Teens to Watch

Every September for the past thirteen years, greenwich magazine has had the pleasure of showcasing ten of our town’s most impressive teens. And every September, we say the same thing: This year’s crop is extraordinary. Six have graduated from high school and have embarked on their freshman year at several of the country’s most elite colleges and universities, including the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The rest are poised to graduate within the next two years.

As in the past, our teens represent a diverse cross-section of interests and passions from engineering, coding and artificial intelligence to psychology, acting and languages. One wants to be an astronaut. Another envisions a career in the entertainment industry (she’s already made four feature films and starred in several TV shows), while still another has his eyes set on sailing for the United States in the 2028 Olympics. No matter their personal hopes and dreams, each has dedicated time to paying it forward within the community—from raising money for Alzheimer’s research to organizing clothing drives to helping younger kids master the basics of English and Spanish.

The one thing they all have in common? They are part of a generation of high schoolers whose lives were interrupted by a global pandemic. From that experience they learned a valuable lesson: Nothing in life is guaranteed. Persistence, resilience and perseverance are the character traits that served them well as they adapted and adjusted to a new normal. Wise, funny, smart, ambitious and driven, these kids dream big.They believe in themselves as agents of change. They are poised to do remarkable things. No matter how dire the state of the world feels at any given moment, we are always a little more confident about the future once we’ve put this issue to bed.

When you meet this year’s teens, we think you’ll understand why.


TESSA LOVERRO

Greenwich Country Day School ᾿22

Photograph by Highpoint Pictures

Compassionate, empathetic, determined and driven. These are just some of the words that best describe Tessa Loverro, a rising senior at Greenwich Country Day School. She is the co-founder of the psychology club, Rising Tides; captain of the field hockey team, former president of the junior class, a founding member of the school’s Honor Board and a longtime volunteer at the Stamford-based Building One Community. Somehow, she still manages to maintain an impressive academic record and a deep interest in everything she tackles. Last year that included an independent study of twentieth-century history and a junior thesis focused on the Intersection of Nutrition, Psychology and Neuroscience: The effect of food on the brain, gut and mental health.

“My love of learning was definitely passed on by my family,” she says. “We have always had rich discussions at the dinner table, which instilled in me a curiosity for the world at a young age.”

Her avocation for psychology was spurred by watching her peers experiencing depression and anxiety in tenth grade. “I think in our area especially, there can be a lot of stressors, with academics and appearance and sports and arts,” she says. A doer by nature, she asked the school psychologist how she could help them. He introduced her to cognitive behavioral psychology and the way it restructures rational thinking. She threw herself into learning as much as she could about CBT and different ways of coping with stress. She used her newfound knowledge to co-found Rising Tides, which sends out weekly articles to the school community, in its efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

This summer, to advance her knowledge of a variety of therapies, Tessa did a five-week internship at the Waverly Group in Greenwich. For the seventeen-year-old, studying psychology has been illuminating. “It has helped me get to know myself and what’s realistic to expect of myself and how I can get things done.” Balance is key, she says. “I’m realistic. I know I’m supposed to have a lot on my plate. I like to be busy.” An accomplished dancer, Tessa joined the school’s fledgling field hockey team and was named co-captain this past year. “I hadn’t played much of team sports. But I loved the idea of a team, and I threw myself into it.”

She applies this same work ethic to everything she does—from working with kids at Building One Community to advocating for her peers. “I like the idea that I’m helping someone by giving them tools and a little knowledge.” Along the way Tessa has learned an important lesson. “If you’re feeling sad, anxious or lonely, one of the best ways to combat that is to help other people.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
I would tell myself that I don’t need to figure everything out right away. I don’t need to know what my deepest passions are or have the next three years of high school planned out. I would tell myself just to explore different areas, let my interests unfold naturally and just to trust myself.

Who has been your most impactful teacher?
I’ve had such incredible, impactful teachers that I can’t give you one over the other. However, in the last year, the three who have had an especially strong impact on me have been my math teacher, Ms. Iversen; my English teacher, Mrs. Waller; and my history independent study teacher, Dr. Cullen.

Ms. Iversen pushed me to stretch myself in math and showed me how to excel. She believed in me, and I was able to find a sense of confidence in my math capabilities that I never had before.

