Friday, December 27, 2013

Meet Karsen Gresham

Meet Karsen Gresham, a fourth-grader at Mountain Island Elementary who loves to dance.

Karsen dances a lyrical piece
at a competition this year.
Photo courtesy Debbie Gresham

She's good at it too: Just this year, she won more than 16 first-place awards at national and regional competitions.

Karsen, 9, has been dancing since she was two, and while she does ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and hip-hop dance, her favorites are lyrical and jazz. 

She just finished up dancing in the North Carolina Dance Theatre's "Nutcracker," where she danced as a mouse and Chinese dancer.

She's looking forward to participating in her second ballet workshop at the North Carolina Dance Theatre this summer, and, she dreams of someday being a professional dancer.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Kids play harps before Charlotte Symphony Lollipops Concert

Students from the Suzuki Class of the Roth Harp Studio in Lake Wylie recently proved playing the harp is not a dying art.

"After I retired as principal harpist with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, my dream was to have my students performing in the lobby before the Lollipops concerts," wrote Bette Roth in an email.

Five children, between ages 6 and 9, fulfilled that wish this November in the Knight Theater lobby before the Charlotte Symphony Lollipops Concert began.

Other children attending the concert had the chance to try playing as well.

The students pictured above, from left to right: Alex Violante, 8, Ava Nicoletti, 7, Sebastian Mitchell, 9, Jordy Cole, 9, and Elisabeth Mitchell, 6.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

GreyHawk Films wins award for Northwest 'Color Purple' documentary trailer

The trailer for "Purple Dreams" won a Gold Stevie Award for Video of the Year at the tenth annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business this month in New York City.

Purple Dreams Trailer from GreyHawk Films on Vimeo.

"Purple Dreams," made by GreyHawk Films, is a feature-length documentary that follows cast members from Northwest School of the Arts' "A Color Purple" 2012 musical. More specifically, it follows students who struggled in their personal lives -- with troubles ranging from homelessness to incarcerated parents -- and how they triumphed through performing "The Color Purple."

I wrote about some of these students' stories of strength in June right before they left for the International Thespian Festival in Nebraska, which you can read here.

GreyHawk is now in post-production and plans to complete "Purple Dreams" this spring to submit to national film festivals.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Collinswood 8th-graders to sponsor three international children

After a three-week drive to collect money, the eighth grade class at Collinswood Language Academy in Charlotte raised $1,573, and they're going to use it to help other kids.

They're donating the money to the international nonprofit, GoodWeave. The organization works to give opportunities to needy children and prevent child labor in the rug-making industry.

The money the Collinswood students raised will sponsor three rescued children from India and Nepal, said teacher Katherine Bibb.  For a year, the donation will cover the cost of education, books, school uniforms and residential rehabilitation.

"I am so proud of our students whose activism will directly impact children on the other side of our world," Bibb wrote in an email.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Grand Oak Elementary students collect cans for the hungry

During Grand Oak's Food Flood Friday yesterday, students collected 1,398 cans of food for the hungry.

The cans will go from the Huntersville school to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Third-graders Zaheer Razack, Caroline Rodriquez and
Ashlyn Mayfield get ready to sort their cans.

Kimora Dillahunt, Sophia Garsik and
Adriana Pillo organize boxes of donations.

Alexa Van Dam adds an item to a collection box.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Myers Park, Country Day, Providence Day win local WorldQuest competition

Three Charlotte schools will advance to a national Academic WorldQuest trivia competition in April.

In Charlotte's fourth annual Academic WorldQuest contest Wednesday, Myers Park High came in first, Charlotte Country Day second, and Providence Day in third.

The international trivia competition, hosted by the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, emphasizes the importance of international events, commerce and culture. Questions ranged from current events to history to international faces in the news.

The teams will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete (30 other councils in the country participate) on April 26.

Twenty other high schools participated Wednesday:

Cannon School
Cato Middle College High
Charlotte Catholic High
Charlotte Christian
Charlotte Latin
CMS - Exchange Students Team
Crossroads Charter Senior High
Davidson Day
East Gaston High
East Mecklenburg High
Highland School of Technology
Independence High
Military and Global Leadership Academy
North Mecklenburg High
Providence High
Rocky River High
Sun Valley High
Union County Early College High
Vance High
Weddington High

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nash Grier dunks on Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo

Vine sensation Nash Grier, a Davidson Day sophomore, recently spent some time making videos during a practice with the Charlotte Bobcats.

