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    This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Louisville Magazine. 
    To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, please click here.

     

    Our annual search to find the best and brightest turned up a pig lover, photojournalist, go-kart champ, future Google exec and the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg. One Super Kid has a research project titled “Vibrating Molecules and the Secret of Emotions: Why Does Music Make Us Feel?” Oh, and don’t even try to go bowling with a Super Kid. 

    Semhal Araya

    17, Brown School, senior

    Semhal’s discipline and work ethic is probably better than most adults’. In addition to being on her school’s debate team, first-chair clarinetist in her music class, a senior class officer and tied for highest grades in her class, she helps take care of her younger siblings at home because her parents work nights.

    Sounds like you’re a good leader. What are some things that you’ve learned about leading others?

    “There are so many different things I’ve learned from leadership. Most of all, it was how to work with people on different levels. You have to be able to work efficiently with others to ensure you’re making the right decisions. On the other hand, you have to be able to direct people so that they understand and comply. Dealing with people in this manner lends to patience as well.”

    You have a 4.14 GPA. How is that possible? 

    “I take a lot of AP classes. I try to get into as many as I can. Senior year is supposed to be kind of like a lightweight year because you’re supposed to focus on colleges, but I’m juggling that with one of the most difficult course loads that our school can offer.”

    What’s it like to be the first person in your family to go to college?

    “I was the first person also born in America in my family, which is also really cool. It’s kind of difficult because my parents aren’t super-familiar with the college application process, so I usually turn to counselors at my school for help with all that. My parents still make sure that I stay on time with everything.”

    What are your college plans?

    “Right now I know that I want to go into biology, pre-med, and go to medical school to become a neurologist. I’m planning on minoring in something right now — I’m thinking African-American studies; I don’t know. I just want it to be not STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) to balance it out.”

     

    Sam Borden

    18, St. Francis High School, senior

    Multitalented is a good word to describe Sam. He’s won a battle of the bands with his pop-rock group 2nd St. Bridge, he plays varsity soccer and he’s currently working on a research project that incorporates three of his interests: music, physics and the Chinese language. Oh, and he scored a 36 on the ACT. 

    What’s this instrument that you’re using in your research project? 

    “I went to China in the spring of my junior year, and while we were there we went to this place called the silk market and there was a musical instrument called the erhu. It’s a basically a two-stringed instrument like a fiddle but you play it like a cello.”

    Tell us about the physics aspect of it.

    “What I’m doing is looking at the acoustics of the erhu, how it generates its sound and if it has a certain resonant frequency and just how it produces what it does and why it sounds like it does.”

    How far are you into the project?

    “I’ve been gathering resources on my topic and I’ve found two so far. One of them’s in Chinese. I’ve been translating it; it’s a good test of my skills. I’ve been hoping to pursue my own research.”

    What’s your question?

    “Basically, what frequencies does (the erhu) respond to? It has a unique sound box that’s covered by a python skin, which you don’t really see in a lot of instruments. Usually Western instruments like the violin have a wooden membrane that vibrates. So I’ll take the sound box and put a speaker underneath it and put sand on the python skin and see how it vibrates when I send certain tones through the speaker.”

    How does it feel to know that you got a perfect score on the ACT?

    “I mentioned my trip to China. I came back from that trip the same week that I had the ACT, so I was on the tail end of a jet lag from that trip and I think the jet lag helped, probably. I didn’t have that part of me that’s like, wait, that could not be the right answer. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t really study for it. I took one of the prep books on the plane with me to read but I ended up sleeping.”

     

    Monica Rodriguez Benitez

    12, Moore Traditional Middle School, seventh grade

    Originally from Cuba, Monica published a bilingual book called The Ghost of Henry and Other Stories, loosely based on the Wizard of Oz. She has also won a House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Academic Achievement Award and a President’s Award for Educational Excellence from the U.S. Department of Education. She wants to go to Stanford University and become a doctor.

    Why did you decide to publish your book?

    “At first I just wanted to write a short story. Then I wanted to make it bigger. It turned out to fill an entire notebook. When we went to Cuba I gave the notebook to my aunt and she got it published.”

    What else interests you?

    “I like photography. I like filming. In fourth grade, me and my best friend, we started a YouTube channel. I’m trying to save up to buy a camera to film videos.”

    What makes someone smart?

    “I don’t think that someone is smart just because of their IQ and how they do in school. I think that somebody is smart because of what they do. Like, if they do something really well. If somebody can take really pretty pictures, they’re smart. They can do that very well because they know how to work the camera and the equipment.”

     

    Michael Chan

    17, Trinity High School, senior

    Last year, Michael placed seventh in his age group at the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic Nationals. He’s also been named an Academic All-American by the organization for four years. When he’s not in the gym, he’s a class officer and creates promotional videos for his school’s football and soccer teams.

    How did you get into gymnastics?

    “I was around three years old. We lived in a two-story house, and basically the story is I climbed the side of my house, like up the bricks. I climbed that pretty high and (my parents) thought they should kind of control that.”

    Do you have a specialty event in gymnastics? 

    “I do them all, actually, but (high bar) is kind of the one I like the most. I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie.”

    How did you get good at it?

    “Heavy practice. A normal gymnast practices six days a week, probably four hours a day, but I kind of don’t have that because of the drive (to Queen City Gymnastics in Cincinnati three days a week). But I do a lot of other practicing. I lift weights every day that I’m not at practice. My brother’s a power-lifter, so I work out with him.”

    How much can you bench-press?

    “Like 245.”

    What’s something that’s coming up in the next year that you’re excited about?

