Extraordinary Teens: Our Future Isn’t Waiting to Make a Difference

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By Jessica Schmitt

Each year, Prince William Living recognizes exceptional students in the community who are making a difference beyond just the classroom. These students remind us that while they are the future, their impact doesn’t have to wait. From numerous extracurriculars to impactful volunteer work, the accomplishments of these students are truly remarkable. Please join us in congratulating this year’s Extraordinary Teens.

Olivia Beckett
Colgan High School

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Olivia Beckett

Olivia Beckett brings her joyous personality to everything she does both in and out of the classroom. Beckett is the President for Model UN, as well as a member of National Honor Society, National History Honor Society, Educators Rising, and Principles Advisory Counsel.

Beckett’s mother, Melissa Beckett, says, “Olivia brings light and laughter into every room she enters. She radiates kindness and can make the ordinary an adventure.”

In addition to her various extracurriculars, Beckett also helps backstage in the theater department at Colgan High School as a stage manager and tech crew. She has been part of the school’s leadership program for three years. Additionally, she has spent two years with Teachers for Tomorrow. Through this program, she assists in a first-grade classroom, offering her skills to help the youth within her community.

Lily Blinkinsop
Patriot High School

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Lily Blinkinsop

Lily Blinkinsop, a talented musician, uses her gifts to contribute to the community in a variety of ways. She has volunteered at Gainesville United Methodist Church as a Vacation Bible School leader, an assistant for Sunday School, and as part of Feeding Friends, which offers meals to those in need. Her talents are evident in the classroom, as well. Blinkinsop enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College while still attending high school. She is second chair violinist with her school’s top orchestra and a cellist with the school’s orchestra.

Heather Stietzel, a family friend, said, “She takes the time to share her work with others through performances and her work in our community.”

Blinkinsop has learned to play multiple instruments and performs these skills locally. She babysits and shares her love of music and skills with the kids she interacts with. She also finds joy in sharing these skills with young kids at her church, particularly through her leadership role in Vacation Bible School.

Tej Gupta
Gainesville High School

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Tej Gupta

Tej Gupta spends many hours volunteering in addition to working and being involved in extracurricular  activities. He volunteers for 4-H, where he helped with their summer STEM learning program for grades K-12, and at his church’s Vacation Bible School, where he co-led a small group in religious education through fun activities. In addition, Gupta plays lacrosse and was an umpire for the Gainesville Haymarket Baseball League. He is also being inducted into the American Sign Language Honor Society.

Heather Stietzel, Gupta’s nominator, explains, “Tej has taught my son and many others the importance and enjoyment of learning a sport and how to win and lose with integrity. Tej is an exemplary ambassador for our community and is a wonderful resource for our local families.”

Gupta is passionate about mentoring youth, as evidenced by his work with 4-H and his church. In his role as a 4-H volunteer, he has impacted more than 200 students, through hands-on STEM education. Gupta’ s church volunteerism is through smaller, more intimate groups of youth, but is equally as impactful to his
community.

Mallory Hince
Homeschooled

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Mallory Hince

Mallory Hince is a positive role model for all who encounter her. She is a student, assistant teacher, and Big Sister at Linda’s Ballet Workshop, a member and coach of Lake Ridge Lancers Swim Team, captain in cross country and track and field for the Northern Virginia Homeschool Athletic Association (NVHAA) Centurions, has performed with Castaways Theatre’s Homeschool Theatre Troupe, holding lead roles in Anne of Green Gables and Sherlock Holmes, has participated in Worldview Academy, and is a member of the French Honor Society. She is also a Children’s Ministry Assistant and member of the youth group at Mount Ararat Baptist Church.

Hince’s co-op director, Kristina Kotlus, emphasizes her joyous personality, saying, “Showing up early to set up, staying late to clean up, helping other athletes who are struggling, always having an encouraging word for coaches, athletes, teachers, fellow students — that’s just who Mallory is at her core, and that light shines brightly and makes every organization Mallory is a part of shine.”