Most notably, he enlisted some players to sneak up behind center Bismack Biyombo and hold a miniature basketball hoop.

Here's what happened:

As of Tuesday, lists Nash as the fourteenth most-followed Vine user in the world, with more than 2 million followers.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cannon School goes Hogwarts for Halloween, raises cancer research money

For Halloween, the upper school at Cannon divided its students into four houses a la "Harry Potter" -- House Animus, House Impetus, House Humanitas and House Integritas.

(The house names came from the school's core values: courage, passion, kindness and integrity.)

Photo courtesy of Cannon School
The houses competed in their own team-building games on Halloween and also raised money for the American Cancer Society for Cannon's annual event, Cannon Runs for Cancer Research.

Runners went through a 1.5 mile obstacle course Thursday, designed by Cannon's Relay for Life Club. In honor of Halloween, each house had students dress up as zombies along the course who tried to capture flags from runners.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium seeks top 10 Young Environmentalists

In an online contest, SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium is giving 10 students, between ages 8-12, the chance to earn a spot on its SEA LIFE Young Environmentalist panel.

The aquarium is set to open at Concord Mills this spring.

The panelists will share SEA LIFE's "Breed, Rescue, Protect" conservation message at their schools, get an annual pass to the aquarium and participate in grand-opening events.

To enter, students must:
1. Write a 200-word essay that answers, "How can you protect your favorite endangered sea creature?"
2. Create a piece of art, using any medium, illustrating the endangered sea creature.
3. Be willing to talk to their school and class about the importance of taking care of sea creatures.

Submissions are due by Nov. 18, and are accepted through Facebook at or by email to To view terms and conditions, click here.

All entries will go on the aquarium's Facebook page, and winners will be chosen and announced in December.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Nash Grier said to meet with Disney star Zendaya in Charlotte

Photo courtesy
Attention Vine-viewers: Expect some Vines this weekend from Nash Grier with Disney Channel star Zendaya.

After a whirlwind trip to New York City, local Vine sensation Nash Grier said he'll meet with her and film some Vines.

Vines are six-second, looping videos.

Zendaya stars as Raquel "Rocky" Blue in Disney's "Shake It Up!" and is currently recording her first album.

Nash filming at GMA this week.
Photo courtesy Elizabeth Grier-Floyd
She will be in a "Beats by Dre" commercial with Cam Newton and is coming to Charlotte this weekend to meet him, promote her album and sing the national anthem at a game, Panthers officials said.

Nash, a 15-year-old sophomore at Davidson Day, returned this week from New York where he was featured on "Good Morning America" and "Inside Edition."

He said the national attention was spurred by the Observer's story about him that was published Monday. According to Friday, he is the 20th most-followed person on Vine with more than 1.6 million followers.

Friday, October 11, 2013

St. Mark Catholic raises more than $62,000 for diabetes research

St. Mark Catholic officials gave a final tally this week that students raised more than $62,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes for the school's annual spring service project.

They raised money through penny wars, a raffle, family donations and corporate matches.

Students learned about what it's like living with diabetes and the importance of finding a cure when five of the school's students who have Type 1 diabetes presented a video showing how they test their blood sugar, make safe food choices and give themselves insulin.

This is the second year in a row that St. Mark has been the school to raise the most amount of money for the JDRF Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes, said school volunteer Amy Burger.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gaston Day fifth- and sixth-graders explore marine life

Fifth and sixth grade Gaston Day students traveled to the Barrier Island Environmental Education Center for three days last week to learn about local barrier island ecology, marine life and the joys of a mud pit.

The education center is on Seabrook Island in South Carolina.

Photos courtesy Holt Harris.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A look at Akhil Singh's summer India trip

Here are some photos from Country Day senior Akhil Singh's most recent India trip. Read the previous post to learn about Akhil's involvement in bringing light to Indian villages. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Akhil Singh brings light to more Indian villages

Akhil Singh, a Country Day senior, returned to India this summer and helped install solar-powered lights in three villages.

By Jeff Siner/

(I wrote about Akhil and his quest to bring villages light in an April story.)

He raised the money for an organization that installs the lights, called Light a Billion Lives, headquartered in New Delhi.

