Look Out World, Here They Come!
The future is indeed looking bright! We are proud to present our 2014 Teens to Watch.
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Every September we have the distinct pleasure of identifying ten young people in our community who are remarkable in every way. Like those from years past, this year’s teenagers are smart, engaged, dedicated and focused. They represent a diverse mix—a philanthropist who is helping educate girls in Africa, an award-winning photographer, an engineer researching green technology, and a fencer with Olympic aspirations. The fact that they are high achievers is a given—their accomplishments in academics, the arts and sports are multifold. They are also passionate about their interests and tireless in their efforts to have a positive impact on the world in which they live. Read on to meet this year’s group.
Class of 2015
Thomas Catenacci has always loved watching movies—as a fifth- grader he used to beg his mother to take him to Blockbuster, a place he called “magical”—and by his sophomore year, he discovered he loved making movies, too. Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and Greg Ivan Smith are just some of the filmmakers he admires.
For his inaugural production, Thomas collaborated with a friend, J. P. Lewis, on a twenty-four-minute documentary about the King Low Heywood Thomas hockey team and its journey to the league championships. He wrote the script, staged the shots and edited hours of film. Not only was it his first film, it was also his first time handling a camera. “Every single aspect of movie-making really appealed to me,” he says. “You work so hard to create five minutes, and I love that.”
The film was a success, garnering praise from students and teachers. A short-lived association with MSG sports network inspired Thomas to start his own film club called King TV. “We don’t have many members yet, but I think it was successful,” he says. Sure enough, the club produced two videos in quick succession, one about homecoming and another about King’s seven-member girl’s basketball team. Thomas has several more projects in the pipeline: a documentary about the football team—“They’ve never won the league championships; they think we will be good luck”—and a weekly scripted talk show, with a Jimmy Fallon-type host. Each seven-minute segment will feature a short monologue, a comedy sketch or two, and timely info on school events.
Largely self-taught, Thomas says he thinks about filmmaking every day. “People think I’m crazy. I walk the halls with eight bags of equipment and three tripods on my back.”
Last summer he attended a five-day intensive at Fairfield University, which he calls “the craziest five days of my life.” His black and white short Connection was a powerful take on the dangers of being too close to a social network.
The summer passed in a flash for this busy filmmaker, who did several videos for a New York City-based start-up, Moonlyt; created his own website; and shot a music video for a King classmate. As he considers his plans post-graduation, Thomas is considering a variety of options. “I’m interested in making films,” he says. “But I’m also interested in the business of film and producing.”
Class of 2016
When she was ten, Isabella Chung wanted to take up skiing, but her father suggested she try fencing instead. Good call. Today, the Greenwich Academy junior is one of the top-ranked junior fencers in the United States. She trains five days a week at the Fencers Club in New York City. During the school year, that means catching the 3:40 train into Grand Central, walking to the club on 28th Street and practicing up to five hours a day. “Fencing has really changed my life,” she says. “It has taught me determination and diligence, and opened me up to other cultures and experiences. I think fencing brings out the best in me.”
It has certainly taken Isabella to a growing list of countries where she has won a growing collection of laurels. Among her career highlights: First place in the 2012 Singapore World Cup and the 2012 Hong Kong Fencing Championships. This year, she ranked in the top 16 in the Junior Olympic Championships and placed 22nd in the 2014 Division 1 National Championships, earning her the chance to represent team USA in the Cadet World Cup. (Before each match, she listens to underground rap to get her adrenaline flowing.) She and six teammates traveled to matches in Italy, Hungary, Germany and France. “I love the feeling of representing my country and bringing everything to my opponents,” she says.
Isabella practices the art of foil, one of three disciplines, which she says is best suited to her small frame. “I do a lot of leg and foot work,” she says. “A lot of squats, back and forth, and drilling one on one.” Her style has evolved over the years, and she takes advantage of every opportunity to learn from more experienced fencers. “I have a lot to learn physically and mentally. Many of the older people who come into the club aren’t as fast, but they have good timing.” One of her biggest role models is Miles Chamley-Watson, who won the men’s individual foil in the 2013 World Championships and is a member of the Fencers Club. “He’s very compassionate about helping other fencers,” she says.
Despite her grueling schedule, the seventeen-year-old manages to find time for schoolwork—English is a favorite subject—and “snacking, napping and hanging out with my friends.” She has her sights set on college—as long as there is fencing—and the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo.