Portraits by Katie Farro, Classic Kids Photography
THESE KIDS ARE DREAMING BIG
And they should be—they are poised to do remarkable things
September can be a bittersweet month—on one hand, the breezy days of summer are in the rearview mirror. On the other hand, it’s the time of year we get to shine a light on ten extraordinary teens. And that is enough to make anyone’s spirits soar. Like those from years past, this group is smart, engaged, dedicated and focused. Their interests are wide-ranging—one is a world-class competitive swimmer, another is a nationally ranked hockey player (he already has a sports agent), another is making a difference in the lives of kids with autism and special needs, still another envisions a career in federal law enforcement. The fact that these teens are high achievers is a given. What makes them stand out is their desire to live their best lives—they are committed to being good mentors and good citizens, steadfast in their efforts to have a positive impact on their community. They believe in themselves as agents of change. Once you meet them, we think you’ll understand why.
SACRED HEART GREENWICH
For as long as she can remember, Athena Corroon has dreamed about flying planes for the military. This fall the eighteen-year-old Sacred Heart Greenwich graduate will realize that dream as a first-year midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. “When it came to the things I am passionate about, the academy encompassed everything I wanted,” she says. “There are so many opportunities—air, sea and land—to be had there.”
Athena comes from a military family. Her paternal grandfather and maternal great-grandfather were both in the Air Force. Which begs the question: Why not the Air Force Academy? “For one thing it doesn’t have lacrosse,” she says. Right. Because in addition to being a standout student who graduated with honors, Athena is a gifted athlete who played varsity lacrosse and soccer for four years. She was named to the U.S. Lacrosse All-American Team for the 2019 season and looks forward to playing on the women’s team at Annapolis. But more to the point, “I fell in love with the Naval Academy first and never really had the opportunity to look more into and visit the Air Force Academy.”
Athena is acutely aware of the responsibility of being the first female in her family to attend a service academy. “From my grandfather, I learned what it means to carry the torch of military leadership in the family,” she says. That respect for leadership has served her well over the years. As an athlete and team captain, she learned the importance of instilling confidence in her teammates, an approach she modeled after the seniors who came before her.
She is equally focused and determined when it comes to her academics, which enabled her to pursue a rigorous course of study, including AP computer science and calculus. Last year she served as a peer leader and Student Council Green Team Captain. “I like to be busy,” she says. “I like a schedule and I like routines. I think it’s very important when it comes to success.”
She also volunteered at Inspirica, a soup kitchen in Stamford, and Part of the Solution in the Bronx. In 2017 she spent two weeks tutoring children at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Lakota Reservation in South Dakota. “It gave me a new perspective on life outside of Greenwich,” she says. “What life was like at home for these children and then seeing the smiles on their faces. That was amazing.”
Athena will follow her four years at the academy with a five-year commitment—to start. “But I want to serve more than five,” she says. “This is going to be my career.” As for doing her part to break the glass ceiling, Athena takes it all in stride. “I’m not that nervous, because my gender doesn’t describe who I am. I’m just as capable as any of the men in school and on the field.”
Christian Hartch is a numbers guy. “My favorite thing to do with my Dad when I was younger was Excel spreadsheets,” he says. “It sounds weird, but I loved it.” That led to a passion for numismatics (collecting coins or money) and a part-time job at a coin shop in Cos Cob when he was fourteen. Today, in addition to advising collectors and hobbyists, Christian runs the shop’s social media; his YouTube Channel, “Treasure Town,” has 25,000 subscribers and more than 2 million views.
The Brunswick grad and Princeton freshman approaches his academic life with the same zeal he applies to coins. As a freshman he tackled Honors precalculus. As a sophomore he moved on to AP calculus BC and went on to score a perfect five on the year-end exam. As the youngest student in the class, he was challenged on many levels. “I poured a ton of effort into the class and really struggled,” he says. “I’m super proud of when I eventually mastered the material. That was a really good formative experience.” This past year, multivariable calculus was in the mix, as was AP physics, post-AP French and post-AP computer science.
He is also an accomplished athlete. A competitive tennis player who came to water polo in eighth grade, Christian played on the varsity squad at Brunswick for four years. “I loved the team aspect of it,” he says. “Having a close group of guys was important.” In his position of goalie, he repeatedly took shots to the face. A series of career-ending concussions last fall dashed his hopes of playing for Princeton. “It was an unfortunate end,” he says. “But I learned a lot from the experience: Always make the most of every opportunity, and don’t take things for granted.” He was delighted when the Princeton coach reached out to him and offered him the job of team manager.