I’ve had Mrs. Waller as an English teacher for three years—one year in middle school and two years in high school—and I have her again next year. She has always been so supportive of me and someone I’ve always been able to go to since middle school. This year, she saw how passionate I was about English and the analysis of literature, and she helped me to think of literature in different ways.

I worked with Dr. Cullen on my History independent study, and it was so transformative learning from someone who is so incredibly knowledgeable and such a talented writer. He set high expectations for me and challenged me to produce high-quality work. He invested time to build the independent study tailored around my interests and to meet with me throughout the semester, outside of teaching his normal larger tenth grade classes. I really appreciate the time and effort he put into teaching me.



ASHLEY AUFDERHEIDE

Greenwich Academy ᾿23

Photograph by Jillian Aufderheide

Ashley Aufderheide lives a star-studded life. At just sixteen, the rising junior has walked the red carpet at the Sundance Film Festival, made four feature films, and acted alongside such household names as Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo and Matthew Goode (of The Crown). It’s been a whirlwind, but Ashley takes it all in stride, balancing her work and her studies like the pro she is. “I love the entertainment industry,” she says. “It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

Ashley was two years old when a stranger came up to her mother in New York City and said, “Your daughter should be a model.” He was right. She signed with the Ford Modeling Agency, and her career was launched. After shooting numerous print campaigns and commercials for brands such as Ralph Lauren and Gap, Ashley was ready for a bigger stage. “As a first-grader I don’t know how I knew all this, but I did,” she says. At seven, Ashley was cast in the indie film, Infinitely Polar Bear, opposite Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana. She recalls the first time she met her famous cast members. “I didn’t know who they were,” she admits. “I don’t get super starstruck. I love them as people. They become like your family. They helped me become a better actor.”

Following recurring guest appearances on The Preacher and The Slap, last year Ashley played a lead in ABC’s sci-fi series Emergence. She also played the character of Smash in the 2020 family fantasy adventure film Four Kids and It, starring Paula Patton, Matthew Goode and Russell Brand. “When I was auditioning for the role, the director sent me the link to the big mechanical arm that was going to help me ‘fly’; and I was like, I’ll be so devastated if I don’t get this role.’”

But acting isn’t her only outside- of-school activity. She is an ambassador for Breast Cancer Alliance and has done promotional videos for the organization. In school, she manages a demanding AP course load, which reflects her broad range of academic interests, has worked on the school magazine Daedalus, and runs varsity track and field and plays soccer and varsity water polo. Ashley says she finds a parallel between acting and sports. “In both, you have to work together as a team. For acting, everyone is working together to build something and make it succeed. In athletics, you’re working together to be the best you can be, and community bonding and teamwork is really important.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
To persevere. Perseverance is a combination of determination and strength. There were nights I went to bed at 3 a.m. and woke up at 5:30 a.m. to study for a test or prepare for an audition. I have learned that I may not do well on every test, and I may not get every job; but no matter what, I put in my best effort. Ultimately, when I do my best, I will more than likely exceed my expectations. I would tell my freshman self that the feeling of a positive outcome supersedes the strenuous feeling in reaching it.

Who has been your most impactful teacher?
Freshman year, I was shooting an ABC series called Emergence, so I was rarely in school. I missed almost the entire first semester, and when Covid hit, the second half of the second semester was remote. Ms. Norrgard was my honors biology teacher, and her class was cumulative and difficult. She always encouraged me and believed that I didn’t have to sacrifice acting to excel in her class and vice versa. When my grades in her class were dropping, rather than advising me to take an easier course, she put effort into helping me improve and making sure I was feeling secure in both my acting and in school. With her guidance, not only did my grades improve, but ultimately I was placed into honors chemistry for my sophomore year.

What life lesson did you learn from coping with Covid?
To really appreciate school. I realized how fortunate I am to be at Greenwich Academy, where I have been since kindergarten; I’m comforted by the familiarity of the same students and teachers. Fortunately, during Covid I was able to continue attending school and not have remote learning during any of my sophomore year. GA has been so dedicated to keeping us safe, which allowed us to stay in school. It helped me realize how lucky I am and how much school means to me.



