Wilton High School | Political Science & Volunteering
“I am excited to meet a diverse group of people, build relationships and learn from others so that I can continue to grow. After college graduation, I hope to gain valuable work experience, then consider a postgraduate degree, maybe law school. And a big family is definitely in my future!”
What qualities make a leader effective?
“The best leaders have passion, commitment and integrity. I try to keep this in mind when leading a group and do my best to lead by example. I have learned that passion and a positive attitude help to inspire others, whether it’s on the basketball court or in the classroom. If I’m not giving 100 percent at practice or during a game, I can’t expect my teammates to push themselves. I also stand by my word. If people can’t trust you, and you don’t deliver on what you say you’re going to do, why should they follow?”
Why do you volunteer?
“I am aware of the opportunities I’ve been given and try to help in ways I know will positively impact the lives of others. My work at the ASPIRE program through Family & Children’s Agency allows me to do that. The kids are so grateful for my help, whether it’s with math homework or preparing for a vocabulary quiz the next day.”
Why do you want to pursue a career in public policy?
“Public policy combines several different disciplines, each with the end goal of helping people. As I pursue a career in this field, I want to affect positive change in the public sector, in education, healthcare or government. I would like to create statewide after-school programs, similar to ASPIRE, and make them available to any child who needs the support. Today, there are nearly 250,000 children in need of this service, and it’s critical to ensuring their future success.”
Role model: Grandmother. “She spent decades teaching English and health education in urban and affluent communities. Now retired, she runs an ESL class and volunteers as a sexual health educator in cities with high teen pregnancy rates.”
Teen dilemma: Stress. “We wake up at 6:30 a.m. for before-school club meetings or study sessions, attend a rigorous day of classes, and go straight to practice or rehearsal. We return home to begin homework, studying or ACT prep, hoping to crash before midnight. While this pressure has become the norm for many of us, we also have to acknowledge the negative effects the pace is having on many students.”
Favorite class: Freshman year humanities. “It was an interdisciplinary, team-taught English and social studies course. We were a group of about thirty-five, discussing and writing about philosophy, literature and history.”
Guilty pleasure: Taylor Swift. “I listen when I’m relaxing, driving, doing homework or getting pumped up for a big game.”
Staples High School | Business
”I’m looking forward to applying to a wide array of colleges. I plan to study economics wherever I end up, and follow up with an MBA. But who knows? Anything can change!”
How did your business RAF|AIR start?
“Once consumer drones started to hit the market a few years ago, I became fascinated with them. For a year, I watched videos on YouTube almost every night, whether they were reviews of the latest drones or mesmerizing aerial videography. Finally, I saved up enough money to buy a DJI Phantom 3 in my freshman year. I got really interested in the real estate market. I had practically memorized each Westport listing on Zillow. So, when I compared the photos I had taken of my own home to those marketed on the listings, it hit me: I had the perfect opportunity to combine my love of technology with my interest in real estate.”
What were your first steps?
“I started by scouring the online listings for homes that were either located near the water or situated on large properties. I emailed the realtors, highlighting the benefits that drone photography could lend to the marketability of their listing, along with sample shots. After a few emails, one realtor responded. The photos turned out to be amazing, and she became my biggest client.”
And your second business, SporTutors?
“In elementary school, my mom was trying to introduce me to sports—she wanted to find a way to spark my interest. She realized that a high school athlete—a fun, relaxed, unintimidating role model—would be perfect. But the process of finding that athlete was imperfect. She reached out to friends, to local sports teams, to the high school. Finally, she found a high school senior to coach me, and we worked in my backyard for weeks. With SporTutors, I wanted to make it simple for families to find affordable and qualified coaches. This business is all about connecting people, about building relationships.”
Was it ever too much?
“It taught me valuable time-management and organizational skills that are critical to both running a business and keeping up to date with my school assignments. I’ve also learned the importance of proper communication skills, especially when dealing with adults. It’s so important to communicate promptly and politely—nobody in the business world likes to wait a few days for an email reply.”
Role model: Dad. “I vividly remember listening to my dad’s business calls as a young child. Once he hung up the phone, I was ready with a laundry list of questions. Instead of dismissing the concepts as too complicated for someone so young, he took the time to explain these complex topics in detail.”
Dream destination: China. “Their radically different culture and status as a global economic powerhouse would make it an amazing place to explore.”
Recent read: Being There. “Despite being released in the ’70s, it’s highly relevant to today’s world.”