Other than a brief sojourn to France, where the family relocated for one year, Christian has been a member of the Brunswick community since pre-K. He founded and ran the Christian Club, which draws as many as twenty members. “My faith is important to me,” he says. “If there was no club, a lot of guys might not realize how faith is important to them.” He also stepped up to promote civil discourse and free speech as a debate participant in the second annual meeting of the Student Union. The experience gave him the chance to hone his public speaking skills. “I ended up debating something I didn’t necessarily agree with,” he says. “In a diverse political climate, I learned there are merits to both sides of an argument and that it’s important to have civility in political discourse.”
The week before graduation, Grethe Andersen was standing in a garden at Buckingham Palace making small talk with Prince Michael of Kent. But the day marked more than just a chance to rub elbows with royalty. It was the culmination of a four-year quest to earn the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award, presented to students who have successfully completed a rigorous program that encompasses community service, physical fitness, skills development and adventure. (For the residential component ,she volunteered with a public healthcare service in Cambodia.) She was able to realize her goal despite having moved back to the U.S. from England in the middle of high school. “In England it’s a very popular award,” she says. “My advisor was able to support me and make it feasible for me to pursue it.”
A co-valedictorian of her class, Grethe is no stranger to earning awards. While at King she was recognized as an AP Scholar with Distinction, a National Merit semifinalist and a key player on the Model UN Team. Last year at Harvard MUN 2019, she received the outstanding delegate award, and her research report exploring the connection between mental health and climate change was chosen for the top ten in the HMUN 2019 Social Impact Project. “[MUN] is a great way for people to become more aware of world issues and what goes into solving them. It helped me learn to think on my feet and collaborate.”
This ability to step outside her comfort zone has come in handy. When a series of sports injuries derailed a promising track and field and lacrosse career (she was on England’s development team), she turned to triathlon instead. “After I did rehab, I knew running was going to be too hard on my joints. So I thought why not triathlon, which incorporates low-impact sports like swimming and cycling.” Good call. This past June, Grethe won the high school state triathlon championships.
Now a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis, Grethe credits the teachers at King with inspiring her love of learning. “Their passion is infectious. That makes me want to succeed.” She applies this attitude to every aspect of her life, including her volunteer work at the Sunrise Senior Living community in Stamford. “It’s a wonderful way to learn more about my community because I get to engage with so many fascinating people.”
As for her conversation with Prince Michael? “He asked what my favorite part of the award was,” she says. “I told him the expedition. It’s when I learned the most about myself and my character. We hiked eighty-five kilometers (fifty-three miles) in Wales in five days.”
GREENS FARMS ACADEMY
Politician, attorney, supreme court justice, TV sports commentator—Charles Kolin’s career aspirations span a broad spectrum. And why not? After years of enduring incessant bullying, the rising junior at Greens Farms Academy is having the time of his life, pursuing his passions with conviction and joy.
Charles wasn’t always so optimistic about his future. In middle school, bullying kept him from doing the things he enjoyed, such as trying out for the soccer team, a sport that he loves and has been playing since he was four. Charles convinced his parents to send him to private school. On his first visit to Greens Farms he knew he was in the right place. “I participated in the boys’ soccer pre-season practice,” he recalls. “They were so nice and accepting. I had forgotten what that felt like.”
Now a member of the Greens Farms varsity soccer team, as well as the National Premier League and Elite Development Program for Everton America CT, Charles is using his experience to help others. “It was tough not only making a move from public to private school but also middle school to high school at the same time. Being an athlete helped me.” It wasn’t long before he was doing better academically, finishing tenth grade with high honors. “Team bonding is awesome. I have so much fun on and off the field with my teammates; it’s left a lasting impression on me.”
Charles is directing his advocacy specifically at anti-bullying. He worked with the Pacer Center, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that works on behalf of children with disabilities, to establish a Unity Day, which he brought to GFA. It’s a day for students and teachers to share their experiences in a variety of different art forms. He chose the name deliberately. “If you call it Unity Day instead of anti-bullying, you take the negative energy out of the equation,” he says. “It’s about coming together for something rather than against something.” Unity Day is now part of the curriculum at GFA and will be held every October.
Charles is now reaching a wider audience. He spent part of the summer in Washington, D.C., meeting with members of Congress, including Senator Blumenthal and Congressman Himes, to establish a statewide and national Day of Unity through congressional resolution. In the meantime, he has impacted the school in other ways by combining his love of broadcasting with his love of sports. He cofounded the Greens Farms Sports Network, which broadcasts varsity games live online for most GFA sports. Students that participate in GSPN can earn a varsity sports credit. “Not everyone can play a varsity sport,” Charles says. “GSPN allows anyone, regardless of physical ability, to participate on a sports team at the varsity level.”
GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL
James Heavey was just an infant when he first started going to Boy Scouts “in the bucket.” That was the backpack his father, Police Chief James Sr., wore to carry his son to scout meetings. “That’s where my love of scouting and the outdoors began,” he says. In 2013, he was the second youngest member from his region to attend the National Jamboree in West Virginia. Four years later he went again, this time as a senior patrol leader. “There was a lot more paperwork the second time,” he jokes. Last year the Greenwich High School grad attained the organization’s highest honor as Eagle Scout. “I worked with the American Legion Post 29 to help with their mission to educate people about flag etiquette,” he says. Specifically, James made new flag disposal boxes and created an educational program for elementary school kids. “It was a general crash course in patriotism,” he says.
Eagle Scout, volunteer firefighter, senior class president, captain of the varsity indoor track team, Boys’ State delegate and more (he is presently studying for his EMT certification)—the Greenwich High School graduate is happiest when he is being of service and helping others. “When you help people, you make friends. You are able to give back. That’s a feeling you can’t match if you are sitting on a couch playing video games,” he says. His passion for community service is deeply rooted. When it comes to role models, his family has set a high bar—in addition to being the chief of police, James’s father is a volunteer firefighter; his sister, who is a nursing student, is an EMT. “I have spent a lot of time working with first responders,” he says. “The personal and ethical code they bring to the table has really affected me.”
James carries that sensibility into everything he does, from his academics to his athletics and beyond. He recalls how he came to join the school’s Eating Disorder Club. “They asked me if I could put up flyers in the boys’ bathroom, and I read one and said, ‘Can I come to a meeting?’ Basically, if there’s a chance for me to join something, I’m going to end up joining it. I love to meet new people.”
Given his background, it’s no surprise that the eighteen-year-old has set his sights on a career in law enforcement, a goal that was cemented when he spent two weeks at FBI National Academy in Quantico as part of a special leadership training program. “It was a very immersive program, hands-on and intensive,” he says. First, he plans to study government or foreign relations at Hampden-Sydney College, where he earned a full-ride ROTC scholarship. The school’s reputation as a tight-knit, liberal arts men’s college was one of the attractions. “It’s like a professional Boy Scout camp,” he says. “They have an honor code and that appealed to me. Plus, I’m not going to lie. They have a firehouse on campus, and that’s a big draw.”
Kate Hazlett was just seven years old when she tried out for the Dolphins swim team. “I couldn’t even finish a lap of breaststroke,” she recalls. Despite a rocky start, the coach found her a spot. Two years later she won her first race—the fifty-yard butterfly in the town championships. “I was like, Oh wow, maybe I can do this.” Indeed. Among the Greenwich Academy graduate’s highlights: fifteen-time New England Champion, twelve-time All-American, and current state record-holder in four events.
As a member of the Dolphins, Kate won more than thirty state championships and was consistently ranked in the top ten in the U.S. for her age. In 2016 she qualified for the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. “I remember being in the pool and seeing Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, and thinking how am I even in the pool with them?” she says. She didn’t win her event that day—the 200-meter backstroke—but she posted the second-fastest time she’d ever had.
Kate says she got her love of swimming, in part, from her dad who swam for Yale. When she was training for the Olympic Trials they would drive to New Haven so she could practice in a fifty-meter lap pool. “It’s such an individual sport,” she says. “You put in the hard work and you get rewarded. That’s what kept me going. I was always reaching for the next step.”
One step in particular stands out: In 2016 Kate and her dad had gone to the final qualifying meet in Wisconsin. She didn’t make the cut in her specialty, the fifty-meter freestyle. The only remaining race was the 200-meter backstroke. “I figured I had nothing to lose, and I threw everything out there.” Kate dropped nearly five seconds off her time that day. “It was a perfect race. I remember touching the wall, and it was the best moment of my life so far.”
Even with the rigors of her training regimen—she’s in the pool practicing or competing seven days a week—Kate excelled academically, especially in her favorite STEM subjects. And as president of GA’s athletic board, she served on the student council. “I really liked it,” she says. “It helped me with public speaking and writing speeches.” That skill came in handy, when her peers elected her as class speaker.
Now a freshman on Harvard’s women’s swim team, she has her eye on qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials and a spot at the Olympics. “A few girls from Harvard have qualified for the trials, and it would be fun to go with them.”