But instead of visiting villages as he has in the past, Akhil lived in them for two weeks.

"It was really humbling, but at the same time it's a whole different part of the world," he said.

He had to endure living with an old man who was convinced Akhil was trying to rob his village, getting sick once and quickly learning the colloquialisms of the Hindi dialect the villagers spoke.

"It was good material for my college essay," he joked.

But his trip was also enjoyable. Akhil said he liked the communal aspect of the village and how important family and community were to the people.

"You get the whole village together in the evening time, and you eat dinner together and sit at the marketplace together," he said.

Akhil has now lit five villages -- at a cost of about $3,500 each -- and is in the process of funding a sixth. He tackled learning how to fundraise and ask corporations for donations with no experience, but he's been successful: Since 2010, he's raised more than $18,000.

"The corporate fundraising turned around really well, and I may be lucky enough to get an additional three villages," Akhil said.

He'll continue his fundraising efforts this year and go to India again next summer to install more lighting.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sixth-grader's startup idea accepted by QC Forward's Social Innovation Accelerator

Rishi Kulkarni's business idea won second place earlier this year at Charlotte Startup Weekend's competition, and now his idea has been accepted by the Queen City Forward's Social Innovation Accelerator.

Photo by John Simmons/
That program will provide 10 weeks of coaching and mentoring to refine the business plan, said his mom, Kavita Gupta.

Rishi, now a sixth-grader at Providence day, has the idea to create a social network called Wiz Kids Draft for middle and high school students. On the website, students would create an academic profile, follow universities and track their progress. The site would also encourage students to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); motivate students to attend college and provide a career path by connecting them with college guidance counselors.

Gupta said because Rishi has school obligations, she'll attend the training in his stead, but that he will still be involved in the process.

"The Accelerator is a great development, and it will provide valuable learning experience for Rishi," Gupta said in an email. "I hope this will inspire and excite other students to explore entrepreneurship and business."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Olympic senior learns valuable lessons at Livingston & Haven

Between a full-time job life-guarding, interning for the industrial technology company Livingston & Haven and embarking on a mission trip, Jenni Kesel, 17, had an action-packed summer and said she learned a lot along the way.

At Livingston & Haven, Jenni worked at the department in charge of making prototypes involving solar power. She helped create the new solar-powered cell phone chargers now at Carowinds.

In addition to doing a lot of hands-on engineering, Jenni said she learned a couple of important lessons from the internship.

"First thing, never be afraid to ask a question," she said. "At first, I was really afraid to because I felt like the underdog coming in, especially because I was the only girl intern."

Jenni said she initially felt insecurities about having to prove herself among the men. "I felt like I had a reputation to build, but I learned not to worry about it. The point of me being there was to learn."

Another lesson Jenni learned was to accept times when she failed and to learn from them.

She said she used to get frustrated when she was building something that would break or wouldn't work because she felt like she was creating more problems instead of helping.

"I had to take time to humble myself and say, this is why I'm here, to learn."

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Color Purple" lead Keston Steele makes magazine cover

Keston Steele, now a senior at Northwest School of the Arts, is on the cover of "Dramatics," the Educational Theatre Association's monthly national magazine that covers high school theater.

Keston played the lead role of Celie in the production.

The picture was taken during a performance of "The Color Purple" at the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb., this summer.

About 75 students from Northwest School of the Arts went to Nebraska for the festival after struggling to raise about $130,000 to get there. The festival is considered the World Series of high school theater, and Northwest was the first North Carolina school to get an invitation in 33 years. Students involved said both the musical and the festival were opportunities of a lifetime.

Northwest was also the second high school in the country to get permission to perform "Purple." The musical was chosen to be the festival's featured performance.

At the festival, Ariel Blake, who played Squeak in the musical, was scouted and received a scholarship, said Andy Lawler, a Northwest teacher. Ariel is now attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

CMS kids can now compete for "Rocking the Belk Bowl Contest"

Belk's "Rocking the Belk Bowl Contest" is returning for a second year to award Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools a total of $150,000 in technology grants.

The contest is open to all CMS elementary, middle and high schools.

Participating schools have the chance to win one of three $25,000 grants plus $75,000 in cash awards from Belk for improving schools' technology and learning. Some tickets to the Belk Bowl,  a college football game played each year at Panthers Stadium, will also be awarded to some students and staff.