    “I’ve been taking a lot of college recruit trips for gymnastics, so I’m doing that in college. I was just at Berkeley last week and then before that I was at Ohio State. Next week I go to Michigan. So I’m looking forward to going to those places and getting applications in.”

     

    Brendon Henley

    10, Cochran Elementary School, fifth grade

    Last year, Brendon won his school’s talent show performing magic and comedy as the Great Brendini. “I was on the computer,” he says, “and I just thought, hey, I’m gonna look up a magic show. All of them were crappy, and the ones that weren’t crappy were in other languages. So I was like, hey, maybe I can make magic that’s not crappy and talk in English.”

    How did you learn magic tricks?

    “That, I cannot say. But I can tell you the first magic trick I learned was levitating a little paper cup. The second one I learned was a ‘coin vanish.’ It’s not as cool as it sounds. I’m not gonna say where I learned from ’cause then you’re gonna try to do it yourself.”

    What’s your dream job?

    “Probably an actor. The reason why I kind of grew out of magic is because I got tired of everybody saying it’s fake. I might become a professional magician, but I don’t want people to come up and say, ‘You can’t do magic.’”

    What are you into now?

    “I know it might sound stupid, but vintage Mario. Today I got a 1982 Donkey Kong slide puzzle. I know it’s not that cool. Don’t put that in the interview. Also, parkour. As short as I am, I can run. I have a little Kodak camera that I make movies with. Definitely put in the article that I have a YouTube channel. My most recent video was a thing about 1988 Mario Acme plush (toys). I have, I think, 74 magic tricks on there. I recently got to 240 videos.”

    What makes someone a good comedian?

    “I hate the comedians that get, like, a puppet and are like” — he puts on a voice — “‘Hey, Tommy.’ And, I swear, anytime somebody says ‘Why’d the chicken cross the road?’ this is what I say to them: ‘To get ran over.’”

     

    Bailey Ritter

    13, Olmsted Academy North, seventh grade

    A year ago, Bailey was diagnosed with an incurable form of brain and spine cancer called fibrous meningioma, for which he’s been through three 15-hour surgeries not knowing if he would come out alive. Despite missing more than 100 days of school last year, he kept up with his grades. His parents say he never complains about his debilitating headaches. He loves school, he says, because it keeps his mind off things that make him sad. “I keep on living my everyday life,” he says.

    Why do you like going to school so much?

    “To help with my education. My favorite subject is math.”

    What do you like to do for fun?

    “Play video games and go outside. I like Call of Duty.”

    Who’s the smartest person you know?

    “My brother. He’s in high school right now. He helps with my homework. That’s who I look up to.”

    What do you want to be when you grow up?

    “A fireman.”

    Why?

    “To help people and put out fires, basically.”

     

    Veronica Pottinger-Collard

    13, St. Stephen Martyr Catholic School, eighth grade

    Community service is a major part of Veronica’s life. She loves animals and hopes to attend Central High School’s veterinary-science magnet program. Another goal is raising money to buy special oxygen masks that firefighters can use on animals in emergencies.

    Why do you think it’s important to be involved in so many volunteer activities?

    “I just think it’s more important to me that I get to know more people in the world. It just makes me feel that I can give people second chances.”

    Tell us about your work with animals.

    “This summer I did a camp at the Humane Society called the Humane Society Advocate Camp. You go there for a whole week and you’re like one of the workers. You get (the animals’) food, clean their cages. We got to play with the animals; we got to learn how to put eye drops in. And then the week before that, I did horse camp. They mainly taught you how to treat animals right.”

    What are some things you learned that were surprising?

    “How to clean (the horses’) feet. You have to pick them up. If you touch one of their feet, they’ll try to kick you. You slide your hand down (their leg) and you squeeze. They’ll lift it up, but you have to grip onto it. There’s this tool with a hook on the end of it and you clean the hoof out. You have to watch out for this one part — it’s shaped like a V and that’s where their veins are.”

    What’s your schedule like with all this going on?

    “During the summer, it’s basically volunteering. It’s busy. During school time, I try to do my homework at the end of school because we get like 30 minutes a day to do homework. During the weekends, it’s basically volunteering for lots of stuff.”

     

    Emma Engilman

    17, Eastern High School, Junior

    Emma maintains a fashion blog, thelittlelacedress.com, and was a finalist in Teen Vogue’s Instagram contest. She spent last summer in New York through LIM College’s fashion scholarship program, during which she learned about fashion magazines and blogs. “I always enter myself into contests just to put myself out there and get more views to my blog,” she says. For college, she’s looking at either NYU or Brigham Young University. “The dream is New York,” she says.

    Why did you start the blog?

    “I’ve always loved fashion, but the fashion industry is very, like, superficial and very focused on body image, and that’s one thing that I really didn’t like about it. Growing up, one of my biggest struggles was feeling confident in my own skin. I wanted to make (the blog) about fashion but also about how girls look at themselves, so I use unedited photos.”

    What makes someone stylish?

    “I think everyone has their own style, and if you feel good in what you’re wearing, then you have style and it shouldn’t matter what other people think. If you feel confident, then that’s all that matters.”

    What is your dream job?

    “I really think it would be awesome to work for Vogue or a fashion magazine. Because I really like journalism, fashion journalism. I think it would be fun to be creative director or something in Vogue.”

    Who inspires you?

    “My grandma inspires me. She’s very supportive. There’s a blogger I really like — her name’s Amber Fillerup. I look at her blog and base my blog off of it. I also really like Grace Coddington, the creative director of Vogue. I feel like she’s very real.”

    What else do you do in your free time?