Binge watch: Curb Your Enthusiasm and Veep
King School | Robotics & Coding
“My goal is to create a self-learning AI who will study, and learn from, patterns of human behavior in order to become the best companion for his owner. Each version would be unique.”
How did you become interested in robotics and coding?
“I first got interested in coding during the nationwide Hour of Code back in fifth grade. As a young kid, I loved creating things, and seeing the limitless potential that coding provided really clicked with me. I went on to teach myself HTML, basic Java and Python, and I just completed my AP Computer Programming (Java) course this year. As for robotics, I dabbled in it in sixth grade during my STEM class. However, I never thought I would be able to join a team until my friend and the leader of the club asked me to join to lead the coding team.”
What’s your greatest success so far?
“Seeing that this was my first year in robotics, I think my greatest accomplishment was getting the robot’s code to properly respond to our remote inputs. The robot we were using understood a subsection of the language C+, which meant all of the programming guides were outdated or flat-out wrong. I had to manipulate the code for hours in order to get it to work.”
Any current projects?
What do you foresee for 3-D printing?
“I hope that along with 3-D printers gaining new attributes, they will also become more commercialized. And perhaps in a few years, the mid-tier printers will become more affordable for schools and public institutions around the world.”
As a leader of several school clubs, how do you inspire peers?
“I motivate my peers by showing them the amazing things they can print on their own. For example, in order to get some publicity for the 3-D Printing Club, we printed a large amount of small figurines and gifts—key chains, phone cases, pencil holders, ghosts for Halloween, snowmen for winter, and so on—for fun and for various holidays and handed them out to our peers. As for the actual members of the club, on the first day I let them vote on anything they wanted to print in order to show them the limitless ability of the printers.”
Today’s teen dilemma: Pressure. “Teens face an insane amount of pressure when it comes to performing in school. It seems that to be successful in the future, you need to be top of your class and get into an ‘elite’ college. In pursuing these goals, teens are often asked to ‘specialize’ in an academic area or sport at the expense of exploring other opportunities and their true interests.”
Dream destination: Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland
Staples High School | Education & Writing
“The main thing I want to accomplish is mending our country’s broken education system. Sometimes you are exposed to something so unfair and so heart-wrenching that you can never fully recover until you do something.
For me, this is academic inequality and stratification.”
What was it like moving to Westport as a freshman?
“While in Ridgefield, I sought out academic excellence purely for myself, not because I was told this is what I was supposed to do. In Westport, however, it appeared to me that no matter where one went, there was this silent belief that one’s worth was based on what grade he or she obtained. I do not know if I ever ‘overcome’ this challenge. Rather, I found ways to manage my own self-worth and lifestyle. I began taking part in a series of mindfulness activities, such as journaling, yoga and meditation.”
How did your race impact your high school years?
“I have felt on multiple occasions that in Westport, ignorance and racism are spoken about as though they are two separate matters. However, in reality, racism is the child of ignorance. The other day, a fellow classmate told me he didn’t feel that it was fair for me to claim that my high school experience was different from his because I am black. Yet I always felt hyper aware of how I was perceived by others due to my complexion and hair texture. Likewise, there were many moments in which I would desperately try to reach out to students and speak about being black in this town and this country, but I am often shut down and said to be ‘playing the race card’.”
Why do you publish novellas online with a nom de plume?
“My writing has very little to do with ‘Chloe,’ but rather the characters and places I have chosen to create and portray through letters and spaces. This separation of self from work has always been one of the main aspects about my writing that I have enjoyed, and anonymity is this separation solidified. When my book finally hit 5 million reads, I was eternally grateful because these reads had nothing to do with my personal identity, but, rather, with the identity of my writing.”
What’s your goal for attending Yale?
“I am looking forward to using my education to aid in repairing the education of children such as those who I work with during my internship. In economics, there is what is known as the spending multiplier. It refers to the theory that when the government spends money, it will multiply throughout the economy. I want my attendance to Yale to be like a multiplier. I hope to multiply my education to help kids who do not have the same educational opportunities.”
Lesson from Urban Impact internship: Severe academic inequality. “Many of the students I have worked with during this program can barely read the word the despite being in third grade. This is just one example of how the U.S. education system fails millions of students every day.”
Last movie: 13th
Role model: Angela Davis. “She wasn’t afraid to push boundaries…and dutifully broke them down.”
St. Luke’s School | STEM & Politics
“I would like to study engineering and use my skills to build things that solve problems and improve the quality of people’s lives.”