To enter, students must create designs incorporating educational and Belk Bowl themes and display them on school rocks or bulletin boards.

Schools can submit photos of students working on their designs as well as a 30- to 60-second video explaining their school's need for a grant.

Submissions are due by Nov. 16. For more information, email April Smith at

Saturday, September 7, 2013

East Gaston grad perseveres to become Navy pilot

Courtland Savage used to be afraid of flying.

He'd never had his first flight until 2008, when he was starting his senior year of high school at East Gaston High.

Today, at 22, he's an officer in the Navy and in pilot training.

Courtland, from Mount Holly, said he never would've stepped foot in a plane if it hadn't been for a teacher who said he and his classmates needed to seriously consider their futures.

He said he always wanted to be a train conductor, but discovered that wouldn't be a sustainable living. That's when he considered the military, and his love for planes from afar. He recalled enjoying trips from Mount Holly to Charlotte with his dad and watching airplanes from Charlotte-Douglas International.

"I'd sit in the car and watch planes go off," he said. "I always thought they were cool."

So Courtland went to a flight school in Lincolnton to face his fear. "I realized that's what I wanted to do. I fell in love with it."

Courtland took out a loan to pay for flight school (that he's since paid back) and earned his private pilot's license in December 2008. A couple of months later, he finished high school early and joined the Air Force.

He trained in San Antonio ("The first day or so was just terrible, I didn't see myself making  it all the way"), and then technical school, and then he worked in C-17 maintenance in Charleston.

In Charleston, Courtland began earning his bachelor's degree in aeronautics, and graduated in July 2012.

Then came the time to take aptitude tests to qualify for air training in the Air Force. Courtland didn't pass the first test, and he took it a second time without passing again.

But he wasn't deterred. After looking into the Air National Guard, a recruiter told him the Navy was looking for pilots. He'd just have to pass the test, which includes math, reading comprehension and aviation questions.

Courtland tried the Navy's test twice and didn't pass. But he still didn't give up.

After three weeks of non-stop studying, Courtland took the Navy's test a third time (the maximum number of times the test can be taken). And he passed. "I knew it was my last chance," he said.

Photos courtesy Angela Savage
Courtland was honorably discharged from the Air Force and enlisted in the Navy. After officer training in Rhode Island, he is now in flight training in Pensacola, Fla. Courtland said he's loving learning to fly, and is excited for the next adventure. He's also glad he persevered.

"I knew it's what I wanted to do, and I didn't want to do anything else, so I knew I had to try my hardest and keep going at it and keep studying."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gaston Day grad's art chosen for D.C. exhibit

Holland Haag, who graduated from Gaston Day School this spring, won a National Gold Key in the Scholastic competition for her ink drawing, "Drenched," and the art has been chosen for display in Washington, D.C.

This summer, Holland's drawing has been on display at Parson School of Design in New York.

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities chose her drawing, along with the work of 43 other students from across the country, to be a part of the Art.Write.Now D.C. exhibit. The drawing will be shown at the U.S. Department of Education this month.

Holland now attends Clemson University.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A quick word on rolling admissions

Be aware of rolling
admissions, too.

(Photo courtesy
In today's Young Achiever page, I wrote a guide on the three most common ways to apply to college: early decision, early action and regular decision.

There is another option, called rolling admission, which means your chance at admission is greatest the earlier you submit an application. The school fills enrollment spots as they receive applications, and don't necessarily save a certain number of slots for different deadlines.

For rolling admissions, applying as early as possible is the best policy.

A few schools in North Carolina do rolling admissions, including UNC Pembroke and North Carolina A&T State University. After its first two early action deadlines, Guilford College switches to a rolling admission policy.

As always, it's wisest for students to research each school's policies on admissions.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Concord teen Bryson Foster to open nationally televised MDA telethon

Bryson Foster.
Photo courtesy
Bryson Foster, who has been the 2012 and 2013 Muscular Dystrophy Association's National Goodwill Ambassador, will open the 48th annual MDA Show of Strength Telethon on Sunday.

The two-hour telethon begins 9 p.m. on ABC channels across the country (that's Channel 9 in Charlotte).

Bryson, 13, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which is characterized by muscle weakness in the hips, legs and shoulders. It involves a progressive degeneration of voluntary and cardiac muscles, which severely limits life spans, a release from the MDA said.