    “Choir. Chorale’s the highest-level choir; I’m in that. We also have an a cappella group outside of school, so I’m in that, too. It’s really fun. It’s like Pitch Perfect.”

     

    Oliver Noth

    Eight, Highlands Latin School, third grade

    Earlier this year, Oliver was ranked 29th in the nation among chess players seven and younger. He practices almost every day and has attended chess camps. He’s also an accomplished classical-guitar and piano player. 

    How do you practice playing chess?

    “Play games.”

    What kind of games?

    “Well, I play a game of chess every day and do like 20 or 30 problems.”

    Can you tell us about the problems that you do?

    “I have to find the best move for one color.”

    Who do you play with?

    “I play with my dad.”

    What’s it like during a chess competition?

    “I have to stay quiet.”

    What songs have you learned to play on the guitar and piano? 

    “I’ve got like a book of repertoires and etudes.”

    What do you do for fun? 

    “Sometimes on Sunday I just play video games.”

    Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?

    “I want to be a gym teacher when I grow up.”

    What kinds of things are you doing in gym class?

    “I have to do a lot of exercise that makes me have a drink of water when I come back to the classroom.”

     

    Nicholas Castelluzzo

    13, St. Albert the Great School, eighth grade

    Nicholas might be the next Joshua Bell. He’s been playing violin since he was six, and this is his fifth year in the Louisville Youth Orchestra. Last year he was first-chair violin, and this year he moved up to the more experienced Repertory Orchestra. He hopes to get into YPAS.

    How’d you get interested in violin?

    “It was actually because of this show called Little Einsteins on the Disney Channel. One of the four characters, Quincy, he was the musical one. He solved puzzles by playing music. When he took out the violin, I was like, ‘That’s the one I like the most.’”

    How often do you practice?

    “I try to practice every day, 15 to 20 minutes a day. I warm up with scales. Then I do my fingering exercises. I’m trying to learn fifth position, which is halfway up the violin. Then I go to whatever I’m doing with my private instructor, which is Suzuki book four, song five” — a Vivaldi song. “I’m going to play that for a recital coming up. Then I work on stuff for orchestra.”

    What’s your after-school routine?

    “I usually come right home and get my homework done. I really think that’s the best way to do stuff — just knock it all out as soon as you get home, and then, if you have time left over, you can do whatever you want.”

    What are your hobbies?

    “Man (Manchester) City’s my favorite soccer team. That’s the only sport I play besides basketball. I like YouTube. I have my own YouTube channel. I also like Pokémon cards.”

    What’s your dream job?

    “At first, when I was three, I always said I wanted to be a garbage-truck driver. Right now, my dream job is to be a LEGO model designer. I’ve always loved LEGOs. I collected all the Star Wars stuff; I’m a big Star Wars fan. I’m really excited for the new Star Wars movie. I can’t wait for the LEGO set to come out for that.”

     

    Hunter Borowick

    16, Walden School, junior

    Hunter was nine when he played his first show, sharing the stage with a hair-metal band at R Place Pub in Lyndon.  Right now he plays in town with three bands and has raised almost $40,000 for charities at benefit shows. He was also recently invited to a closed audition for the TV show The Voice. 

    How old were you when you picked up your first guitar?

    “I started just messing around when I was six. I started playing for real when I was eight.”

    Were there any musicians who inspired you back then?

    “Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen.”

    What bands are you in?

    “I’m in one called Unleashed. We’ve been around for like almost six years. The other one is a cover band I put together with some of my friends called Maloik. We don’t play out that much; we took a hiatus and now we’re getting back together to practice.”

    What kind of stuff do you cover?

    “Really anything from the ’80s and ’90s, hair metal and a lot of funk rock, even some kind of funk metal like the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the ’90s.”

    And the other band, Cadence?

    “That’s an acoustic thing with me and my friend Taylor and my friend Haley, and a lot of it is, we sit up on a stage and we’ll play some of our original songs; we’ll take songs that are normally done with a full band and just have two guitars and three-part harmonies. And it sounds pretty.”

    Where do you all play?

    “We played a lot at Phoenix Hill Tavern before it closed, we play at Wick’s on Baxter a lot, we play Baxter’s a lot, we’ve played at Fourth Street Live and Headliners.”

    What was auditioning for The Voice like?

    “Weird. Chaotic. You go up — you’re supposed to have three songs prepared. They wanted them like 20 years old or newer. I sang a Bruno Mars song, but I didn’t make it. Really, I think you go in there and you sing one song and they’ll tell you to sing more if they want to hear more. And I guess they just didn’t want to hear more. Which is fine.”

    What’s it like being 16 and playing for audiences who are almost all older than you?

    “It’s weird because most people really enjoy it. They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, those kids are up there playing Rush!’”

     

    Margaret Wakaba

    17, Western High School, senior

    During the school week, Margaret takes a bus from Western to Jefferson Community and Technical College as part of her school’s early-college program. She’s taking 13 credits as a full-time sophomore and will enter college — she’s looking at UK — as a junior. Last summer, she was in the Governor’s Scholars Program at Bellarmine University. In her free time, she volunteers at St. John Center for Homeless Men once or twice a month and goes to the Iroquois Library to teach English. (She is fluent in Swahili.) She’s also on her school’s track team. Margaret’s dream job is working for the United Nations.

    What’s a world issue you’re concerned about that you would like to work on?

    “Poverty. I lived in Nairobi (Kenya) for seven years and one of the largest slums in the world is in Nairobi. I would have to walk past it every day to go to school. That’s one thing that I can’t solve by myself, but I would like to work on it and try to help people out.”

