Among the many stages and phases of life, there is something genuinely unique about the teen years. It is a period of being on the cusp of both childhood and adulthood. There are times when they just want to be a kid, yet others when they want to be treated like an adult. A tricky juxtaposition, if ever there was one. We expect much of teens, though perhaps no more than the expectations many of them put on themselves. We ask, with great frequency, what they’re going to do after high school – what are they planning to major in at college – even knowing it’s foolish to expect an 18-year-old to know what they want to do with the Rest Of Their Lives. But maybe it’s less an expectation that they know all those things now, rather an encouragement to dream. To imagine a path for their lives, knowing there will be twists, turns, and redirections along the way.
This year, we are honored to spotlight five local teens as they offer us a glimpse into their worlds; sharing their dreams for the future, along with the things and people that motivate and inspire them; the things that have made them strive for excellence. They are also sure to charm you with a Fun Fact about themselves.
Introducing SFM’s 2018 Teens to Watch:
To say that Hannah, a senior at Laurel High School, is busy, would be an understatement. With an almost unexpected flair for the dramatic, this quiet teen has taken on active roles in her school’s fall musicals and spring plays, as well as being a member of the Speech, Drama, and Debate team, having been co-captain her junior year. Besides being involved in student government and being a member of the National Honor Society, Hannah has also enjoyed being a BIG for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yellowstone County. She also works for Laurel’s Before and After School Programs, as well as at the Amusement Park Drive-In Theater. With all of that on her plate, Hannah has managed to maintain a 4.00 GPA while taking AP classes in addition to her core classes.
When asked who has been a positive influence in her life, Hannah points to her family as a whole, but in particular her mother, Danielle. She credits her mom for teaching her to stand on her own, to be herself while instilling the mindset that she can conquer whatever she puts her mind to. Hannah adds that her friends have also kept her “on a positive path,” ensuring she always has someone to talk to – no matter how silly the subject. Last, she identifies her Speech, Drama, and Debate “coaches/family,” Coaches Schwartz, Anderson, Johnson, Porisch, and teammates as having taught her that she has a voice, and shown her what it means to be good at something. Hannah, concludes, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without any of them. It truly took a village to get to this point in my life!”
Next, Hannah shared with us the things that have motivated her to strive for excellence. First and foremost it’s a desire to perform well, noting that she not only wants to experience as much as she can during her lifetime, but she wants to work hard in every area of her life. She prides herself on being someone who thrives under pressure.
Looking to the future, Hannah shares that even though she has always been interested in Education, she can see herself doing many things, so it’s difficult to know where, specifically, she’ll end up. Though she might not know where, she sees college as being in her future, and is “willing to allow myself to explore who I am now, who I want to be, and how to achieve that.”
Fun Fact: I am a nacho aficionado and know where to get the best cheese in Laurel. In working with students at the Before and After School Program, one student actively refers to me as his chicken nugget.
Kyra, a junior at Billings Central Catholic High School, is not only an exceptional student – earning straight A’s in her classes, all honor and AP honor classes – but she is also an avid golfer (having played since she was 3), and carries an abiding passion for all things music (playing the trumpet, trombone, piano, and melodica. She plays in multiple bands at BCCHS – having earned Superior ratings at the State Music Festival on both the trombone and trumpet – as well as being part of Billings Youth Repertory Orchestra). Kyra has spent hours after school mentoring other up and coming trumpet players, as well as being involved with the First Tee of Montana program, first as a student, and now as a mentor, along with putting in hundreds of hours as a youth volunteer with St. Vincent Healthcare. Kyra is also looking forward to her third year debating on Central’s Debate team.
Other than her parents, the two most positive influences in Kyra’s life are Bernie Steffan, director of The First Tee of Montana, and Mark Fenderson, an associate professor of high brass at MSUB. Kyra shares that Bernie has shown her “what it means to have good values, and how to be a genuinely good person in my everyday life.” Professor Fenderson is “the person that truly sparked my passion for music and made me realize [that] with hard work and perseverance, you can make a career out of something you are truly passionate about, as he has done.”
What motivates Kyra to strive for excellence are her passions for golf, music, and academics; all areas she strives to be a positive role model to kids in this community. Kyra notes that these passions have opened the door to many opportunities. Such as, being chosen to represent Montana at the First Tee Life Skills and Leadership Academy at Michigan State University this past July, being selected for All State Band (taking place this October), making Repertory for Billings Youth Orchestra, receiving the 2018 Don McComas Memorial Award at the Red Lodge Music Festival, and having the opportunity to travel and play in NYC this February.
