The Kids Are Alright // Stellar Students at BHS

By Susan Brandzel

Being a teenager is a notoriously epic challenge. Innumerable books line the shelves of libraries and bookstores about the emotional roller coaster kids ride as they transition to adulthood. We talked to five Bainbridge high schoolers who are harnessing their creativity, courage and sense of adventure to make the most of the ride. BHS junior, Colby Jensen, remembers being scatterbrained and hyper when he was little. His mother, Diane, now describes him as “laser focused.” When Colby was 7, he had a transformative experience.

Colby’s grandfather, who had worked for the airlines, offered Colby the chance to use a computer simulator to “land” a virtual 747 airplane. Sitting on his grandfather’s lap, family fanned out and watching behind him, Colby landed that plane. To this day, Colby is the only family member who has been able to do so successfully. Colby started flying real, single-engine airplanes, accompanied by a flight instructor, out of Bremerton airport when he was 13. He even had the courage to take his mother and then 8-year-old sister, Ginger, on his first flight. The one word he used to describe this experience was “bliss.” Now 16, Colby drives himself to the Bremerton airport four days per week, two of which are for flight class and two for actual flying practice.

Once he turns 17, Colby will be able to fly on his own. From what he describes, this is only one step in his well-planned trajectory of a career and lifelong passion guiding airplanes into the sky. In the long term, Colby hopes to become a commercial pilot and even a test pilot someday. In the meantime, he can barely wait to take his grandfather on his first solo flight. When asked why he loves flying so much, Colby said, “I love flying because although it is such a structured skill, it is equally an art form. It is comparable to an athlete getting in the zone. For me flying has always been an experience in which I become fully immersed. My concept of reality becomes secondary to the world of aviation.”

Clio Batali, at age 16, is a selfdescribed engineer. She loves to tinker, fiddle and figure out how things function. As a member of the BHS robotics club, she gets to put her engineering drive into high gear at competitions all over the Northwest and beyond. But Clio’s interests extend far and wide from engineering.As a result of concurrent interests in building and music, Clio built a theremin, an electronic musical instrument probably most well known as the source for sound effects in creepy Vincent Price movies.

Clio is also passionate about the biomedical club that she belongs to at BHS. On a recent club field trip to a UW bioengineering lab, she was jazzed to demo robotic surgery equipment and observe the development of high-tech prostheses. At home, her family has always enjoyed substantive exploration of hot button issues and philosophies. It’s no surprise then that Clio is also an avid member of the BHS debate team. She loves to research, construct and test out ideas, words and opinions.

She relishes the research required to argue any side of a particular topic, rising to the challenge of understanding and even supporting a perspective that is contrary to her own opinion. When explaining why she is so attracted to debate, Clio said, “What I find most enjoyable is finding new ways to look at the same ideas.” Most recently, she has engaged in debates about minimum wage and the concept of attorneyclient privilege.

Ninth-grader Olivia Connors first discovered her gravitational attraction to the guitar at age 5 while at playgroup. Instead of galloping around with her peers that day, Olivia spent the entire time in a corner of the room with one of the parents and a toy guitar. By age 8, she had started composing songs. And by 9, Olivia was publicly performing at community and school events. Olivia’s songwriting isn’t just for herself. One of her songs, entitled “He’s Flying,” is a tribute to her 11- year-old brother Mason, who is autistic. Olivia performed the song when she was just 10 at a Bainbridge benefit for autism awareness. The song lyrics, “He speaks a different language.

I’m learning it so slow. He’s trying to let me in to a distant place he knows,” demonstrate her deep understanding of and connection to Mason. Another song she wrote and performed for a middle school social studies assignment about the Anne Frank story was so moving that it left her teacher in tears. Last year while on a ski vacation, Olivia’s adult cousin offered to help Olivia make a music video. They spent the majority of the vacation filming Olivia playing her guitar and singing on snowy hillsides and among tall evergreen trees. The beautiful video of Olivia performing the song “Skinny Love” can be found on her YouTube channel.

Seventeen-year-old Anna Cinamon is said to have started tap dancing while still inside her mother. Her parents knew, even then, that she was either going to be a soccer player or a dancer. The latter has come true in spades. Anna took her first dance class at the Bainbridge Dance Center (BDC) at the tender age of 4. Thirteen years later, and while balancing senior-year coursework at BHS and a job scooping ice cream at Mora, she concurrently studies ballet, tap, jazz, modern and composition at BDC for an average of 18 hours per week. A child of two architects, Anna said, “Creative expression was always just a part of my life.”

Among all of the types of dance Anna does, modern is her favorite. She feels it allows her to move most freely. About a year and a half ago, Anna decided to take up the drums. She is currently enjoying the mental interplay between the percussiveness of her drums and the sounds her feet make when tap dancing. Anna was recently honored at Bainbridge Youth Services’ Compassion and Caring event. She and four of her dancer friends choreographed and performed a piece at a fundraiser held at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art to benefit children with cancer.

Anna’s kind spirit is further reflected in her plans for the future. Although she said she will always dance, she also wants to study environmental science so she can, in her own words, “save the world.” All these kids juggle a lot, between academics, extracurricular activities and just growing up.

For senior Dylan Karter, juggling is actually the point. Literally, juggling. Dylan started juggling when he was 9. For many years, he and his father took the ferry to the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts in Seattle every weekend to practice with a coach. During that time, Dylan made it a personal goal to practice juggling for two hours every day. These days, he is also mixing in some of his other passions, such as mountain biking, putting in time as an instructor for a local mountain biking club.

Dylan’s offbeat hobbies don’t stop with balls and bikes. In the summer, Dylan does something that probably no other island teenager has ever considered: he and his father travel to Lapland in the very northern outposts of Norway to herd reindeer. Friends whom Dylan’s father, Andy, met back in the 1970s, introduced him to a Sami family that owns a reindeer ranch, and a friendship was formed that has lasted decades. During the summer weeks of the midnight sun, the Karters fly to Norway, where their journey to reach the herding lands only just begins.

They eventually land at their camping site by ATV, towing the parts of the teepee-like structure that they sleep in for the duration of the herding season. Dylan’s main job is to help locate, corral and mark the reindeer calves. This activity requires a number of skills, Dylan’s favorite of which is lassoing. According to his dad, he is a natural. Dylan says it is a “use it or lose it” skill, but he looks forward to refreshing that talent every summer.