    Who inspires you?

    “Wangari Maathai. She is a Kenyan environmentalist and political advocate. She won a Nobel Peace Prize. I don’t necessarily advocate for the environment as much as she does, but I admire how much that she stood up for herself and what she believes in.”

    “What’s your favorite book?

    “Narnia. It was probably the first book that I read when I was younger and it got me interested in reading more books, so that’s why it’s my favorite book.”

     

    Lita Van

    13, Olmsted Academy South, eighth grade

    Lits’s teachers call her voice “phenomenal.” She has gotten distinguished Kentucky Music Educators Association ratings for the past two years, and she sometimes performs with the Olmsted Academy orchestra. She also loves acting and used her skills as a witness on her school’s mock-trial team. She plans to go to U of L to study musical theater.

    What do you sing? 

    “Mostly Broadway stuff.”

    What do you want to do next?

    “I want to try to get into YPAS, and then they’re going to teach me more stuff about acting. And then I want to move to New York and act there.”

    How does a mock trial work?

    “We go to, I think it was Richmond, Kentucky, and they shut down the court system for the day. You have to remember your testimony and answer the questions. Somebody got mauled by a gorilla — I was that person — so they asked me, ‘Why did you make the gorilla noises in the first place? Why didn’t you stop? Did you read the signs?’ Some teams win an award, but it was our first time competing, so we didn’t get it.”

    What’s something you haven’t done that you want to do?

    “I want to travel to all 50 states. I’ve probably been to about five or six.”

     

    Madelyn Steurer

    17, Assumption High School, senior

    Madelyn has spent a lot of time on the stage as a singer and dancer. She was selected from hundreds of other applicants to participate in the Songbook Academy, led by singer Michael Feinstein, and she’s been doing ballet and tap dance since she was three. Recently, she presented results of a research project she has been working on at school for three years titled “Vibrating Molecules and the Secret of Emotions: Why Does Music Make Us Feel?”

    How did you get interested in researching music and emotion?

    “I first got interested in it when I went to a Louisville Orchestra concert. They started playing, it was Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings.’ It was originally played at John F. Kennedy’s funeral and the days following the 9/11 attacks. It has a melancholy feel, but when I listened to it, I was so happy. I was crying, but it wasn’t like sadness. So I was like, ‘Why do I have this different feeling than everyone else around me?’”

    What were your findings from your research?

    “That we feel the music vicariously through the instrument and maybe it’s not necessarily what the composer was trying to portray but what the person playing the instrument is feeling.”

    Do you have an example of that?

    “Like when I went to the Louisville Orchestra concert, there was a guy and he was first cellist. I kind of thought: What if this guy had been promoted to first cellist and he was super-happy about that, so he sits down to play his instrument and it’s actually a melancholy song but we’re feeling his happiness through the instrument?”

    Are you hoping to do more research in this area?

    “I’ve tried looking at schools where I could double-major in neuroscience and music so I could research music’s effects on the brain. I actually brought the book of the guy who inspired me. His name is Oliver Sacks, who recently passed away.”

    Do you have a pre-singing onstage ritual?

    “I’ll warm up with scales and a lot of the time I’ll hum. But I learned something at Michael Feinstein’s competition that you shouldn’t sing before you go on; you should kind of just warm up internally and mentally prepare because it can actually damage your voice if you sing before a performance. And then I’ll use the neti pot because my allergies get really bad.”

    What’s been your favorite onstage moment so far? 

    “Well, this year I’ve been cast in both my (dance) studios with a solo, and we’re doing one solo that kind of centers around a Holocaust story, and everybody else around me is wearing black and I’m wearing red and I’m supposed to represent the struggle and trying to break free. At the end of the piece I die and they raise me up to heaven. It’s so cool.”

     

    Katherine Hernandez

    17, Western High School, senior

    Katherine moved from Cuba with her mother 10 years ago. She’s now a medal-winning Quick Recall captain and is the president of her school’s Principal’s Advisory Committee, which asks students how to improve the school. She’s also part of JCTC’s early-college program. For the past six years, she’s been a Whitney M. Young Scholar, which helps low-income kids achieve higher education. Through the Youth Leadership Institute and the Spanish Scholarship Fund, Katherine went to the University of Chicago for four days to learn about applying to college and getting financial aid. “It brought a lot of really smart Hispanic students together and it’s nice to know that I was a part of that,” she says. Her dream job is to be a neurosurgeon. “I love learning about the body and how it functions,” she says.

    How do you study for Quick Recall?

    “You can’t really study for it. Mostly it’s things that you learn in class. One of my English teachers last year, she gave me a book because she thought that the girl in the book was a lot like me. She read all of the books in order. I’m at the library a lot, so that’s why she thought of me. That question showed up and I was just like, wow. Something my teacher gave me showed up in Quick Recall. You just never know.”

    What else do you do in your free time?

    “I volunteer at the library. I started a book club there for high-schoolers three or four years ago. I read just about anything in the teen section. One of the librarians always brags about me, like, ‘If you need a book, just ask Katherine ’cause she’s read just about everything in that teen section.’”

    What makes someone smart?

    “I feel like it’s a combination of all of their life experiences. I don’t really believe that anybody’s dumb. We all have different kinds of smart. What you do with what you know.”

     

    Keeley James

    11, St. Michael Catholic School, sixth grade

    Every year of school so far, Keeley’s gotten straight A’s. Her big goal in life is to enter the medical field as a doctor or researcher and work to cure cancer. She recently dissected a pig with her aunt, a high school science teacher. 

    What are you learning in school right now? 