CHRIS TELLA

Greenwich High School ᾿21

Photograph by Melanie Vernal

Chris Tella was a toddler when he first started racing sailboats with his dad. “He was sailing Cape Cod Mercurys out of the Old Greenwich Yacht Club; it would be 2 p.m. and it would be nap time, and he would pack an extra life jacket so I could sleep,” Chris recalls. He was hooked. At seven he joined the Indian Harbor racing program (his brother Gray joined the next year). The duo shot up the ranks quickly, winning successive club championships. They moved to the junior racing program at Riverside, where they dominated the field for years. Chris attended his first Olympic development camp in 2018, when he was a sophomore. That was a turning point, moving him a little closer to his dream of sailing in the 2028 Olympics. “The only way to get better in sailing, or in any sport really, is to compete against people as good as or better than you,” he says.

Now a freshman at the College of Charleston, the top sailing school in the country, Chris’s drive to excel in all areas is paramount. He spent years as a competitive ski racer and most recently was captain of the high school’s varsity ski team. In 2019, Chris qualified for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association U19 Eastern Finals in slalom and giant slalom. That year, the high school ski team was second in the state. He also captained the varsity sailing team. In 2019, the team placed sixth in the New England Sailing Association Team Racing Championship. “We had a rough first day, but we ended on a really good note, and beat Brunswick, which is really satisfying.” In 2020, the team placed fourth. As an academic, the National Honor Society member excelled across disciplines, winning achievement awards in Chemistry, Italian, Geometry and Algebra II.

But sailing is his first love. Then came the Covid curve ball. “2020 was a disappointing year for our sailing campaign,” he says. “We were supposed to go the 29er Class World Championships in Great Britain.” He quickly become skilled at turning lemons into lemonade. “If we’re not on the water at least five days a week, we start to go crazy,” he says. “During Covid that was tough. We had a fallen apple tree in our backyard, and one day Gray had tied a rope to his trapeze harness and I was sitting behind him, and we pretended we were sailing; but really, we were sitting on a tree. We were just trying to find a way to make the most of the situation.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
Do not put too much stress on yourself, because being happy is way more important for your well-being. Mental health is important throughout high school. Do things you enjoy and find what makes you happy.

Who has been your most impactful teacher?
My freshman year English teacher Mr. Godwin. While I do not like English at all, Mr. Godwin would always have the class chat about the worldly views from literature, which he always referred to as “the big picture.” The line that resonates with me most was when Mr. Godwin was giving me feedback on one of my answers in front of the class and said, “I see where you’re coming from, but I’m looking for the bigger picture.” This was early on during my freshman year, and I had thought this was the best way of thinking ever.

Mr. Godwin and I continued to keep up throughout my high school years. I would keep him updated on my endeavors and ask for his advice. Mr. Godwin was more than just a teacher; he’s also a mentor on how to pursue happiness through thinking the right way.

What’s the greatest challenge you have overcome?
This is a tough question, because there have been a lot of challenges I’ve faced; but I don’t like to label one specific challenge as the “greatest,” because I’ve found it’s important to focus on what’s within your control. A lot of the challenges I’ve faced have either been from an accident, such as my broken left femur while skiing, or challenges that were caused by things out of my control, such as Covid. My point is that a lot of the challenges we face are brought on by things we have zero control over, so it’s important to approach every challenge with the same mindset: Do my absolute best to succeed in what is within my control.

What life lesson did you learn from coping with Covid?
I realized the importance of self-reflection. With all that time at home, I found that the best way to self-reflect is to look at yourself from the outside. Take on the perspective of someone else looking at you and think: Is that how I want to go about decision-making throughout life? It makes you look at your choices from a different angle, allowing you to identify how to improve decisions in order to achieve your goals.

Photograph by Duncan Wilfred


JONNY CITRON

Brunswick School ᾿21

Photograph by Wayne Lin

Jonny Citron is rarely at a loss for words. Not surprising, given that he speaks five languages fluently, including English. Now a freshman at Brown, Jonny immersed himself in the Spanish and Arabic curriculums at Brunswick and spent his summers teaching himself Portuguese and Italian. Senior year, he tackled AP Italian and advanced NEWL Arabic, as well as an independent study in Portuguese. He says language is a way to express himself and to connect with those around him. “Language is culture, and culture is connecting to other people. I love connecting to other people. I’m extremely extroverted. People just make me happy.”

