South Bay Teens: 10 to Watch
They are young. They are talented. They are the South Bay’s bright future. Meet 10 extraordinary local teens, handpicked by our readers for their amazing gifts, inspirational stories and incredible potential for success. You may not know their names now … but we think you will.
- Edited byDarren Elms
Noah Collins, 16 | Manhattan Beach
Every morning at 5:50 a.m., Manhattan Beach’s Noah Collins hits the waves for early surf before heading to class at Mira Costa High School. Once school lets out, he’s back on the water for an afternoon session. This is the life of a young competitive surfer.
“Surfing is incomparable to any other sport,” he says. “It’s not like basketball, where in any sort of conditions, you can practice the same lay-up 100 times in a row. In surfing, every wave offers different opportunities and is never the same, making it very hard to practice a variety of maneuvers in a series of days. It’s very challenging, and I am a person that likes to conquer challenges.”
To date, Noah has been sponsored by Body Glove, Spyder Surf Shop, Roberts Surfboards, Electric eyewear, Sanuk shoes, Sector 9 skateboards and Waxy Wax. “They supply me with all the product I need and a lot of support towards pushing me to get to the next level in my career,” he says.
When in Tahiti with the Body Glove team, the surfer had the opportunity to mingle with some of the greats in his sport. “Jamie O’Brien, Cheyne Magnusson, Anthony Walsh, Greg Browning, Brent Bielmann, Scott Smith and I surfed Teahupo’o and many other spots on the islands of Tahiti and Moorea,” he relays. “This amazingly talented group of guys led it to be the trip of a lifetime.”
Next year, Noah’s biggest goal is to begin the Pro Junior circuit, doing worldwide contests, upping his game and getting decent results. “Surfing a crowded spot or my home break with some really good surfers that I look up to pushes me more than anything to do what they are doing and to go bigger and better.”
Jazmin Chang, 13 | Manhattan Beach
"I wanted to get out of the house and do a sport, but I didn’t want to be like everyone else,” says Jazmin Chang, a Manhattan Beach native, of her decision to become an aerialist (an acrobat who performs in the air on a suspended apparatus, like a trapeze or rope). “I’ve played the piano, dabbled in jujitsu, but this was an instant passion for me. I couldn’t get enough. I started off with a two-hour class once a week, and within six months, I was at the studio every day.”
The eighth-grader at Manhattan Beach Middle School describes how this challenging sport allows her to be creative, artful and expressive. “I do it all the time. Doing my homework, I’m stretching … while eating breakfast. I made a joke one day with my mom, when she complimented me on my handstands, which I do all the time, and I said, ‘Yeah, but I’m having trouble when both feet are on the ground.’”
Jazmin admits it can be a balancing act fitting in time for school and time at the studio training. “Being responsible and putting what I have to do before what I really want is a big challenge. If I could, I would train every day, that’s what I want. But I know that I need a good education to support my future.”
Luckily, her parents have her back 100% and make sure to attend every performance. “They have encouraged me to catch my dreams and to never let them go,” she says.
Right now, the teen is learning more apparatuses and new routines in order to improve her craft. “My coaches tell me that I have a lot of natural talent, natural musicality, so I would love to be expressing that in whatever art form I can,” she says. “I think I am the best when doing what I love.”
Bridger Hart, 13 | Hermosa Beach
"I’ve been raised with a strong creative emphasis and many art supplies to experiment with,” says Bridger Hart, a Hermosa Beach native and eighth-grader at Hermosa Valley School. “Since we could hold pencils, my brothers and I have drawn and created.”
As Bridger got older, he started experimenting with graphic design and abstract drawing, discovering a special interest in three-dimensional design. When he was 10, his parents bought him his first flip camera.
“I loved that camera, and it sparked a great interest in making short films, as well as in photography,“ he says. His dad, a product designer and former art director, helped him make some equipment, and his mom, a former fashion designer, sewed her son a green screen. His best friend often serves as his most “reliable” actor and collaborator.
“My parents purchased a nice ‘family’ DSLR a few years ago but have allowed me to use it most often,” Bridger confides. “That has really got me very interested in cinematography and photography. I find this to be one of the most important parts in filmmaking.”
This budding Spielberg acknowledges his respect for that celebrated director, who got his start with not much more than passion, perseverance and creativity, Bridger notes. He also expresses admiration in the work of Wes Anderson. “My list is always growing, as I feel that I can learn different things from different filmmakers.”
In addition to being a Junior Lifeguard, skateboarder and junior high student, Bridger hopes to become a YouTube “Partner” this year, cashing in on some of the films posted on his channel.
“I’ve discovered that if I wake up early before school to study, as well as spend my lunch periods doing homework, that on a good day, I could also fit in some time editing my short films and videos later in the evening,” he says. “I look forward to the day when my hobby can be my main focus!”