Bryson will  make several appearances throughout the show he'll co-host with Shawn Parr and introduce some of the show's biggest acts, including the Backstreet Boys and Austin Mahone.

As the MDA's National Goodwill Ambassador, the Concord native travels all over the country to speak to groups about MDA's research. Proceeds raised from Sunday's telethon will go toward MDA's mission of helping people affected by muscle diseases.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Area schools get scholarships for hosting blood drives

The Community Blood Center of the Carolinas has announced the high  schools to receive $500 scholarships for holding blood drives.

High school officials will each select a student who was involved in the blood drives to get the college scholarship.

To win the money, students had to hold at least two blood drives during the school year and collect at least 100 units.

Fifty schools in the Carolinas won the scholarship, and several were from the greater Charlotte region:

A.L. Brown High
Applied Technology Center
Bessemer City High
Central Academy of Technology & Arts
Cherryville High
Cox Mill High
East Gaston High (two scholarships)
Fred T. Foard High
Forestview High
Garinger High
Hopewell High
Hunter Huss High
Indian Land High
Lancaster High
Mallard Creek High
Myers Park High
Newton Conover High
North Gaston High
North Mecklenburg High
Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology
Pine Lake Prep
Queen's Grant High
South Mecklenburg High
Union Academy
West Lincoln High
West Mecklenburg High
William Hough High

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Charlottean named HBCU Female Student of the Year

This summer, Olivia Stinson, a junior at Winston-Salem State University, was named the Female Student of the Year at the Historically Black Colleges and Universities' third annual awards ceremony.

Nominees were considered for their academic achievement, leadership, integrity and community volunteer work.

Olivia, 20, is the founder and president of PEN (Peers Engaged and Networking) Pals Book Club and Support Group for Children of Incarcerated Parents. She's also the adviser to BE A Reader (BEAR) Book Club & Support Group.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Update on Providence Day bridge champion Allison Hunt

Allison, left, and her partner,
Asya, with their trophies.
Courtesy of the  NABC
Allison Hunt was on a winning streak last week at the Youth North American Bridge Championship in Atlanta.

Allison, a 17-year-old Providence Day student, and her bridge partner from Florida beat out 19 other teams -- from across the United States and China -- to become World Bridge Champions in their age division.

The girls also won the Baron Barclay Youth Pairs event, and were the first female pair to ever win. As winners, Allison and her partner, Asya Ladyzhensky, each received a trophy and a $1,000 college scholarship.

Young Achievers highlighted Allison the other week about her bridge skills and her love for the game.

The Youth North American Bridge Championship was started in 2005.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Calling all teens interested in radio broadcast

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, in partnership with WFAE and Carolina's School of Broadcasting, invites students ages 12-18 to apply for the second season of "Turn It Up: Teen Radio Program."

Students chosen will meet every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. for Sept. 7 through Dec. 19 with the goal of producing a 30-minute program each month. Students spend the first three Thursdays researching and interviewing, the the fourth creating the audio program.

Earlier this year for the first season, teens produced their audio at ImaginOn's studio, which has a sound booth and editing equipment.

To apply, visit Applications are due Aug. 12.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cornelius Eagle Scout earns rank with Hinds' Feet Farm construction projects

Will Champion, a rising junior at Hough High, recently earned his Eagle Scout rank by designing and building three projects at Hinds' Feet Farm.

Hinds' Feet Farm is a nonprofit in Huntersville that serves people with brain injuries.

Will worked for almost 300 hours to build a handicap-accessible barn addition, a handicap-accessible craft table and three handicap-accessible benches. The barn addition is part of the farm's therapeutic horseback-riding facility. He completed the projects in memory of his friend, Howard Biggers IV.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Providence Day student is first women's pair youth bridge champion

Allison, left, and her partner, Asya,
with their trophies.
Courtesy of the  NABC
In the Youth North American Bridge Championship this weekend, Allison Hunt, a 17-year-old Providence Day student, and her bridge partner from Florida were the first pair of women to win the Baron Barclay Youth Pairs event.

Young Achievers highlighted Allison the other week about her bridge skills and her love for the game.

As winners, Allison and her partner, Asya Ladyzhensky, each received a trophy and a $1,000 college scholarship.