As an athlete, student and volunteer, Logan Darrin wears many hats—both in school and out. He was one of ten students selected for Brunswick’s prestigious science research project, sophomore and junior years. His project on invasive species earned Logan and his lab partner second place honors at the Connecticut State Science Engineering Fair. As vice president of the student body, he was the only junior on the school’s Disciplinary Committee. This year the rising senior will sit on the advisory board for the Brunswick Leadership Committee, one of four students tapped to lead the thirty-member student-run group. “I am motivated to excel in all areas of my life,” he says. “I am never going to take the easy road.”
When he sees an opportunity, he jumps in with both feet. For instance, as head of the Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance for the Connecticut Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Logan helped organize a fundraising “puppy playdate” in downtown Greenwich that earned more than $1,000. “It was a natural. Everyone in town is always dying to bring their dog somewhere,” he says. In his role as a senior peer leader, he will help a group of freshmen navigate their way into their first semester. “It makes me so happy to lead by example and to see that I’m recognized for the hard work I put in.” Case in point: In 2018 he was awarded the Brunswick Grade Ten Community Service Award and the prestigious Oaklawn Award, which is presented annually to a sophomore with outstanding academics, athletics and service to others. “It is also extremely important to me to mentor other kids—younger kids—peers and teammates,” he says.
With so many demands on his time, and despite a rigorous AP and Honors course load, he manages to keep it all in perspective. “When I get home, I get my work done as early as I can. I do the things I enjoy doing first, then I tackle the more difficult things. It’s such a motivator—I get it done and I’m free.”
There’s no better example of Logan’s determination to succeed than his efforts on the lacrosse field, a sport he loves. As a sophomore he didn’t see much action off the bench. “That was discouraging,” he says. “But I gave it my all on the JV team and had a blast doing it.” Indeed, as a junior, Logan’s time did come. From playing under the lights against Salisbury at home to beating Boys’ Latin in Philadelphia, Logan was an integral member of the starting lineup. “To get on the varsity team, I had to work hard; it took a lot of patience and waiting,” he says.
The waiting paid off in other ways. This past spring, he committed to the admissions process at Harvard to play lacrosse next year as a member of the incoming freshman class. “The fact that I’ve made a commitment to Harvard is a weight off my shoulders,” he says. “However, once I committed, the work just began. I have to seriously up my game.”
GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL
Long before she received her acceptance from Yale, where she is a freshman this year, Monique Nikolov learned a valuable lesson about going the extra mile—in school and in life. As an eighth grader, she entered a writing contest because the teacher was offering extra credit. When he tore apart her first draft, she wrote another. And another. “I ended up writing at least ten drafts of that essay,” she recalls. “I didn’t end up winning, but that experience really led to my having a sense of pride in what I’d written. And [I learned] that putting in time and effort really pays off.”
Monique has lived by the credo ever since. During her four years at Greenwich High School, she earned numerous awards and accolades, including several distinguished scholar Spanish awards, the DAR Good Citizen Award and a national Coca Cola-scholar semifinalist. She was the captain of the varsity fencing team, a participant in the chemistry Olympiad, captain of the debate team, and student class treasurer two years running. As the captain of the school’s Model UN club, Monique helped grow the membership from about twenty to 200-plus, expanding outreach and establishing mentorships. “We wanted to find ways to help them navigate the conferences because it can be crazy if you don’t know what’s going on,” she says. As a member of the school’s economics club, Monique was tapped to participate in the Federal Reserve Challenge in New York City this past spring. She played Esther George, CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “She seems pretty cool,” says Monique. “She has a quirky position. She roots for Main Street not for Wall Street.” The seventeen-year-old did all this while managing an Honors-heavy course load, maintaining a 5.09 GPA and serving as co-valedictorian of her class. “I believe hard work can help you achieve almost anything,” she says.
Among her most cherished achievements, however, is the club she founded during her sophomore year that integrates her love of writing with her passion for helping others. Write for Change organizes letter-writing campaigns that make a meaningful difference in the community. She says the idea for the club came to her late one night toward the end of winter break. “I was brushing my teeth, thinking random thoughts as one does, and I was thinking there should be a way for people to use their writing beyond just their classes. I thought people should have an outlet that was bigger than themselves.”
Looking to the future, Monique—who speaks proficient Spanish and Chinese—is considering a career in international relations. She credits her time with Model UN for instilling a greater appreciation for the importance of effective diplomacy. At Yale she plans to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. “Once in a while I think working at the U.N. would be the coolest thing ever. But I need to take a lot more classes and learn a lot more before I decide.”