What’s your advice to girls who want to pursue STEM?
“Girls can be intimidated by STEM classes that are filled with confident boys who may monopolize conversations. There’s still a stigma that girls don’t have personalities that are well-suited for certain careers involving software engineering, building, etc. However, the landscape is changing and more universities are striving to attract women to STEM programs. Also, companies are eager to hire qualified women for STEM positions. In my school, there are a growing number of girls who like to code, and even though we may still be outnumbered—especially in a setting like a computer-programming competition—it seems to be improving. If you’re passionate about STEM, pursue it without worrying about how you may be perceived.”
As copresident of Model UN, what real-world issue is on your mind?
“The U.S. has begun to take a strong stance against [human] trafficking domestically—our Department of Justice recently shut down Backpage.com, one of the largest online trafficking sites. However, I would like to see the U.S. assume an even greater role in eradicating trafficking globally by making it a focal point of our foreign policy. Only by working together with other nations can we create effective international strategies that might one day end this modern-day form of slavery.”
Tell me about your Senior STEM Scholar project at St. Luke’s.
“I am in the process of designing and building a prototype of a portable, waterless toilet for people who live on the outskirts of the Guatemala City dump. Last summer, as part of a service trip, I saw firsthand the many problems that the people living on its perimeter face. The lack of sanitation contributes to a variety of health-related problems, particularly for children.”
Role mode: Elizabeth Hausler, founder and CEO of Build Change
Teens today: Conflicting advice. “We face a lot of pressure to maintain a high GPA and attend a well-known college while also excelling as athletes or musicians, but sites like Instagram and Facebook portray teenagers as leading enviable social lives. It’s an almost impossible set of standards.”
Favorite class: AP BC Calculus
Guilty pleasure: Swedish candy. “When I am in Sweden, I love filling up supermarket bags with many different kinds of ‘Plockgodis’—pick your own candy, especially salted licorice.”
Dream destination: Central and South America
Weston High School | Politics
“I want to expand the horizon of knowledge and disseminate that knowledge to others. I want to discover something new, whether it’s an idea to solve a societal problem or a cure for a disease.”
As cofounder and copresident of the Young Progressives Club, what motivates you?
“One key factor keeps me intimately engaged in politics: Partisanship is tearing this country apart. Each side believes that the other is un-American, while viewing themselves as saviors who can solve problems on their own. There is nothing wrong with having far-left or far-right beliefs; I myself am fairly liberal. However, I’ve tried to use the club as a tool to loosen the partisan tensions that are hurting this country by inviting both conservatives and liberals to discuss a variety of issues and to work together on areas of common interest, such as collecting food for our local food pantry. We’re trying to redefine what it means to be a ‘progressive’—from referring to someone with liberal beliefs, to referring to someone who has an open mind politically and is willing and able to empathize with the ‘opposing side’ so that society as a whole can progress.”
Why did you take courses in science and math at Columbia University Honors Science Program (CHSP)?
“I applied during my freshman year, the same time I was taking AP Biology. That class was a challenge, but it was also incredibly stimulating and engaging. I was finally understanding the importance and appeal of the sciences. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the world and how it worked, from how nutrients are delivered to our cells, to why nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. The CHSP satisfied my curiosity by giving me the opportunity to take classes in quantum computing, neurology, biochemistry, and abstract algebra.”
What is it like?
“I have been able to interact with other students who are just as interested in the sciences as I am. One of the main reasons I got involved in research was because my friends at CHSP recommended that I try to get a research internship over the summer to continue my active involvement in the field of biology. This past summer, I did a research internship at Rockefeller University, studying and sequencing the human genome.”
What have you learned as a violinist and composer?
“What I’ve realized from composing is that for a song to be relatively successful—to evoke emotions from an audience—it doesn’t need to be perfect. In fact, sometimes rough compositions can be more powerful than tight and clean compositions because they are a more accurate reflection of the composer’s imagination.”
Advice for Teens: Time away. “Find an activity to do an hour a day that doesn’t involve technology or interacting with others. Be comfortable in solitude.”
Dream destination: Space. “Space exploration is the next great progression for mankind.”
Staples High School | Cooking
“I hope to have my own restaurant where I can be creative and expressive with my food, and where my friends, family and customers can enjoy themselves.”
What is your favorite ingredient?
“More important to me than the type of ingredient is the quality of the ingredient. Locally grown/raised produce is important to me. The dishes I enjoy most are the ones that I have never made before; something new and spontaneous.”