Jonny first discovered his facility for languages when he took Spanish in fifth grade and soon thereafter went down what he calls “the language rabbit hole.” He spent hours studying vocabulary cards and watching YouTube and Netflix shows, minus the subtitles, and even put his phone in Spanish. “It forces you to do this natural passive learning that kind of happens for people who aren’t native speakers.”

For last year’s independent study project, he wanted to create a way to study Portuguese as if he were a native Spanish speaker. He designed a nineteen-unit curriculum, each with a themed vocabulary list, grammar concepts and active and passive skills. “I call it the Jonny Citron method,” he says.

Along with his gifts as a linguist, Jonny has many interests—both athletic and academic. One of the scholastic highlights came in 2019, when he received a full scholarship to a summer program at King’s Academy in Jordan to study Arabic. He was president of Brunswick’s Arabic Club junior and senior year, was inducted into the Cum Laude Society, managed a clothing drive for immigrants from the Middle East, was involved in Diversity in Action and last year was president of the Men of Brunswick choir, the school’s a capella group. Most recently he played Jesus Christ in the school’s production of Godspell.

“It was meant to be,” he says. “J.C. My initials. And that was so much fun. Spoiler alert: I was crucified. That was less fun.” He is also an accomplished athlete who ran varsity cross-country and track. When the spring season got canceled due to Covid, he decided to branch out of his comfort zone and give sailing a try. “One of my best friends is going to Brown, and he has sailed his whole life. It’s his languages, his passion.” So, Jonny decided to give it a go. “It’s very freeing. I thought it was a lot of fun learning all the parts of the boat. In many ways it’s like learning a new language.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
Labels are tempting because they entertain a false sense of security and identity. Avoid the trap of considering yourself in terms of any singular, simplistic label. Putting yourself in a box academically, athletically, personally, etc. encourages complacency and limits future opportunities.

Who has been your most impactful teacher?
Studying Arabic for six years with Ms. Melkonian has been a profound experience. Her ceaseless patience while teaching vocabulary and grammar help her students master Arabic and French, but her lessons reach far beyond the classroom. She sees her students in their entirety and challenges them to reach their potential.

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
Time is an unrelenting challenge I face and continually strive to overcome. I feel most fulfilled and self-assured when I embrace the present. Reflecting on the past and setting goals for the future help personal growth, but scrutinizing what was or perhaps will be can be distracting from what is important.

What life lesson did you learn from coping with Covid?
I cannot say this was the senior year I had imagined. While uncertainty is not always comfortable, the unforeseen challenges of this year led to otherwise unattainable growth. It is a great habit to make plans and work toward goals, but for me, Covid has driven home the vitality of being able to reassess, recalibrate and embrace change.



AUTUMN KIM

Greenwich High School ᾿21

Photograph by Tiffany Zheng

Autumn Kim learned early on how quickly life can change. She was ten when her father died unexpectedly of a brain infection. “My mom had to go back to work, and my sister became the head of the household. I spent a lot of time alone in my room, and I had to learn how to entertain myself.” She also spent a lot of time learning on her own, a skill that came in handy when she got to high school, where she tapped into a passion for science research and working with children—as a volunteer, a tutor and camp counselor. Now a freshman at Washington University, where she earned a four-year scholarship, Autumn is pursuing her dream of becoming a pediatric surgeon.

“Watching my father in the intensive care unit was really scary,” she says. “But I also got to see how the nurses and doctors worked together. They are the only people who can help a family feel better during really hard times. If I can do that for kids, that’s my ultimate goal.”

Autumn’s strengths as an academic are paramount. Throughout her time at Greenwich High School, she carried a full load of AP and Honors classes, earning numerous awards and accolades along the way. As a junior, she designed a science research project to develop a device that would detect meningitis in the brain. (That project was put on hold due to Covid.) This past year, she pivoted to the environment and was rewarded with second place in the International Science and Engineering Fair for Environmental Engineering for her work on developing an eco-friendly and economical way to clean up oil spills.