    “In math we’re doing fractions. In science we just finished learning about the theory of tectonic plates and right now we’re learning about weather, erosion and depositions.”

    What keeps you motivated?

    “Basically, I just think, ‘You’ve gotta get there.’ I think about my future, think about how my grades can affect getting a job and stuff.”

    How did you get interested in the medical field?

    “When I was little, we had like doctor toys, and I would just play that, and then my dad kind of told me how much they (earn). And I really like math and science and I like getting money.”

    What was dissecting a pig like?

    “It was awesome. There wasn’t a teacher to tell you stop. I could just cut.”

    What did you learn?

    “I chose the pig because I wanted to see something that was more like a human body, and I kind of learned how everything works. You can’t really learn about a human or an animal by pictures; you have to get firsthand experience.”

    You ran your first 5k recently. What was that like? 

    “I didn’t really train for it at all. I ran like two miles one day and then the next day it was the 5k and it was like, gotta do this. So I beat everybody in my family and that was good.”

    What do you do to relax?

    “I like to make clothes and play piano. I really like to play outside, but as it’s getting cooler I don’t get to do that as much, so I just kind of chill out.”

    Who’s the smartest person you know? 

    “I think my dad’s pretty smart. He taught me how to do a lot of my math and science homework.”

     

    Eli White

    12, Walden School, sixth grade
    (pictured with Morty the pig)

    “Just because I’m 12 doesn’t mean that I can’t do something for the world,” Eli says. He gathers produce that grocers are about to throw away and delivers it to exotic-pet sanctuaries in Kentucky, which he documents on his Facebook page, titled Waste Less Eat More. “The thing that’s crazy is that perfectly fine produce is getting thrown in the garbage. If there’s a little bitty flaw in one big box of fruit, they’ll throw it away,” Eli says. “That produce can go feed starving families. Sometimes we go to some of the pantries and give them some of our food.” He spends his allowance on sponsoring a pig named Uncle Harvey in a Hampton, Virginia, pet sanctuary. Eli spent one of his summers making stuffed animals that he then entered into an art show and raised $800 to buy a pet pig, Murray. (At 170 pounds, Murray is too big to have made it to the photo shoot.) Eli wants to be an exotic-animal veterinarian and develop his organization into a nonprofit.

    How did you get interested in exotic pets?

    “My cousin, Rickey. He had a pig. It was just playful. It was really intelligent. Pigs are as smart as three-year-olds and they’re very misunderstood for what they are.”

    What’s Murray like?

    “He likes to knock over stuff and try to get lots of attention. He sleeps in my bed sometimes. He steals all the blankets in the house and makes it into one big burrow where he goes up and sleeps randomly during the day so he can get up at four in the morning and eat. He’s three, turning four in November.”

    What gave you the idea to start Waste Less Eat More?

    “I watched a documentary on food waste in America. That was very interesting because they throw away a lot of food. All that food goes to landfills and that creates greenhouse gases. And then that destroys the ozone layer. I thought to myself: Why couldn’t I call some of the local grocery stores to save some of their food that they’re gonna throw away? So I take it and give it to animals, so that they can have happy lives.”

    Do you like to cook?

    “I actually like to cook because it’s basically chemistry, but you’re making something that will taste good. I like to make cookies, biscuits and banana bread. I entered a lot of those things in the Kentucky State Fair and won two red ribbons and a blue ribbon for my banana bread.”

    Any good pig stories you’d like to share?

    “We took a pig from one of the sanctuaries, Nelly the pig, to Tennessee University to get her immediate surgery because she had lots of humongous tumors that were causing her to almost die. She’s actually way more better. She used to scream a whole lot if you got near her, but now she’s fine. Now she’ll take belly rubs.”

     

    Hannah Thompson

    17, Eastern High School, senior

    With the club she started at school, Hannah has helped organize a self-defense workshop and a drive to collect toiletries for a local women’s and children’s shelter. She’s also passionate about photography and is currently working with Louisville Visual Art Association to put together an exhibit that opens in the Green Building in November. 

    Tell me about the club you started.

    “So last year, sophomore year, our summer reading project was to read I Am Malala. I’m sure you’ve heard about her story. It’s all about her trek for education and gender equality. That really inspired me to do something, so with my art teacher we founded the Female Empowerment Worldwide club.”

    What does female empowerment mean to you?

    “To me, it means to promote female equality all across the community. Social, economic, political. All that.”

    What kind of work are you creating for your exhibit at the Green Building?

    “It’s kind of outside of my normal photography. It’s all inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Each photo has a story behind it. For example, one is inspired by (Poe’s short story) ‘Morella,’ where a beautiful, intelligent woman questioned her identity and all that.”

    Who’s someone that you really look up to?

    “Definitely my art teacher. And then there’s a local doctor, Dr. Stuart Williams, who does a lot of work with bioengineering and bioprinting. He works at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute (where researchers are working on creating a working artificial human heart.) I totally fangirl-ed when I met him.”

     

    Quincy Murrell

    13, Thomas Jefferson Middle School, eighth grade

    Quincy is an all-around good athlete, but his most notable accomplishments are in bowling. He started playing for Southern High School’s team in sixth grade. 

    Why bowling?

    “My dad asked me if I wanted to sign up. I was like, sure. Next thing you know, I ended up being really good at it, so he bought me a ball and everything.”

    How old were you?

    “I think eight.”

    Tell us about some of your accomplishments in bowling.

    “I’ve won at least four city and state championships. My highest game’s a 265. I won a tournament in Indiana; it was a handicap tournament and I was bowling against grown men and I came in first place.”