Who would you love to cook for?
“I would love to cook for the chefs who I have worked for—and my chef instructor at Staples High School, Cecily Gans—in tribute to how they have shaped me as a future chef.”
What have you learned in the kitchen?
“Something I find applicable to any job or task is staying organized. Organization is the key to self-awareness. In the kitchen, an organized station is the dividing line between order and chaos on a busy night.”
What would you ban from the kitchen?
“Many kitchens maintain very high tension and a high-stress environment, making long hours and a difficult job less bearable. This is old-fashioned. Kitchens should try to be more proactive in supporting a healthy work environment. Negativity will be banned in my kitchen—no reason we can’t all have a healthy and enjoyable time at work.”
Advice for young cooks?
“Get cooking! I had been interested in cooking for quite a while before I really learned how to cook, and I seriously regret not learning how to cook sooner. I encourage anyone who loves food to not only learn to follow a recipe, but also not be afraid to put their own twist on things and experiment.”
What’s the handiest tool in the kitchen?
“I think a trusty knife is definitely the most important tool to have in a kitchen, obviously to be able to accurately make cuts and prepare your ingredients. Another, less obviously important tool, is a simple spoon. With a spoon you can stir, mix, flip, place and taste. In a pinch you can often use a spoon in place of tongs or tweezers.”
Any food disasters?
“Pumpkin ‘Mush.’ While working on other, more important things, in the kitchen, I found spare cooked pumpkin meat and decided to make a snack. I can’t recall exactly what I put in the pumpkin ‘mush’ before dumping it in the food processor, but I remember it had a very unsettling texture, like caraway seeds in pudding. Years later, culinary buddies of mine still make fun of me for making the dish—and finishing it.”
Role model: Mom. “I trust her very much. Her advice guides me through tough times.”
Today’s teen dilemma: Technology. “I use my phone often, but I find a lot of people have no interest in walking, hiking or otherwise really enjoying nature.”
Little-known talent: Music. “I play electric, acoustic and bass guitar, keyboard and analog synthesizers.”
Wilton High School | Sports & Health
“I know I want to work in medicine in the future and possibly with kids. Whatever it is I end up doing, I just want to make a difference!”
What have you learned from sports?
“Swimming and lacrosse have taught me not only how to work well in a team environment, but also a lot about drive and commitment. I learned early on in both that the more I practiced and harder I worked, the better I became at the sport. That translates into my school work as well because I know the more I study and prepare for tests, the better I do.”
You founded your school’s medical club. Why medicine?
“Working with patients face-to-face and the interaction with people has always appealed to me. I have seen many doctors over the course of my life, and I have a great appreciation for the difference a doctor can make. I can definitely see myself working with children. Last summer I was lucky enough to shadow Dr. George Zahrah, head of oncology at Norwalk Hospital, and it really piqued my interest in the area of oncology. Additionally, my work in the labs at Stamford Hospital and Yale have opened my eyes and interest into medical research because it is such a developing field.”
Why did you create Little Minds?
“I was motivated to start my foundation because of my own mental-health struggles. At six years old, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and ADHD, among other things. I hope to help educate and bring awareness to mental-health disorders so young children don’t struggle as much as I did. In May, mental-health-awareness month, I ran a weeklong awareness program in the Wilton Public Schools, K-12. I was overwhelmed with how many people came forward to say what a difference it made. I was able to help others. What I didn’t realize would happen is that I also helped myself. When I am now having a tough day, I am able to think to myself how would I tell someone else to get through this tough time.”
Why do you volunteer for Night to Shine, Role Model Mentors and elsewhere?
“I enjoy helping others. It’s what keeps me going and gets me out of bed every day. It is also a good break from my schoolwork. I get the most joy out of being involved in organizations that strive to help those in need, people who feel excluded or are struggling with an issue. It makes me happy to know I have helped someone whether it’s a social struggle, anxiety/depression or simply becoming better at a particular subject in school.”
Role model: Parents. “They love me for who I am.”
Today’s teen dilemma: Social media. “Teenagers feel like their life is not good enough when they see on social media how ‘wonderful’ everyone else’s life is.”
Dream destination: France
Staples High School | Math & Music
”My dream is to be a math professor, but right now, I’m planning on studying math with a minor in music, probably in musicology, and working toward a doctorate in math.”
As class salutatorian, what was your message?
