captain of the math team; participated in the Physics Olympiad (he made it through the second round with an honorable mention); represented Hackley at the Fiftieth Anniversary Round Square Conference (a global network of like-minded schools in fifty countries); was a founding member of the school’s male a capella group; sat on the Board of Magistrates, an honor and discipline committee; and was a three-season varsity athlete (cross-country and track).

Throughout, he managed to find time to tutor high school students in chemistry, physics and math, and mentor middle school students in aerial robotics. His engineering skills are largely self-taught. He created a hexacopter drone from scratch, years before commercial kits were available.

Finding balance is key. “I spend eight hours a day in school, then two hours with my friends running on the trails or the track. It balances things out in a nice way,” he says. He also has a deep appreciation for the impact one person can have on another. As a freshman on the running team, he remembers wanting to quit. But the cocaptains encouraged him to keep going. He persevered, earned Rookie of the Year in 2014 and became team captain in 2017.

As for that bigger picture? Connor is keeping his options open. “If you look at where I am now and what I was thinking before ninth grade, there are so many things I’m passionate about that weren’t on my radar,” he says. “There’s no reason to think the same won’t be true of college. I’m going with an open mind-set. I’ll see where it takes me.”

IN HIS OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact on you and why?
Dr. Richard Robinson, my tenth- and twelfth-grade English teacher. Though I’d always seen myself as solely a STEM student, “Doc Rob” convinced me that I had the potential to grow as a reader, writer and thinker, and gave up tons of his time to help me do so. His enthusiasm was also contagious and inspired in me a great appreciation for the humanities.

What would you tell your freshman self?
Don’t be afraid to self-advocate, take advantage of the resources around you, and ask others for help. There’s no nobility in doing something alone.

Advice for underclassmen?
Strive to form as many meaningful relationships as possible—peers, teachers, coaches, etc. The people you meet will open doors to amazing opportunities and will teach you lessons far more valuable than any textbook or class.

Words to live by?
“Always look on the bright side of life.”
—Monty Python’s Life of Brian


MARIA “PAU” BARBOSA
{ SACRED HEART }

Class salutatorian, accomplished athlete, academic powerhouse, Maria Pau Barbosa, or “Pau” to her friends, knows firsthand the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Her best friend at school was killed a year ago; a tragedy that left Pau reeling. “It’s definitely been hard,” the MIT freshman says. “It’s hard to lose someone like that. She had a huge impact on people’s lives; she touched everyone she met.”

Born in New York, Pau’s family moved to Miami for five years then to Greenwich for five years, where she first attended Sacred Heart. The family relocated to Mexico for two years before landing back in Greenwich. Reintegrating into the school was a challenge, she says, but the experience taught her to be open to change.

Case in point: In 2017 she was leaning toward a career in architecture when she was singled out for her aptitude in STEM as a recipient of Fairfield University’s annual Excellence in Mathematics and Science Awards. Cosponsored by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the ceremony included a presentation by the head of an engineering team. “As soon as he started talking about what they do, I was very interested,” she says. “I knew I wanted to do something related to that.”

Pau’s strengths as an academic are paramount (she also received the Harvard Prize Book Award, which is given to a student who excels in all areas). When she spent part of her sophomore year in a French-immersion program, she not only completed all the course work there but also continued her Sacred Heart Studies.

She is known for her kindness and compassion: “My mom is always talking about the importance of having a kind heart.” For Pau that kindness translates in many ways—as the cocaptain of the rowing team, where she embraced the family-like spirit, to her work as a volunteer at a children’s oncology unit in a public Mexican hospital, where she spends a month each summer. “Most of my time is spent playing with the kids and distracting them. To see them smile, to actually make a difference, is rewarding.”

IN HER OWN WORDS

Teacher that had the biggest impact on you and why?
There are two. Dr. Josephson, my AP French teacher, encouraged me to push myself and do my best since freshman year. She always believed in me and taught me that I am capable of accomplishing my goals. Miss Pan, my advisor and the Dean of Students, was my rock throughout my high school career, especially [my senior] year. Although she was not my teacher in the strictest sense, she has taught me what it means to be a kind and giving person.

What would you tell your freshman self?
Hard work is important, and it pays off in the long run, but remember to have fun and enjoy high school.

Advice for underclassmen?
One of the most important things to remember is that teachers are always your best resource. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you have any questions.

Words to live by?
“Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that. So, no matter how hard it gets, stick your chest out, keep your head up, and handle it.”
—Tupac

share this story

© Moffly Media, 2008-2021. All rights reserved. Website by Web Publisher PRO