    What’s it like to be at a bowling tournament?

    “I’m nervous at first, but once you get into the groove, it just calms down and you’re zoned in.”

    What kind of ball do you use?

    “A Cyclone and a DV8. They’re both 14-pound balls.”

    What are you working on in school right now?

    “Algebra. That’s some work. It’s like 1+yb=x and you have to solve for that. It’s really hard.”

     

    Edward Boomershine

    18, Highlands Latin School, senior

    Edward is in charge of a team of students who are documenting all the events that are happening at his school this year. He’s been to the Governor’s School for the Arts twice  — once as a participant and once to help document events there. Making short films, including stop-motion animation with LEGO figures, is also one of his interests. 

    How do you create a video yearbook? 

    “We run it sort of like a blog. It’s sort of like a synthesis of photography and creative writers who work for us. And when we get new photos of different events, we’ll put them up in photo sets and add a paragraph. We have a girl that shoots the video for us and I edit and put it up.”

    What directions do you give people to document events?

    “At GSA I was sort of taught by a gal who was a photojournalist, so any teaching that I have about events is all about photojournalism and trying to document events as they are and not trying to pose anyone. So that’s the kind of directions I give.”

    What attracts you to photojournalism?

    “I think people who are separated through distance or they don’t live around whatever the scenario is tend to just sort of dehumanize the situation. Where I think photojournalism can help is step in and make an artistic response to what’s happening. People respond to art differently than they do to just print on a page. If they see photos of what’s going on it makes it a lot more real.”

    Are there any examples of that you’ve seen lately?

    “There were two photo essays I’ve seen recently about the refugee crisis. It was a series of photos that follow a small group of refugees as they traveled from Syria to Hungary. There was that, which made it a lot more human. And there was (a photo essay about) the Ebola outbreak. And those two made it more real to me.”

    You seem like you have a unique style, clothing-wise.

    “Well, I wear a uniform at school, so I’m used to wearing ties and sort of being dressed up. If I go out with just like a T-shirt, I feel a little bit out of it. It’s not really my thing. I like being able to wear a tie. I love paisleys.”

    How do you create a video yearbook? 

    “We run it sort of like a blog. It’s sort of like a synthesis of photography and creative writers who work for us. And when we get new photos of different events, we’ll put them up in photo sets and add a paragraph. We have a girl that shoots the video for us and I edit and put it up.”

    What directions do you give people to document events?

    “At GSA I was sort of taught by a gal who was a photojournalist, so any teaching that I have about events is all about photojournalism and trying to document events as they are and not trying to pose anyone. So that’s the kind of directions I give.”

    What attracts you to photojournalism?

    “I think people who are separated through distance or they don’t live around whatever the scenario is tend to just sort of dehumanize the situation. Where I think photojournalism can help is step in and make an artistic response to what’s happening. People respond to art differently than they do to just print on a page. If they see photos of what’s going on it makes it a lot more real.”

    Are there any examples of that you’ve seen lately?

    “There were two photo essays I’ve seen recently about the refugee crisis. It was a series of photos that follow a small group of refugees as they traveled from Syria to Hungary. There was that, which made it a lot more human. And there was (a photo essay about) the Ebola outbreak. And those two made it more real to me.”

    You seem like you have a unique style, clothing-wise.

    “Well, I wear a uniform at school, so I’m used to wearing ties and sort of being dressed up. If I go out with just like a T-shirt, I feel a little bit out of it. It’s not really my thing. I like being able to wear a tie. I love paisleys.”

     

    Alexandra Allen

    Eight, Louisville Collegiate School, third grade

    Nobody could catch Alexandra when she was playing flag football, so she decided to start running competitively. She’s the fastest female younger than eight in Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan. She ended this season with 19 medals — 11 gold, four silver and four National Junior Olympic medals. Oh, and she also skipped kindergarten when her preschool teacher told her she had already mastered the curriculum.

    What’s your favorite thing about track?

    “Winning.”

    What’s your favorite food before a meet?

    “Pasta.”

    What else do you like to do?

    “I like to read.”

    What’s your favorite book?

    “That’s hard. I like too many books. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Adventures of Babymouse.”

    What do you want to be when you grow up?

    “An engineer. I want to build robots that can help people.”

     

    Christ Moo

    13, West End School, eighth grade

    Christ moved here with his family in 2009 from a refugee camp in Thailand. He’s currently the only student in his middle school in Algebra I, and he and a classmate are preparing for a national exam sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French. 

    What was it like when you first moved here?

    “When I first came here it was a bit confusing because I didn’t really get how people interacted with each other and how they communicate. The culture in America is different.”

    What were some of the differences?

    “In Thailand I came from a really small refugee camp, so I knew just about everyone. When I came here it was really new because I didn’t know anybody. I came here and lived in an apartment and my family was the first family to be in that block.”

    Did you learn English after you moved here?

    “Yeah. It was really hard learning English. It wasn’t as easy as the language I grew up with (Karenni). There’s the tenses and other stuff. When you say, like, ‘I go to school,’ sometimes you have to change to ‘he goes to school.’”

    And now you’re learning French as well?

    “Yes. French is a little similar to English but also similar to my language. The similarity about English and French is that you have to have verb agreements with the subject.”

    What kind of stuff are you working on in algebra right now?

    “Since I’m bad with word problems — I always get confused with the words — my math teacher kind of puts stuff that I’ve learned in math, like equations, and tries to turn them into word problems.”

    Do you know what kind of career you want to pursue?

    “I’m not so sure what I want to do, but the teachers encouraged me to become some kind of scientist or mathematician because those are my strong subjects.”

