Small Talk to Serious Speak
Adwoa Boakye, Magnificat High School
Parlez-vous Français? Well, Magnificat senior Adwoa Boakye can parlez like a Parisian. Almost. She wowed judges at the Maison Francaise oral competition, a fast-talking foreign-language contest based on delivery, vocabulary and fluency at John Carroll University, and sashayed away with first place. Adwoa waxed on the topic of ballet for nearly five minutes. Then she was grilled with personal questions to see if she would trip over her words, but sailed through the Q&A portion with responses about her nationality (her parents are from Ghana).
Why French? Boakye, 17, took up the language in seventh grade. “I’m definitely not fluent, but I listen to French music,” she says.
Practice makes perfect: Boakye practiced her speech by reciting it to her teacher. She reviewed vocabulary necessary to talk about ballet and The Nutcracker — two of her favorite things.
Dance fever: She dances several times each week at Ohio Dance Theatre in Oberlin, close to her home in Amherst. Boakye loves ballet and sidesteps into modern dance and jazz. “I had to cut back on my dance a little in high school because of my workload,” she says.
Her summer job: She’s giving the left side of her brain a workout this summer as an intern for NASA, where she works with materials engineers who make super alloys. She is helping to create a tutorial for high school students on the subject.
On high school: Going to an all-girls school means no holding back. “You come out of your box a little more,” she says.
Next languages to tackle: Spanish and Twi, one of the national languages of Ghana. “My parents speak it,” she says.
On overcoming nerves: “I tell myself the reason I’m doing this is to better myself,” she says. She reminds herself it’s OK to not win.
Favorite movie: Mayazaki’s Spirited Away, a Japanese film that won an Oscar for animated feature. Her friend introduced her to the subtitled version.
Pencil-Pusher to Promotions Hotshot
Jiazhou Yang, University School
Jiazhou Yang has an event promoter’s connections, Ivy League business sense and a hunch that video-gamers in Cleveland need a life. “Cleveland lacked video-game events,” says Yang, who discovered that the closest tournaments were in Chicago. The senior, who won the school’s Entrepreneurial Cup in 2006 and took third last year, is focusing on VPlay, a video-game event and tournament venture that is giving local gamers reason to party.
But Yang, 17, is no gaming geek. He had never been to an event before planning his first Halo 3 Showdown with fellow student Alex Kruger-Dobrota. His first attempt at Tower City during Memorial Day weekend attracted 25 people. For this month’s event, he hopes for closer to 50 people. And he’s applied for a grant from the Civic Innovation Lab.
Born in: Wuhan, China; moved to Shaker Heights in second grade
Favorite class: “I’m pretty sure I’ll like economics next year,” he says. In the meantime, he’s spending the summer working for his favorite boss: “myself.”
Business sense: Before VPlay, he started goguppi.com, an online retailing business that sells electronics from China and iPod clones, with classmate Paul Smetona.
Number of songs on his iPod: 1,100
Early entrepreneur: As a fourth-grader, Yang got bored at summer camp in Shaker Heights, so he made origami cranes. The other kids were pretty impressed. He gave the first few away, but then charged a quarter a piece for his paper art. He hiked up the price to a buck. “People were still buying,” he reports.
Favorite video game: Fear
Longest time playing video games: Five hours
Top three colleges: Emory University, University of Pennsylvania and Babson College near Boston. “That’s the top school for entrepreneurship,” he says.
Thoughts on Guitar Hero: “I think it’s fun,” he says, noncommittally. “I play sometimes ... not often.”
'Baller to Businessman
Adrian Lindsey, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy
You try riding a bike one-handed while balancing a basketball in the other. It’s not a safe way to travel. Adrian Lindsey, a 17-year-old senior at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, was tired of chasing his runaway basketball into traffic when he’d ride to the park near his Akron home. Instead of packing his game in just any old bag, Lindsey invented his own: the All-Net Sak. “You have book bags and tote bags,” Lindsey says. “I wanted mine to be unique.”
He used an actual basketball net and modified it into a bag with a messenger-style strap. Now, the bag sells for $19.98 at the Severance Town Center Wal-Mart, Embroid Me in Montrose and online at allnetsak.com. The Cavaliers will also stock Lindsey’s invention at the Quicken Loans Arena team shop this season.