“Most of my time in high school was spent trying to come up with some perfect formula that would make me most happy. I wanted everything in my life, inside and outside of school, to be perfectly predictable with no surprises to throw me off. But I’ve realized that I found the most happiness in the surprises I was trying to avoid. In my speech, I focused on how important it is not to let your life be overly defined by routine and to let go of the reins a little so that the world can take you to new and exciting places.”
“I’ve been interested in the school ever since I heard about how strong its math department was, and when I visited for the first time, I was struck by how beautiful the atmosphere was there. What sealed the deal for me was seeing how outgoing the students are, that each one brings something unique to the table and isn’t afraid to share it. I’m confident that I’ll be able to learn something from every student there.”
What do you appreciate about math?
“Its purity, the way that it uses strict rules of logic to prove statements with complete certainty. It’s almost artistic. My favorite math class studies the foundation of math in formal proofs and logical reasoning. I get to revisit the basics, like sets, functions and arithmetic, but with a focus on the beautiful underlying proofs.”
What’s your commitment to learning piano?
“My piano teacher, Yoshie Akimoto, encourages me to practice three hours a day during the week, and six hours a day during the weekend, but I don’t think I’ve once actually reached that goal. I started studying with her in my junior year, so I’ve had to work extra hard to get to the same level as all the musicians who have been competing since they were like eight or nine. My inherent love of music couldn’t have single-handedly motivated me to practice as much as I do, so I thank her tremendously for bringing out the best in me.”
What’s the connection between math and music?
“Music sounds the way it does because those who write music find the perfect balance between adhering to rules and breaking them. There’s a kind of mathematical purity to the rules themselves, as in a Bach fugue, for example, but there’s also a creative side in how to steer away to create something new and exciting.”
Role model: Alex Beyer. “He’s an incredible performer and an even more incredible person.”
Favorite class: AP biology. “Dr. Kabak is super knowledgeable and has a hilariously dry sense of humor.”
Greens Farms Academy | Swimming & Health
“I don’t yet know exactly, but I do know my path will involve math and science because of my love for discovery and solving puzzles.”
What have you learned from swimming?
“I practice over thirteen hours a week with the Wilton Wahoos. While I am far from the fastest for my age, I never miss a practice and give it my all each and every day.Two awards are given at the annual banquet: one to a senior and one to a swimmer who represents the true spirit of our team. Two years ago, Coach Matt described the swimmer getting that award as “committed, focused, a supportive teammate, and giving 100 percent every day.” Then he called my name. I was stunned and ecstatic. I had won the respect of my peers and the knowledge that I can persevere and stay focused.”
Why do you bake?
“Every November, my friends and I turn my kitchen into a pumpkin-bread factory and bake over eighty breads for our teachers and coaches. I am also fascinated by the science of baking and advanced decorating techniques. At the King Arthur Baking School in Vermont, I have taken seven classes, from cakes and pies to scones, cookies and even soft pretzels. When I learned about leaveners and gluten structures and content in flours, I was inspired to do a science-fair project testing different combinations of mechanical, chemical and organic leaveners. This summer I am baking cakes on weekends for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.”
Tell me about your summer internship.
“I work in a lab at the Mt. Sinai Icahn School of Medicine with Dr. Ying Chen, an oncologist-hematologist. I help her with her two projects: ovarian cancer stem cells and the orphan disease, infantile myofibromatosis, or IMF. For the ovarian cancer project, we cut, filter and break down pieces of tumor samples, make the medium that they’ll sit in and then put them in cell culture dishes so the organoids—spherical groups of connected cells—can grow. We also “harvest” cells to split and have their DNA sequenced. We are looking for specific genetic markers on the cancer stem cells, which are a major obstacle in curing the disease. For the other project, I am observing how mice cells behave when they are given different mutated versions of the gene, PDGFR, which causes the rare disease, IMF.”
Role model: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “I admire how she became one of the first women to attend Harvard Law School and persevered through years of gender discrimination and being accused of taking a man’s spot.”
Little-known fact: Fluent in Mandarin. “I lived in China for five years. Now when I hear people speaking Mandarin, I often say something to them. It always elicits a shocked response.”
Dream destination: Rwanda. “Being part of GFA’s Komera Club, I feel a connection to Ruth, Olive and Solange, three Rwandan scholars whose education we fund. From our small school in Westport, we found a way to help advance girls’ education on another continent, where 28 million girls, ages 6 to 15, are not in school and may never set foot in a classroom.”