She also found time to give back to her school and community. As captain of the sixty-member varsity fencing team, she mentored younger students and organized team events. As co-president of the Korean Club, she introduced newcomers to Korean culture. She co-founded Helping Paws, which raised awareness about pet cancer, sang with a chamber music group, was a peer mentor and a member of the Names Day Team, which seeks to educate incoming freshman about the deleterious effects of bullying.

One of her most memorable volunteer experiences was at Greenwich Hospital, the summer before her junior year. “Everyone else was in the maternity ward, and here I was sorting clothes. I was disappointed at first,” she says. “The crazy thing is, I learned so much from the women there. That just taught me that even though it’s cool to see doctors and nurses running around, it was also cool to see how these ladies connected to the patients in a different way. It was very illuminating.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
Even if you fail, all you need is the confidence to come back stronger. In my freshman year, I was constantly anxious about the future, and it made it hard to appreciate the present. If I knew that how you recover is more important, and believed in myself to always figure it out, I think that I would have appreciated a lot more moments throughout high school.

Who had been your most impactful teacher?
Mr. Bramante, the research teacher. The program is unique because it is project-based; and the individual nature fuels students to really become immersed in their project by reading articles outside of the classroom and learning by trial and error. He helped foster my love for science and how it can be applied in so many different ways, especially when listening to my peers’ research, too.

What’s the greatest challenge you have overcome?
After my dad passed away, my family and I felt like we lost someone to lean on. My mom worked for the first time in a few decades, and my sister sacrificed her twenties to help my mom and me. I often felt that I didn’t know how to help as a ten-year-old. Finding ways to be more comfortable at home and at school taught me how to seek and appreciate opportunities. Whether it’s learning how to cook to help my family, learning how to play the violin online or engaging in research at school, I learned that exploring what you want to do without the fear of others’ opinions is crucial.

What life lesson did you learn from coping with Covid?
Covid showed me how we’re more similar than we think. People came to help one another with errands, food, and simply just talking to others made people feel connected. It taught me the power of being kind and going that extra step to make people feel heard and seen.



ALI HINDY

Brunswick School ᾿21

Photograph by Wayne Lin

Class valedictorian, coding phenom, math team captain, magazine and literary editor, three-time gold medalist at the COLT poetry recitation contest, president of Model UN, a peer leader, co-president of Diversity in Action, co-president of the Arabic Club and a tri-season athlete who serves as a captain of cross-country and track and field—Ali Hindy wore many hats during his time at Brunswick. Now a freshman at Stanford, it’s no surprise he considers time management one of greatest skills. “Good time management is the only way to structure one’s life. If you can’t organize your time, you won’t be able to organize your thoughts or your actions,” he says.

Ali put that skill to good use in the summer of 2020, when he and his science research partner collaborated with a Harvard Ph.D. and a research scientist at Google Research to create an armband that translates American sign language into the written word. “We wanted to create a more equitable system of communication for the deaf community,” he says. “The sleeve uses muscle sensors and pulses to translate sign language into code, as well as an artificial intelligence (AI) application to deepen the learning.”

In the classroom, Ali is an academic powerhouse whose slate of courses last year included AP European History, AP Statistics, Advanced Honors Computer Science and Honors Math Multivariable Calculus. His computer science projects earned him first place in the Connecticut State Science Fair in both 2019 and 2020. For the last, his project involved building a novel neural network architecture that analyzed satellite images of rivers in Africa and used them to predict droughts and ways to mitigate the effects in low-income regions.

Born and raised into a family of academics (Ali’s parents emigrated from Egypt to study in the U.S.), he traces his interest in computers from an early age. “I’ve always been curious about the world,” he says. “In fourth grade I fell in love with computers and building things. Coding is basically just building blocks for whatever you want to do.”

Taking a break this past summer, he and two friends started an odd-job service— everything from car washing to gardening and dog sitting. “It was such a fun experience to get to hang out and make money at the same time. I got to learn a lot, too. I’d never done gardening before, and now I know how to plant a tree and detail a car.” Which is not to say he stopped advocating for the causes he believes in. He started a podcast stemming from his work with Diversity in Action, and he has a YouTube channel where he teaches math and science. “Learning all about everything I possibly can is something I’m really interested in,” he says. “My long-term goal is to help the more marginalized people in the world that don’t have access to what we have. In Egypt some people don’t have the opportunities that we do here. And I don’t want to take that for granted.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
I would tell my freshman self not to take myself too seriously and embrace failure and making mistakes in life. Take more risks.

Who has been your most impactful teacher?
Mrs. Melkonian, my Arabic teacher, who has known me since sixth grade and inspired in me a passion for learning Arabic and my Egyptian culture.

What’s the greatest challenge you have overcome?
Getting over my laziness with running—I was unable to motivate myself to run on my own and with a team. I got over this challenge with the support of my coaches and teammates.

What life lesson did you learn from coping with Covid?
I learned more about myself and how to overcome adversity by constantly trying new things and not being afraid to make mistakes. During the pandemic, I struggled to motivate myself to be productive, but I was able to overcome this problem with the support of my friends and family and trying new things.



PIPER GILBERT

Sacred Heart Greenwich ᾿21

Photograph: Contributed

To say that Piper Gilbert is good at everything she does would be an understatement. During her time at Sacred Heart, she was an academic rock star, carrying a full slate of AP and honors classes and earning numerous awards of distinction along the way. She was a National Merit Commended Scholar, a Kairos leader, a senior peer leader, senior class treasurer and a member of the prestigious Global Scholars Program. But the thing that really makes Piper’s heart soar is space. “I just love it,” she says. “I have so many telescopes in my basement. Growing up I would just sit there and look up at the stars.”

Now a freshman at Dartmouth, she dreams about funneling her passion for science and engineering into achieving her goal of becoming an astronaut. “I’m so lucky to have found something that clicks for me. I can’t even find the words. It’s so motivating and rewarding.”

As a sophomore, she joined the school’s science research program and began conducting research on the effect that simulated Martian soil has on plant growth. “People have been thinking about growing food on Mars, and my hypothesis led me to believe there would be some growth; but that it actually happened was insane,” she says. For her efforts, she won the Naval Science Award at the CT STEM fair in 2019, as well as the Geology/Historic Project of Merit Award at the 2020 CT Science and Engineering Fair. An invitation to present her research at CSEF (Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair) was put on hold due to Covid. “It was very difficult, but I was happy I was able to go to school at all,” she says of her final year.

Piper pushed the envelope in other ways, too. In addition to being a gifted linguist (as a senior she won the excellence in Spanish award), she volunteered as a teaching assistant at the Don Bosco Early Childhood Bilingual program, co-captained the Speech and Debate Club, co-captained the varsity softball team, and took several starring turns as a member of the theater program. “My parents used to call me the participatory pup,” she says. “I’ve always felt strongly that you should do whatever you want to do.” For Piper that includes public speaking—a skill that came in handy as class salutatorian. “I love to talk, I love to perform, and I love to express myself. More than that I love people and it’s the most direct way for me to connect with them.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
To take it easy. Everything will fall into place as it should.

Who has been your most impactful teacher?
Sra. Garcia. I had her for Spanish sophomore and senior year, and she has always encouraged me to love the language. I have learned so much from her in terms of grammar, culture and literature, and I’m very grateful to have had her as a teacher.

What’s the greatest challenge you have overcome?
My sometimes-outlandish sense of humor

What life lesson did you learn from coping with Covid?
Resilience—even when the world is against you; and perseverance—even when the world is static.



NICOLE ROER

King School ᾿22

Photograph by Patricia Roer

Ever since she was a little girl, Nicole Roer has been enthralled by economics. “My dad would have CNBC on or Squawk Box in the morning, and I was absolutely glued to the TV,” she recalls. “There was something about the graphs of the markets and the green and red numbers. Half the time I didn’t understand, but I couldn’t not watch it.”

As a freshman, she joined the Viking Investment Partners, the school’s investment club, as one of a handful of female members. She made a “terrible” investment in Regeneron, chalked it up to a teachable moment and never looked back. Recently Nicole was named club president, making her the first female to hold the position.

This year in particular was a boon time for the financier. The club traded one million dollars in a market simulation. “I was sitting on my computer buying and selling, and my parents were like, ‘don’t you have tests to study for?’” They needn’t have worried. Nicole is a standout student. Among her favorite classes from last year: AP Economics and AP Calculus. “I love math so much,” she says. “I love numbers. We had to create a spread sheet for thirty economic indicators and keep up with it throughout the year. It’s so much fun.”