Hince has received many honors for her outstanding participation in various extracurriculars. She was named Lancer of the Year, All Around Athlete, received an Excellence in Public Speaking award for her co-op, and received the Servant’s Heart Award from the NVHAA Centurions, the highest honor awarded by the organization.

Boris Kolesnikov
Acellus Academy

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Boris Kolesnikov

Boris Kolesnikov demonstrates his excellence through his volunteer work and involvement in the medical community. Kolesnikov has volunteered with UVA Health Prince William Medical Center in various aspects, recording 217 volunteer hours as a Summer Teen Lead, 20 hours as an Emergency Department Volunteer Trainer, and 185 hours as an Emergency Department Volunteer. He has also recorded 309 volunteer hours as a Clinic Volunteer at Annandale Primary Care. He has attended upwards of 10 professional conferences in medicine and is a Student Member of the American Biological Safety Association International, a Trainee Member of the American Association of Immunologists, and a Premedical Student Member of the American Medical Student Association

Debbie Fleischer, an employee where Kolesnikov volunteers, says, “Boris did not just volunteer, he  systemically built on each year of service to extend his skills and support in the UVA Prince William Emergency Department. He is an outstanding example of what we look for in volunteers and does it with true joy and dedication.”

Kolesnikov has received several honors and awards, including being a panel speaker on the NOVA StemWeek Student Panel, lead researcher of the National Premedical Research Project, National Finalist of the National College Match, and participant of Mini Medical School at Rutgers University and the 2022
Biomedical Sciences Summer Immersion Program. He has also given presentations at Future Physicians for Change 2023 with the American Medical Student Association and Virginia Community Colleges Student Experiential Learning Conference.

Logan Kotlus
Homeschooled

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Logan Kotlus (photo by Savannah Kotlus)

Logan Kotlus has a wide span of interests, which he pursues through various extracurricular activities and volunteer initiatives. He is the assistant captain of the Prince William Patriots hockey team, captain of the Cyber Patriot team through the U.S. Air Force, has performed lead roles with Castaways Theatre’s  Homeschool Theatre Troupe in As You Like It and Sherlock Holmes and has helped with lighting design for Castaways Theatre’s As You Like It, Sherlock Holmes, and A Christmas Chaos. Kotlus volunteers at Chapel Springs Church in lighting design, logging more than 750 volunteer hours. He is also an active member of Manassas Baptist Church.

Kotlus’s physics and chemistry teacher, Darcy Heisey, says, “Logan is an example of servant leadership, as well as excellence, in everything he participates in. He is also always willing to help out, whether it’s teaching new parents how to use Microsoft Teams at homeschool co-op or installing a new wireless router extension for an elderly neighbor.”

Kotlus has acquired numerous accolades demonstrating his commitment to excellence. He has been ranked #19 globally for competitors in Ubuntu, had a personal essay published in Northern Virginia Community College’s The Walrus, was a silver medalist in the CyberStart America Competition, was Top 5
Worldwide in the Hack-a-Bit 0x01 Competition, and is certified in AWS Cloud Practice.

Bryce Poole
Brentsville District High School

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Bryce Pool

Bryce Poole consistently works to have a positive impact on the youth in the community. Poole is captain of the basketball team at Brentsville District High School, a member of the National Honor Society, Turf Club, his school’s soccer and track teams and Future Farmers of America, and is a lifeguard and Assistant Manager at his local pool. He also volunteers with the unified basketball team, a team that works with students in special education, and in the nursery at his church.

Heather Stietzel, a family friend, describes the impact Poole has, saying, “The work Bryce is doing with younger students in our community is making a positive difference in the lives of our most vulnerable kids. By serving as a role model to the younger generation, he shows these kids anything is possible if they work
hard.”

One of Poole’s most notable accomplishments is the program he started through his basketball team called Readers are Leaders. He created a connection between the basketball coach and a reading specialist at the local elementary school that allowed the varsity team to visit the school every Wednesday during the season to mentor at-risk students and help them with reading. It had a highly positive effect not only on the young students, but on the team members as well.