Looking to the future, Kyra’s goal is to attend an out-of-state school on a golf scholarship, majoring in music performance. Post-college goal is to travel with a musical, playing in the pit. Her lifetime goal is to play for a professional orchestra. Making time to volunteer is an essential thread that Kyra hopes to continue weaving throughout her lifetime.
Fun Fact: People may be surprised to know that I was the first baby born in Montana in 2002, and was recognized as “Baby New Year.”
Madison, a senior at Billings West High School, is praised for being a genuine, honest, and hard-working young lady. Recently accepted into MSU-Bozeman’s Pre-Nursing program, Madison has volunteered at the Billings Clinic for the last three years and is looking forward to having her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) licensure by December. In addition to being active at her church, Apostles Lutheran, Madison also works at Great Harvest, all while maintaining a 3.7 GPA.
Though she unexpectedly lost her father at a young age, Madison explains that, by age 13, he had already instilled many of the core beliefs that she values today, making him one of the most positive influences in her life – today and always. She shares that he “constantly encouraged me to be the person I could be, and always helped me find the silver lining.”
Madison points to a couple of things that push her to strive for excellence. First, it’s knowing that “there is always more that I can do to help others, and [to] bring a smile to their face.” Furthermore, it’s knowing she can push herself to do better, whether that’s in the classroom, or in finding ways to better herself as a person.
Looking forward, Madison plans to earn her Nursing degree from MSU-Bozeman. After college, she plans to either return home to get a job at Billings Clinic or find a travel nursing job.
Fun/Interesting Fact: People tend to think of the cliché that “women can’t drive,” but in this case, it’s unfortunately true. Not that I am proud, but my record is five fender benders.
Justen, a senior at Billings Senior High School, has carved out space in athletics, earning spots on the Broncs’ varsity teams for soccer and wrestling, since his sophomore year. Though he’s played soccer for eight years, it was only in his freshman year that Justen began wrestling, and his work ethic translates into academics, as he maintains a 3.9 GPA. The busy senior is also involved in Young Life (a youth group) and strives to carve out time to play video games with friends, as well as spending time with his girlfriend of two years, Delaney.
When identifying a positive influence in his life, Justen recalls former classmate, Charlie Klepps. He shares that Charlie has shown him that a student can be “extremely substantial at sports while carrying a workload of school projects and assignments, and still get a solid grade.” Beyond that, Justen points to the way Charlie helped students with special needs, not to mention, he’s a “one-in-a-million type of personality.”
When it comes to the source of what motivates him to strive for excellence, Justen shines the spotlight on his parents, Katie and Troy, and his twin brother Kolten. It’s the way his parents are always there for him, pushing him to do better and to achieve better grades; along with the support they offer in attending his every sporting event. On the other hand, says Justen, his brother motivates him by making “EVERYTHING a competition.” He adds, “If I were not a twin, I do not think I would be as far as I am today.”
When imagining his future, Justen sees himself living in Florida where the weather is nice, and the beaches are beautiful. He envisions himself married with a family, after becoming either an engineer or architect. “It would be impressive to create something on paper and then see what I created in real life.”
Fun Fact: I hate barbeque sauce!
Kolten, a senior at Billings Senior High School, is the kind of kid who always has a smile on his face, who works hard, and has arrived at his senior year with a solid foundation of ethics and core values. Though he’s said to be quiet at times, on the soccer field, his coach, Zach Robbins, is proud to share that he’s “really stepped into a leadership role this season.” A competitive nature coupled with a strong work ethic has led to Kolten being the starting goalie for the Broncs since his sophomore year. Coach Robbins concludes that the Unrein brothers are “good kids, competitive and fiery, too…They’re gritty. All traits that will serve them well in the world.”
As did his brother, Kolten identifies Charlie Klepps as being a positive influence in his life during his high school years. It was Charlie’s ability to balance school and sports while maintaining solid relationships with friends that Kolten strives to emulate. He was someone to look up to, says Kolten “because I admired how he was able to accomplish his goals.”
In striving for excellence, Kolten believes that having a positive mindset in all that he does has been an important piece of the motivating puzzle. Additionally, his belief in God has inspired him to try to live through Him and His word.
As Kolten prepares for his next chapter, he plans to attend college at MSU-Bozeman for “some type of engineering degree, possibly civil.” With a certain air of practicality, Kolten reflects that math has been the area he has specifically excelled in, making him believe that the wisest choice for his future is to work towards a career that is math-related. However, a recent interest in anesthesiology has him researching what kind of schooling and requirements would be involved in taking that path.
Fun Fact: I have broken both of my hands in the same exact spot. The injury was not at the same time it was actually two different incidents; one with soccer, and one, about 8 months later, with wrestling. The cracks in the bone looked identical on both sides.
Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s October 2018 issue.
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