The Youth North American Bridge Championship was started in 2005.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Garinger student goes solo to get high school diploma

Kassandra Banegas and her family moved from Honduras to Charlotte while she was in high school, and though her family moved to Colorado during her senior year at Garinger High, she chose to live on her own and get her diploma here.

But she fell short one credit -- a U.S. history class -- to graduate with her peers in June. She passed the class this summer and will graduate with about 170 of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools high school students Monday morning at 9 a.m. in Bojangles Coliseum.

Kassandra will attend Central Piedmont Community College, where she has already been taking classes in an effort to increase her GPA. She said she'd like to attend a university in the future.

"It won't mean the same as graduating in June with all my friends, but I had to do what I had to do," Kassandra said of Monday's ceremony. "I want my family to be proud of me. I also want to be proud of myself when I receive my high school diploma."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

High school broadcaster to be on TV Sunday

Carly Williams, who was featured in Young Achievers last year as an aspiring broadcast journalist, will be on a news segment this Sunday morning.

Photo courtesy Lori Williams.
The segments is for "Teen Kids News," a weekly show that airs nationally and was founded by Albert Primo, who created "Eyewitness News" for adults. It will air at 7 a.m. on WCCB.

Carly, a rising senior at Nation Ford High, filmed her news piece in New York. She interviewed John Bordynuik, who invented a machine that converts plastic to oil, and who's partnered with Crayola to create a marker-recycling program. Carly also spoke to Peter Ruggiero, Crayola's executive vice president of global operations, about the project.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Huntersville student wins art contest, meets Jane Seymour

Jessica Traugott, who just graduated from Hopewell High, was one of two high school students in the country to win the Creative Self-Expression Art Show.

Photo courtesy Rich Sampson
She traveled to Malibu, Calif., at the end of June to attend a recognition event and meet actress and artist Jane Seymour, who is the show's spokeswoman. Jessica also won $2,000 scholarship.

Her piece, "Unexpected," features a drainpipe near a brick wall that's surrounded by old leaves and a vibrant flower.

"I was inspired by the topic of decay, primarily in the form of rust," Jessica said in a release. "I wanted to explore the contrast between organic life and industrial erosion."

The painting was viewed in Seymour's personal art studio at her home in Malibu.

This spring, high school students around the country submitted pieces at their local The Great Frame Up stores. Their art was judged by a local panel of professionals, and finalists' work was sent for judging to Franchise Concepts, Inc., in St. Louis, Mo., where a panel, including Seymour, judged the two winners.

Jessica plans to attend The Art Center College of Design to study entertainment design, and she's considering a minor in illustration.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

YMCA teens connect with South African youth via Michelle Obama

A group of teens involved at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte connected virtually with other teens in South Africa recently. It all happened through a Google+ hangout orchestrated by Michelle Obama.

A Google+ hangout allows video conferencing between multiple groups. Because South Africa is such a young country, the hangout encouraged future cultural exchanges and inspired young people to be connected globally, said Candace Murray of YMCA's community development team.

Other YMCAs from around the country were also invited by the White House to participate, including New York City, Louisville, Ky., Washington, D.C., Hartford, Conn., Cleveland and Boston.

The teens from New York spoke on behalf of the American groups, and the Charlotte teens used Twitter and other social media to interact live as well.

"It really felt like we were almost sitting there with the teens in South Africa," Murray said in an email.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Gaston Day, Providence literary mags win Tar Heel awards

 "Blutopia" cover.
Gaston Day and Providence High won overall Tar Heel awards for their literary magazines, "Blutopia" and "Roars and Whispers," respectively.

Tar Heel awards recognize high school journalism excellence in North Carolina, and are a part of the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association at UNC Chapel Hill.

 Gaston Day won five of eight overall awards for the magazine as well: fiction, art, cover design, photography and theme development.

Providence also won two: poetry and layout.

The awards were given in June at the N.C. Scholastic Media Institute, where about 350 high school students attended.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Teens mentor middle-schoolers in confidence-boosting camps

Two-dozen high school students interned these past few weeks for two programs that help kids deal with tough middle school social situations.

The programs, called Athena's Path (for girls) and Hero's Pursuit (for boys), were created by Michelle Icard, a local author, educator and social leadership strategist. They've been implemented in 30 schools across five states, reaching more than 10,000 students.