On seeing others carrying the All-Net Sak: “Sometimes I go up to them and say, ‘Hey, nice bag,’ ” Lindsey says, but doesn’t mention he’s the inventor. Lindsey is proud of the exposure the All-Net Sak gets at events such as LeBron James’ King for Kids Bikeathon, where participants each received the tote.
Favorite NBA players: LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant
His career aspirations: Lindsey plans on being a doctor. “My goal is to make a prosthesis that moves like a normal body part.”
Hours on the court each day: Two
When he’s not shooting hoops: Lindsey can be found playing video games such as NBA 2K8.
Business time: Lindsey wants to bring the Cleveland-based E City entrepreneurship camp to Akron. Besides teaching students how to get ideas patented and discussing business startups, the camp will have “our own touch,” he says.
Lab Rats to Racers
Nicole Palermo and Clare Joyce, Regina High School
Move over, boys. Regina High School’s engineering class can teach everyone a few things about what it’s like to build a car from scratch. Nicole Palermo, Clare Joyce and 15 of their classmates are the only all-girls team that will build and race an electric car in the Convergence Innovative Vehicle Design program.
The girls spent 10 months under the hood, and on Oct. 4, they’ll race their vehicle (capping out at about 25 mph) in Detroit.
“It’s not enough to have the car run,” says Palermo, 17. The car kit included a chassis, shell, fiberglass body, some nuts and bolts and an electric motor the size of a human head. “We had to bring something to this car that wasn’t there before.”
The girls are tackling safety. They’ll wire the motor to start only when the seatbelt is buckled, she says. “We’re learning as we go.”
The paint job: The girls chose a Kelly green body paint with shimmery sage flames on the hood, and their team name, Racing Royals, across the front and on both sides.
Going green: The electric car project jives with Joyce’s interest in alternative energy. She plans to be a chemical engineer. “If we could use this electric technology in actual cars and market and sell them in this country…” she muses. “Hopefully I will be involved in that somehow.”
Texts per day: Zero, says Joyce, 17. “Because I don’t have texting service.” Ditto for Palermo.
What they listen to: Joyce likes alternative rock bands such as The Academy Is ... and Fall Out Boy. “I’m a country fan,” says Palmero. She really likes the song, “Back When I Knew It All” by Montgomery Gentry.
What they currently drive: Joyce gets around in her dad’s 1993 Toyota Corolla stickshift, while Palermo uses her parent’s Chevrolet Impala.
Their dream car: Joyce has her eyes on a hybrid such as a Toyota Prius. Palmero wants a Lamborghini, “because it’s sweet.”
Player to Pro
Patrick Van Horn, Padua Franciscan High School
There’s no crying in rugby — you have to be tough. The protective gear is limited and optional: mouth guards, maybe a thin scrum cap and inch-thick shoulder pads.
But Padua senior Patrick Van Horn can hold his own. After playing the game for only three years as a member of the Parma Rugby Club Blackhearts, he was named captain of the USA Rugby’s U-18 squad this year, and is the first Clevelander to go international.
He caught the national team’s eye at two rugby camps — which included grueling practices followed by cut sessions.
Ask him about the honor, and he’ll tell you he was shocked. Humble guy. We don’t mind bragging about his game.
Getting into rugby: Van Horn got hooked on the game in high school after his older brother started playing. “It was a big chain reaction how it worked out,” he says. Van Horn was a natural. He was invited to play at training camps where scouts from USA teams watched and selected him as one of 30 members on the U-18 team.
On the field: “When I’m doing drills, I don’t do as well, but when I get into game play, it just flows,” Van Horn, 18, says of his performance at the camps.
Rugby rules: “Rugby is a game of possession, not a game of inches [like football],” he says. “Any size guy can rule the ball.” Also, Van Horn says he likes that he can be a decision-maker on the field. “Coaches can only give so much guidance before the game,” he says. “In rugby, you call the shots on the field as you go. There is more freedom than in football.”
If there were no rugby: Van Horn would go snowboarding. Around here, he hits the slopes at Boston Mills. His family takes trips to New York each year to get a skiing/snowboarding fix.
Hidden talent: “I can lick my nose,” he says, quick to answer. Does this come in handy? “Not really. It’s just a good laugh every now and then.”