     

    Bailey Ramirez

    11, St. Patrick School, sixth grade

    If you’ve seen A Christmas Carol at Actors Theatre in the past few years, you’ve probably seen Bailey. She’s also been in productions with Shakespeare in Central Park and StageOne. Oh, and she’s one of the main characters on an Emmy-winning show. “I also do competitive dancing,” Bailey says. “I think that’s it.”

    What TV show are you in?

    “Well, I can’t give away too many details, but it’s called Mother Goose Club. I’m one of the six main characters. It’s really fun.”

    What else do you want to do?

    “Well, I have like a lot of goals. I want to do something that will help a lot of people after I get out of college, so I want to be something like a doctor. But I’ve also set personal goals, so maybe like one Disney movie. I think it would be fun. I’ve also won many regional dance competitions and I’ve placed in national dance competitions, but I want to win a national against some of the best dancers.”

    Where do you want to go to college?

    “I think I want to go to Northwestern. My mom studied to be a doctor there, and that’s one of my goals, I guess. Also, there’s a good musical theater program there. I want to double-major there.”

     

    Ian Dewey

    11, Stopher Elementary School, fifth grade

    In addition to being involved in school activities like cross country, playing saxophone in band and the National Elementary Honor Society, Ian helps out at home, assisting his mom, who has ALS. 

    Tell us about the t-shirt you’ve got on.

    “This was from our ALS walk in May this year and we also have another one from last year. It has Team Dewey on the back and everybody on my cross-country team wore that to the Hillbilly Run (cross-country event in Nelson County).”

    How are you helping out at home?

    “I help my mom get in and out of the car, I help her use the restroom, I help her put her deodorant on and get dressed. I brush her hair and brush her teeth sometimes.” 

    What’s that like for you?

    “I think it might be easier if I was a girl who played with dolls when I was younger, so I would have a bit of experience with it, but it’s pretty easy. It’s not too hard.”

    You’re also helping out in the kitchen. What have you learned to cook?

    “Usually most Saturdays I’ll make scrambled eggs by myself. My mom used to cook a lot, and now that she can’t she just tells me how to make things and I do it. So I make spaghetti and my mom makes me ground beef and we put it in bags and stick it in the freezer, so when we’re going to make something with ground beef, we don’t have to grind it — it’s ready. I also make ‘kids’ casserole.’ It’s noodles, has ketchup, mustard, ground beef and cheese and it’s my favorite dish. That’s what my parents called it, and it just got stuck with that name.”

    What would you want to tell people about ALS?

    “In fourth grade I wrote an informational piece about it, and I said that it’s a terrible disease that doesn’t have a cause or a cure. And it weakens your nerves, which then weaken your muscles so that one of my mom’s hands droops with her shoulder and she can hold something but she can’t lift it. The other arm she can still use a bit but not as much. (ALS) has been around for a while. I’m kind of happy whenever famous people get it. Not because I want them to die, but because everybody knows them and then when they get that disease, everybody wants to find a cure to save their life and more people raise awareness and raise money.”

     

    Breana Owens

    17, Ballard High School, senior

    Breana’s goal is to work in finance for a big company like Google one day. She has attended summer business and leadership programs at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Houston and Brown University. The list of her other academic accomplishments is about a page long.

    You didn’t have the easiest start at life. Can you talk a little about that?

    “I was a pound and 12 ounces when I was born (prematurely). So I have a processing disability, so I guess that’s pretty rough in school.”

    What is a processing disability?

    “It takes me awhile to get stuff. So if somebody can do flashcards and get them in a minute, it takes me like 20 minutes to get it all done. It usually just takes me longer to study or do anything else.”

    It sounds like you’ve been able to work around that.

    “Yeah, I just work hard. It just builds a good work ethic.”

    What are you most proud of?

    “Probably going to Wharton this summer. That was the best thing ever. I didn’t think I was going to get in, so that was amazing. I got to spend five weeks there. I went to Google, Morgan Stanley and American Express.”

    What do you do at business camps like those?

    “We basically learn all the aspects of business, like finance, accounting and marketing. It’s usually just like a big learning experience. But with the Wharton camp, it was more we had a lot of projects and presentations. We had a business case with Google; that was really big. At the end of the camp we had a huge business-plan competition, so that was a lot.”

    What have you learned from working as part of  a business team?

    “One thing is that you have to be open to everybody’s opinion; you can’t just shoot it down. Another thing is you just have to be mindful of how other people feel. You might not like it, but you have to think about the group rather than yourself. And just be nice. It pays off.”

    What interests you about the business world?

    “Probably the social aspect and then finance. I just really like math, so I thought that would be a good pair. I like the meetings. And the clothes.”

     

    Bernie Sommer

    18, Sacred Heart Academy, senior

    Bernie’s political career started in fifth grade when she went to Frankfort and was a page for state Rep. Scott Brinkman. “I sat down in his chair and saw the things that they were making significant changes on, and it really impacted me,” she says. “Since then, I just try to do anything with politics.” She has also been a page for state Sen. Robert Stivers and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. Last summer, she interned with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign in D.C. She also made it to the Girls Nation conference, a civic-training program run by the American Legion Auxiliary in Washington, and met President Obama. She is applying to many colleges, but her favorites are the University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia and Georgetown University. Bernie is the youngest of five kids. “So I kind of grew up having to compromise for everything,” she says.

    What was your internship with Sen. Paul like?

    “It was a really great experience. There was a day when Rand Paul came in, and he was shooting a commercial and he destroyed the tax code. We had to print off like 35,000 pages and he threw them into this machine and destroyed all of them and we lit them on fire for the commercial. It was really cool because I got to see the commercial afterward and I was like, wow, I helped set that up. I helped clean that up. The cleanup was really long. If I had worked for a senator’s office instead of on a campaign, I feel like I would’ve just been doing paperwork all day. It’s kind of a rite of passage, though.”

    Who do you think might win next year’s presidential election?

    “The person I want to win I know won’t win: Marco Rubio. I really like him. When I was a page for the Senate — the pages are the lowest of the low, the very bottom of the totem poll. The way that they treat them, the people who don’t really have an impact, really says a lot about their character and Marco Rubio always stopped, would shake our hands, would sit down and talk to us, would ask us about our home states, where we came from. Then, some of the other senators would breeze by us, not ever shake our hands. But I think Jeb Bush will probably win. I think it’s going to be a Clinton-Bush showdown.”

    You’ve called your generation the “generation of compromise.” Why is that?

    “I think growing up and seeing things like the rights of minorities and the gay-pride movement has made us a more tolerant generation as a whole. I’m predicting this now and I want to take credit for it if it happens. You know how the gay-pride movement just kind of, like, erupted and we just had huge strides with gay marriage? I think what’s going to happen is the women’s-rights movement is going to come back and women’s rights are going to be brought to the Supreme Court. Our generation is just setting the pathway for those things to happen.”

    What women’s-rights issues are important to you?

    “I think a big misconception about the Republican Party is that they are very staunch advocates against Planned Parenthood. I think that’s because a lot of people don’t necessarily understand all of the things that Planned Parenthood does. Personally, I believe abortion is something that’s morally wrong, but I think every woman should have the right to decide what they should do with their bodies, and I don’t think it’s the government’s place to tell them what they should do. Planned Parenthood does so many different things. They do LGBTQ awareness. They treat you for sexually transmitted diseases. They do all these different things that educate women about the topics that they may not know about because of their socioeconomic status.”

    What issue is most important to you right now?

    “The refugee crisis. People need to stop looking at it as a conservative issue or a liberal issue and start seeing it as a human issue. Because it’s something that affects all of us even though it doesn’t feel like it does. I wrote my college essay about this the other day. There’s this one poem that was written about the Holocaust and it’s talking about how no one did anything because the Nazis weren’t coming for them, and once they came for them there was no one left because no one had stuck up for them. What’s going to happen eventually is that the problem is going to directly affect us and people aren’t going to know what to do because we didn’t do anything about it sooner.”

     

    Alex Oldham

    18, Louisville Collegiate School, senior

    When patients at Kosair Children’s Hospital are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, Alex comes to visit them with a basket of diabetes-friendly snacks and advice about how to manage their condition. She’s calling her project Alex’s Smart Snacks. Alex was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 12, so it’s something she knows a lot about. She also plays lacrosse, field hockey and is student body vice president at school. 

    What kind of snacks are in the baskets?

    “There are a couple different types of snacks. There’s some snacks that are just protein-filled granola bars that are not too sugary. And then I put a couple quick sugar fixes inside the basket and those are things like Skittles and Capri Suns. Those are for when a diabetic’s blood sugar goes too low, so that it’ll get back to a safe range, and then I have a few free food snacks in there — foods that are zero carbs, like beef jerky or almonds. Foods that a diabetic can eat at any time of the day and not have to take any insulin.”

    What are some things that you tell them?

    “I make sure I tell them that I was diagnosed six years ago, because I like for them to know how experienced I am, and I like to tell them that there’s nothing over the last six years that I haven’t been able to do because of diabetes. Like I can eat just as much as everyone else — I just have to take insulin as well. So your daily routine becomes a little different, but there’s nothing that diabetes restricts you from doing altogether.”

    Do the people you see seem comforted when they meet you?

    “Sometimes I go in when the patient just got there and sometimes I go in and they’ve been there for a day and a half and they’re ready to get out. It just depends on the patient. But no matter when it is, I think it’s nice for them to see someone other than a doctor.”

    What’s something that you’ve learned from putting together a big project like this?

    “I learned that you can’t do it alone. There was never a point during this where I felt like I could do it all by myself. I needed people to help me fundraise, my lacrosse team to be there for me on game days when we raised all the money, and I needed my mom to be there for me when I needed help creating the logo. You always need someone helping you out.”

     

    Carter Hadley

    Eight, St. Rita School, third grade

    Carter’s favorite part of racing: winning. He has won 14 feature races at Clark County Raceway, and he’s going for his second season championship this year. He’s also done voice work for an animated film that premiered at the Cincinnati Film Festival, and he’s currently rehearsing to play Tiny Tim in a local production of Scrooge: The Musical.

    How do you get good at racing?

    “Practice — lots of practice. When I was six, I needed a lot of practice. When we were at the finish line (during the first race), we were door to door. Luckily, I won by a bumper.”

    Are you looking forward to being able to drive a regular car?

    (Nods enthusiastically.)

    What kind of car do you want when you get your driver’s license?

    “A Mustang.”

    What do you do just for fun?

    “I like to go outside and play. I mostly like to jump on the trampoline. I like it when my dad gets on there because he bounces me really high.”

    What’s the last book you read?

    “Harry Potter. The second book. There’s a bunch of them; luckily they have them all at my library at school.”

    What’s your favorite food?

    “Mac and cheese, bacon. I like bacon mac and cheese. And milkshakes. I have one every night — they’re awesome.”

     

    Interviews by Mary Chellis Austin and Amy Talbott
    Photos by Chris Witzke

    This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Louisville Magazine. 
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