Danielle Serrano-Bremer
Colgan High School

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Danielle Serrano-Bremer

Danielle Serrano-Bremer is a talented young student who is not afraid to exercise her gifts, particularly in the performing arts space. She is a frequent performer with Pied Piper Children’s Theatre including the lead roles of Dorothy in The Wiz and Ms. Honey in Matilda. She also helps behind the scenes, most recently as assistant director for Disney’s Moana, Jr at the Hylton Performing Arts Center.

Serrano-Bremer is a member of the Youth Salute Council, which partners with the Student Ambassadors of Virginia Program, a member of the International Thespian Society, Vice President of the Colgan High School Choir, a member of the Colgan High School Senior Honors Choir, First Chair of the All State Virginia Choir Concert this year, a member of the Colgan High School tennis team, and is involved with the Colgan High School Center for Fine and Performing Arts program.

Laura Mills, the parent of a child who admires Serrano-Bremer, says, “Danielle is exceptionally talented, but more importantly she is kind and a very hard worker. She does a great deal in our community and maintains high grades at the same time.”

Serrano-Bremer has been acknowledged for her high achievements many times. She received the National Council on Youth Leadership Award for High Scholastic Honors and Leadership Ability, as well as the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her work with the Youth Salute Council. She also received the Alumni Board Scholarship at the Virginia Thespian Festival. Additionally, Serrano-Bremer created a rock band with her three brothers. They have performed free concerts at the Manassas Jubilee, BRAEMAR Day, and other venues; were featured on the front cover of Gainesville/Haymarket Magazine; and were the featured band at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.

Emily Sherman
Brentsville District High School

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Emily Sherman

Emily Sherman consistently demonstrates outstanding leadership skills through her participation in  numerous extracurriculars. Sherman is a Class Representative for BETA Club, Secretary of the senior class at her school, Executive Mentor for the Freshman Mentoring Program, President of the National Honor Society, Vice President of Rho Kappa History Honor Society, President of National Science Honor Society, a member of the French Honor Society, Student Senator representing Brentsville District High School at the Prince William County Public Schools’ Student Senate, and a varsity athlete for track and field and field hockey.

Andrea Layton, Sherman’s school counselor, describes her ambition and work ethic, saying, “Emily is one of the most driven and goal-oriented students I have come into contact with in my 20-year career as a high school counselor.”

In addition to her extensive leadership roles, Sherman also engages in community service. She volunteers with Job’s Daughters International, where she has been a camp counselor at the Leadership Camp, organized a toy drive for Shriners Hospital for Children, raised money for their HIKE initiative, and donated items to the Haymarket Food Pantry, hospitals, and animal shelters.

Ben Ward
Homeschooled

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Ben Ward

Ben Ward has accomplished outstanding work for Wounded Warriors through his commitment to this volunteer initiative. In the last six years, Ward has been a Warrior Retreat Ambassador and has raised more than $13,000 for the initiative. He is a vocal advocate for the program, attending events and spreading the word about the retreat. He conducts tours, hosts the information table, and provides event support for the retreat as well. Additionally, he raised funding for the program to allow for the purchase of software that electronically tracks volunteer hours, enhancing reporting measures for grant requests.

Sarah Ford, Ward’s nominator, explains, “Ben has inspired other youth in our community to give back to our Veterans and active-duty service members. He has shown that anyone can make a difference, no matter how young.”

As a result of his efforts, the Willing Warriors present the annual Ben Ward Youth Service Award to a youth volunteer at the Warrior Retreat, recognizing Ward’s exceptional service to the program. In addition, Ward also plays baseball for the Greater Manassas Baseball & Softball League, is a member of the Riptide Swim Team, and plays volleyball.

Jessica Schmitt is a Contributing Writer for Prince William Living and can be contacted at jschmitt@princewilliamliving.com.

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