Athena's Path intern Elana Burack writes adjectives suggested by campers to describe a fellow camper, which would be used for a photograph.
Because it's based in Charlotte, week-long day camps were available this summer for the programs. The Athena's Path curriculum aims to empower girls to positively and confidently act in tough social situations (read: mean girls), while the curriculum for Hero's Pursuit zeros in on boys finding their strengths, developing leadership skills and using them in a positive way.

Middle school teachers in the area taught the camps. High school students volunteered their time to try to impact the younger students who attended the camps this June.

"It's rewarding to know I'm helping give them the tools to handle these sticky situations and give them the confidence to not worry so much about what other kids think about it," said Elana Burack, a rising senior at Providence Day. "If you have confidence, you have everything."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blumey winner Eva Noblezada is Jimmy Award runner-up

Eva Noblezada was named a runner-up last night at the Jimmy Awards in New York City, which is the national equivalent of the Tony Awards for high school theater.

Sixty-two high school students from across the country competed, and Eva was among the top seven who were asked to perform for judges.

Students were judged on a solo performance as well as group-medley performances during the awards show.

Two winners were named (one boy and one girl), and the remaining five, including Eva, were named runners-up and were awarded $2,500.

Eva won a Blumey Award in Charlotte for her performance as Ariel in Northwest School of the Arts' "Footloose." That award was her ticket to the Jimmys.

I wrote about Eva in June, and she told me that getting to perform on a Broadway stage (which, coincidentally, was the one where she first saw a Broadway show), would be "surreal" and "a dream come true." 

She'll be a senior at Northwest this fall.

PHOTO by Annette Calud: Eva Noblezada performing as Maria in "West Side Story" last year.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Here's a peek...

...of the new mural 135 CMS students in the Digital Media Literacy camp made. It was installed this morning at Atherton Mill & Market (see previous post for details):

Photo courtesy Lynn Caldwell

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Check out student mural at Atherton Mill & Market Friday

The mural's progress at Atherton Mill & Market as of Thursday morning.
Photo courtesy of Lynn Caldwell
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students will watch the installation of a mural at Atherton Mill & Market Friday morning that they created.

The 135 students are participants in the Digital Media Literacy camp through the Arts & Science Council in partnership with CMS' After-School Enrichment Program.

The students, from rising first graders to high school seniors, used iPads and digital cameras at Atherton Mill & Market, 7th Street Market and local farms to show the importance of farm-to-table food.

They used their material to create a mural promoting healthy life choices.

The mural will become a permanent fixture at Atherton.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Weddington High student to give clean drinking water to Kenyans

Michael Drewery, a rising junior at Weddington High, said he wanted to do something this summer to help people on a global scale.

(Courtesy Vestergaard Frandsen)
He remembered learning in the eighth grade about how many people in Kenya don't have easily accessible clean drinking water. Michael said he researched further this summer and found that conditions there haven't changed much.

A friend of his, Savannah Zook, will be going to Kenya on a mission trip July 11, he said.

So Michael, along with his friends Matt Hrycyna and Nate Benn, have been going door-to-door asking for donations to buy LifeStraws, which are personal water filters.

They've collected about $1,000 and plan to send the filters to Kenya with their friend Savannah, Michael said.

LifeStraws are are a product of Vestergaard Frandsen, and can only be bought in the United States and Canada through, a sustainable living website.

Michael has been in contact with one of Eartheasy's managers, Ben Seaman.

"Michael is a very forward-thinking young man, and his donation will help over 100 Kenyans access clean water," Seaman said in an email. He is selling the filters to Michael at a discounted price.

Seaman said that girls in Kenya collect firewood to boil drinking water, and that by doing so, they're missing school and deforesting the area.

Michael said most places where he's rung doorbells have been kind. And he said hopes the donation makes and impact: "They don't have clean drinking water over there at all."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hear and see the Studio 345 kids' "I am the 'We' in 'We the people'" projects

This week I wrote about the students from Studio 345 who were a part of the "I am the 'We' in 'We the People.'"

Their artwork is currently in the Levine Museum of the New South, which coincides with the exhibit, "Fighting for Democracy: Who Is the 'We' in 'We the People'?"

Here's a video of their self-portrait photographs, which you can see as they each narrate written pieces describing themselves.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Scholars Academy problem-solvers place 6th at international competition

A dozen students from Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy traveled to Indiana University earlier this month for the Future Problem Solving Program International Conference and competed well.