Nicole applies that passion into everything she does. Last year, she started the Women in Business Club at King School after attending a BOLD leadership conference at Harvard, sponsored by the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business Club. “I saw the amazing things they did. I saw how recruiting for investment jobs starts. I thought, what if my high school could put the girls in our school on the track to be in that club one day?” (She has been named to the leadership team for next year’s conference.)

As a co-host of the weekly podcast King Cast, she covers trends in economics and finance, a role for which she was inducted into the Quill and Scroll Honor Society. As a two-term member of the school’s Peer Review Board, she considers disciplinary issues within the school community. She has starred in twenty theatrical productions since the age of three (twelve at King) and is a member of the varsity tennis squad. “It’s crucial to have a creative outlet where you don’t have to be in your academic thinker mode,” she says.

As the rising senior ponders her future, Nicole is sure of one thing. “Economics and finance are two careers that really shape the world. I’ve always told myself I want to do something that will make a difference in the world. I don’t know if that means being the chair of the Federal Reserve or a CFO on Wall Street; but no matter what, I want to do something that makes a difference.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
Learn to value mistakes more than successes, because when you make a mistake you have an opportunity to learn from it more than you would have if you succeeded the first time around.

Who has been your most impactful teacher?
My U.S. History teacher Ms. Ackley. Her class allowed me to dig deeper into complex issues within our country’s present and past and express my opinions on complicated and often divisive issues that have faced our country since its founding. She encouraged respectful debate and critical thinking that has been invaluable to me as I craft arguments while respecting the opinions of others.

What’s the greatest challenge you have overcome?
I had a particularly difficult time with the jump from middle school to high school, and it challenged me to adjust my learning style and studying habits. I have been able to find the techniques and strategies that allow me to learn best. I know that my ability to adapt and settle into strategies that worked well for me during high school will be beneficial in my transition to college.

What life lesson did you learn from coping with Covid?
I was able to see and fully appreciate that our world’s greatest issues cannot be solved by one single academic discipline. We needed to rely upon our experts in science, business, public policy, technology and so much more to get through such a difficult time. Knowing that, I understand the value of being versatile in my studies, and how staying passionate about holistic education will best prepare me to face our world’s challenges in the future.



JARED ROSENBERG

Hackley School ᾿22

Photograph by Lisa Rosenberg

Jared Rosenberg has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Case in point: making a move from public school to private school in ninth grade. “I didn’t know anyone there,” he says. “My life was good, and I thought, why not throw myself into something new.” Now a rising senior at Hackley, the seventeen-year-old has made the most of his time there, devoting himself to his academics and a deep commitment to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s (his grandfather died of the disease when Jared was a toddler). His passion for cars and photography led to a unique fundraiser—a car show called Hypercar Circle, which he launched in 2019.

Jared raised $1,500 for the Alzheimer’s drug discovery program that year and $3,600 the next; he got the idea for the event after participating in several Alzheimer walks. “Being the kind of person I am, I always wanted to do my own event,” he says. “I wanted to create something powerful and meaningful, involving something I’m passionate about.” As a result, Jared was invited to join the board of the New York City-based Young Professionals Committee of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, a role he relishes. “The foundation focuses on finding the diagnostic tests to end the disease. Literally, it’s about finding a cure.” He is also the president of the Alzheimer’s Club at school, which he founded in his junior year. In its initial outing, the club’s Alzheimer’s walk raised about $2,000.

Jared is equally driven when it comes to his academics and athletics. He is pursuing an independent Spike Lab project that incorporates the same sort of AI technology found in self-driving cars and applies it to creating smart homes for Alzheimer’s patients. Utilizing projected light and wearable technology, the system transforms a person’s living space into a “smart” space by providing time and location-based directions and instructions that guide the patient away from potentially hazardous appliances and areas. “All of it works without being intrusive to the home,” says Jared, “so you don’t have to make expensive interior modifications. And it allows a patient’s loved ones to stay connected.”

He is also a peer advisor, a member of the Investment Club and captain of the varsity golf team. Named rookie of the year as a freshman in 2018, Jared was number one on the team last year. After a summer internship at an investment bank, he’s considering a career in real estate development. “I’ve always liked cities. What I’ve seen is that there is so much opportunity in the Sun Belt and the West, all this land not really being used. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I have these big ideas that are just waiting to come out.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
The earlier you begin working hard and not let yourself slow down, you will always improve. The sooner you engage in more activities, the better it will be, even if it is overwhelming at first.

Who has been your most impactful teacher?
My eleventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Moriarty, taught me more about my work ethic than any other teacher. I learned how to make my writing more efficient and effective, while using my real-world knowledge to contribute to my ideas. The class was always challenging and led me to push myself all the way until the end, where I was very successful on my final essay and project.

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve overcome?
A great challenge for me was pivoting the idea of my independent research project. I had done many hours of hard work researching, designing and executing on a project that was not viable to complete during Covid, so I had to pursue a different idea. This pivot also allowed me to follow a path that I was more passionate about and could produce more results in.

What life lesson did you learn from coping with Covid?
I learned to take advantage of boredom and free time for the betterment of myself. I could have sat around on my phone and played video games most of the time, but I decided to grind my SAT studies, schoolwork and independent research project to new levels.



MOLLY KIM

St. Luke’s School ᾿21

Photograph courtesy of West Point

For as long as she can remember, Molly Kim dreamed about attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. No surprise. Her dad is a West Point grad, and her oldest brother is a senior there. “West Point has always been a big part of my life,” she says. “While making my decision about college, what it came down to first is that I really wanted to give back to my country.” This fall, Molly began realizing her dream when she entered the prestigious military academy as a first-year cadet.

Molly says her fierce sense of patriotism, work ethic and drive come from her family. “My parents instilled all these values in us, and to take advantage of all the blessings that we have and push ourselves to be the best we can be.”

During her time at St. Luke’s, she took advantage of every opportunity that came her way. As a senior, she co-captained the varsity lacrosse team, where she made it a priority to lead by example. “When I joined as a freshman the team culture wasn’t very strong. This year, we just really became a family, and I saw how well we performed because were so tight knit,” she says.

She nurtured a love of both STEM and Humanities, tackling numerous AP and honors courses, and was inducted into St. Luke’s Cum Laude Society. She was a frequent contributor to the student-run Eye of the Storm Club (along with her twin sister, Elyse, a 2020 Teen to Watch), which chronicles school life in videos and podcasts. She played in the school band, served for two terms as class representative and spent two years on the school’s Honor Council.

As a trained facilitator for St. Luke’s Community Goals for Learning, Molly helped lead conversations to promote civil discourse among her peers. “We focused on creating an open environment where people could use their own voice and express their own opinions,” she says. Molly also volunteered for Children of Fallen Patriots, an organization founded by her father, which provides college scholarships to teens who have lost a parent in the line of duty. Watching her parents work so hard to help people they’ve never met has had a profound impact. “I see how they selflessly take care of other people’s children. It’s not something they need to do, but they do it anyway.”

It’s a lesson she’ll take with her to West Point, where she hopes to be invited to attend the elite U.S. Army Airborne School next summer. “I’ve never jumped out of a plane, and I’m definitely afraid of heights,” she says. “But I’m always looking for ways to push myself. Serving with the best of the best—that is something I’m very passionate about.”

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your freshman self?
I would say that I shouldn’t stress over things that I cannot control. Keep your head up and get over the stupid stuff that won’t matter in five years.

Who has been your most impactful teacher?
The teachers at St. Luke’s are phenomenal, but if I had to choose one who has had the greatest impact on me, it would be Señor Pontaza. I was fortunate enough to have him for two years of Spanish, and he made the classroom a very welcoming place to learn. He’s always so happy, and his joy was contagious.

What’s the greatest challenge you have overcome?
Understanding that I’m my own unique person and that I shouldn’t waste time comparing myself to others. Being in a family where each of my siblings are very successful, I’ve learned to be confident in my own strengths and abilities.

What life lesson did you learn from coping with Covid?
I learned how important it is to be resilient and to “control the controlables.” Life will always throw curve balls at you; what truly matters is how you respond to those challenges.

Photograph by Joyce Andersen
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