As a freshman at King School, a time when most kids are finding their bearings, Jason Marsella had made a verbal commitment to play hockey at Yale. He was fourteen and the ninth youngest to commit that year.
Jason has been honing his skills since he first stepped on the ice at the age of eight. “That’s late for a hockey player,” he says. “The average player in the NHL starts at four. They were telling me don’t even bother. But I didn’t care. I fell in love with the game. I fell in love with the euphoria of scoring a goal.”
Ironically, it was swimming that first revealed Jason’s competitive drive. “I hated it, but I was good at it,” he recalls. “It taught me to not quit. I only swam twice a week, and at ten I broke two state records.” Once he discovered hockey, though, all bets were off.
From the house league at the Boys and Girls Club to the list of the top 125 2021 NHL draft prospects in the world, Jason has risen up the youth ranks in record time. Last year he was selected in the sixth round of the USHL draft (the highest league for junior hockey) by Chicago; he was one of the youngest players picked.
Pursuing his dream of skating for Yale and eventually the NHL has required focus, determination and perseverance. During his sophomore year, Jason missed nearly a month of school because of his tournament schedule. “I’ve been fortunate that King School has been able to accommodate me,” he says. “It’s pretty tough to stay on track. I worked with an advisor; sometimes I take tests earlier or later. Without that I wouldn’t be able to keep my commitment to Yale.” He was named a King Scholar two years in a row and was a member of the school’s highly sought-after leadership program.
Though he was only able to play eight games for King this season—they were effective. In one memorable matchup, the team beat one of its biggest rivals, Harvey School, six to four, with Jason scoring five of the six goals. The Vikings fell just short of winning a state championship, losing in a shoot-out in the semifinals. “That was heartbreaking,” he says. “If there was any game I wish I could redo, it’s that one.”
As a member of the North Jersey Avalanche, then ranked sixth in the country, Jason went to the U.S. Nationals last season. The team worked hard to make it through the round robin to the quarterfinals. As the team captain, he got a crash course in how to keep everyone motivated and on track—skills that will come in handy this year, as he transitions to a new prep school, Avon Old Farms Academy.
But first, he plans to spend a lot of time doing his favorite off-season sport: fishing. “I get to take a time-out from all the stress,” he says. “You’re not thinking about anything else but the fish.” And maybe in Jason’s case, his girlfriend. “It’s nice to have someone along on this journey with me. She helps keep me sane.”
GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL
Sydney Noble has met many challenges in her seventeen years: Her parents divorced when she was a freshman in high school, and two years later her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. During that time, Sydney was tasked with helping her autistic younger brother navigate the social complexities of middle school, all while keeping up with her academics and service commitments. From that experience, the Greenwich native learned the importance of having a support system and asking for help. “You can never count on not having something to deal with,” she says. “I learned to deal with what was happening and then move past it and on to the next.”
Sydney gives back to the community in a multitude of ways. She has volunteered at Cos Cob summer school, assisted with the Special Olympics and worked with the Abilis Band Bandjam production. As a sophomore she founded a club centered around autism awareness called Picking up the Pieces. “I saw how my brother was affected when people ignored him. And then when other kids treated him well, how it changed him. He stood a little taller,” she says. “I wanted to help people understand this.” Among its many outreach efforts, the club worked with Abilis and the Greenwich United Way on the Together We Shine prom for kids with disabilities. “That’s an experience they don’t really have because they get left out,” she says.
As an escape, Sydney channeled her energy into athletics. A competitive cheerleader for seven years, she also volunteered her time to coach the pee-wees and a special needs squad. For Sydney, cheerleading was where she could go for two hours, three times a week and forget about everything at home. “It’s a demanding sport. It took a lot of time, energy and practice, but I would do it all over again.”
One of her most gratifying moments was this past winter, when she initiated a toy drive for Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. Sydney collected nearly 300 toys from local schools and businesses and dropped them off on Christmas Eve. “It happened to be my mom’s one-year checkup,” she says. “It was a very happy and emotional time for all of us.”
Preferring to work behind the scenes, Sydney was surprised to learn that she’d been named one of the YWCA’s Women Who Inspire Next Generation for 2019. “I didn’t even know I’d been nominated,” she says. It was a humbling moment for the University of Richmond freshman. “When I heard everyone speaking, it was unbelievable to me that I was on the same level,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to do everything I’ve put forward if I didn’t have people behind me. All I had to do was take that first step and have everyone help push me to get there.”