Courtesy Scholars Academy
This was Scholars Academy's third trip to Indiana, and the first time any of their students have placed in the Top 10 of the competition. We featured them before they left in the Young Achievers section.

The sixth grade junior team of Aarushi Patil, Navami Jain, Varun Sattenapalli and Ethan Zhang placed sixth overall. (You have to be a top-10 team to place.)

Laura Scott Cary competed in the Multi-Affiliate Global Issues Competition with three students from other states, and the team placed first in the middle division.

At Indiana University, 58 teams competed in the junior division and 68 in the middle division in teams of four.

The Future Problem Solving Program presents students with various topics, which they must research before a competition. The international conference’s topic was the global status of women. In recent years, topics have included human rights, invasive species, genetic testing and pollution.

At competitions, students are faced with an imagined scene from far into the future connected with the given topic. They have to identify many potential social, scientific, political, economic or technical issues from that scene. Then students have to develop several solutions, choose the best one and write an action plan.

The students also shared a dorm with students from South Korea, and Toni Hemming, a Scholars Academy coach, said living with them was a great opportunity for new friendships and sharing cultural experiences.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Carmel Middle wins first place in Odyssey of the Mind world competition

Congrats to Carmel Middle for taking the top spot in the challenge called "It's How You Look at It" at this year's world finals for Odyssey of the Mind.

Carmel Middle OM team. Photo courtesy CMS
The first-place winning team:

Ethan Foster
Luke Foster
Katie Freije
Rachel Gardner
Will Horne
Lucy Koeniger
Beckett Stillman

Carmel has won a first place prize in the world finals for the past three years.

The competition, at Michigan State University, involved 813 teams from around the world, according to a release from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

In the challenge, the team of seven students had to give a humorous performance about two characters who think they're acting naturally but are strange to those around them.

Four other CMS schools placed in the competition: Elon Park Elementary, Irwin Academic Center, Community House Middle and Myers Park High.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Catching up on Connor McKemey

I had the pleasure of talking with Karin McKemey for a Young Achiever's story that will be out this summer (she's the television production teacher at Fort Mill High), but I also got a quick update on her son, Connor.

Connor McKemey gets a kiss from his mom, Karin, before going to the 2012 prom.
Photo by Todd Sumlin 
Young Achievers wrote about Connor in October. He had a 1 percent chance of survival after getting burned from a propane fireplace explosion in 2008. He was in a medically-induced coma for two months and was told he'd probably never walk again.

This weekend, Connor will walk across the stage to get his diploma from Fort Mill High. He'll be attending High Point University this fall, his mom said.

Connor's passion is lacrosse, and he recently played in the 2013 N.C. Great 38, which is an all-star game of the top high school lacrosse players in the state.

His mom said he's not going to play in college but will be a student coach. "He's really, really excited about it," she said. "He's something else."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Olympic freshmen design Tri-Table desk and win contest

Noah Badger and Eric Chee, freshmen from the METS (Math, Engineering, Technology & Science) School at Olympic High, won the Livingston & Haven Engineering Design Competition this May.

As a reward, their design will be manufactured by the industrial technology company.

From L-R: Teacher John Davis, Noah Badger, Livingston & Haven
President Clifton Vann, Eric Chee and Bosch Rexroth's Technical
Plant Manager Mark Rohlinger. Photo courtesy Mike Realon 
Noah and Eric designed a Tri-Table, which is a convertible, three-piece desk that could pivot into different shapes depending on what a person using it needs.

Contestants pitched their design ideas to judges, and their designs had to be made from Bosch Rexroth materials.

Mike Realon, an Olympic spokesman, said that the judges called the Tri-Table "innovative, practical and useful."

He said about 200 students from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Gaston County competed.

"It is pretty amazing that a team of freshmen won this engineering design competition," Realon said.

Fifteen other Olympic students were also eligible to compete in the contest:

(From the Global School)
Shanel Smith
Jaliyah Scott
Jeremiah Hawkins
Travis Compton

(from the Renaissance School)
Julia Roberson
Thao Duong
Joanna Cao
Ivy Woods

(from the METS School)
Dayana Holley
Christian Ramsumair
Tiffany Russ
Alexis Gaviola
Chris Walters
Joel Roman
Rafael Ramirez