Joseph Schiff, 18 | Manhattan Beach
He sails. He plays the violin. He’s surviving senioritis. Joseph Schiff is what you might call a true Renaissance man. And he’s only 18.
“When I’m out on the water, it’s about as free as you can get,” he says. “There are no roads telling you where to go, and you don’t have to fill up a gas tank. You just set your sails and go.”
He first picked up the violin in the third grade and hasn’t put it down since. “When I’m practicing violin, I have to play and play until I can play whatever music is in front of me perfectly,” he says. “When I do, something inside of me becomes addicted to that tone, and I want to recreate it as much as I can.” Joseph was honored to play with the Mira Costa Orchestra at a special concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The self-proclaimed waterman dabbles in all kinds of ocean sports, from surf to paddle. But it’s sailing that’s captured his free-spirited, young heart. A member of the King Harbor Youth Foundation who placed in the top 10 for number of regattas in Southern California, it’s not always smooth sailing for this ambitious teen.
“After a bad regatta, it is hard to get down on yourself and throw away all your hard work, but you need to stay motivated and keep your mind from the past—staying focused on the future and how I can improve.”
As he heads off to college, Joseph plans to continue his sailing career with an eye on the Olympics. “That means traveling all over the world to Olympic qualifying events and devoting my whole entire life to sailing,” he says. “I know that it is a large commitment, but I feel like I will be ready for it.”
Max Allen, 17 | Palos Verdes Estates
My parents introduced me to the ocean at a very young age, and I have been hooked ever since,” says Max Allen, a budding filmmaker and student at Palos Verdes High School. “It is constantly moving and changing; you have to react quickly, and it can surprise you sometimes. I like that it is never the same; there is always something new.”
Max is a fourth-generation South Bay resident, so you can say a kinship to the ocean runs in his blood. “I enjoy hearing stories from my grandparents about what it used to be like here,” he shares. “It’s cool that my grandparents shared a lot of the same interests and hobbies I do today, like surfing, paddling, snorkeling, diving and bodysurfing.”
For the last two years, Max has taken his love for the water a step further, cultivating a creative outlet behind the camera. “I was drawn to filmmaking, because it gave me a chance to share my experiences,” he says. “I can take a family vacation or a summer with my friends and condense it into a three-minute film.”
Max’s short films go deep into the local landscape, whether exploring the textures rolling by beneath his skateboard or floating under beds of seaweed off the coast. There’s something simple, elegant and easy about his editing, not unlike the perfect day in the South Bay.
His biggest accomplishment to date? Finding a solid balance between school, social life, hobbies and work. “I am proud to have accomplished this independently without the micromanagement of helicopter parents,” he says. “The surf may be pumping, and I’ll opt to study for a math test.”
Claire Wineland, 16 | Redondo Beach
Most South Bay teens rack up their fair share of term papers, but how many can say they’ve written a book? But most of these teens are not Claire Wineland, nor do they share the same challenges she’s struggled with all her life.
Claire lives with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease requiring constant treatment and frequent hospital visits. However, this gregarious young woman with a smile wider than The Strand will be the first to tell you that the biggest challenge in her life isn’t quite what you’d expect.
“Gosh, I think just being a teenager,” she says. “Everyone expects me to say it’s living with CF, but I’m so used to that and all that comes with it. Being a teenager, on the other hand …”
As someone who admires people who don’t shy away from life and all that comes with it, Claire set out to do what many others her age would only dream about doing. She wrote a book.
“Living with cystic fibrosis has been tricky, and I have always wanted to share my story with other CF-ers,” she shares. “When the opportunity came, I guess I was excited to just jump on it.”
Claire co-authored her book, Every Breath I Take: Surviving and Thriving with Cystic Fibrosis, with Chynna Bracha Levin. All proceeds from the book will be donated to the foundation she founded in 2010, Claire’s Place Foundation. The foundation offers CF patients dream trip assistance and/or financial assistance for weeks-long and sometimes months-long hospital visits.
“I love seeing the people I have inspired,” she says. “It makes me feel really good and proud that I have helped them.”
Shivaani Gandhi, 17 | Redondo Beach
"I’ve always been good at math, and naturally we like the things we’re good at,” says Shivaani Gandhi, a senior at Redondo Union High School. “It’s amazing to me that everything about our world can be defined by something as simple as numbers.”
If there were one number to assign this bright, outgoing teen, it would be “one.” That’s the number she ranks academically among her 578 peers at school. But there’s more to Shivaani than just brains. She’s also known around campus for her enormous heart.
“There is so much opportunity for us to get involved in the community. I spend pretty much all of my free time volunteering with The Friendship Circle, which is a nonprofit organization that provides programs for individuals with special needs,” she says. “We do a lot of fun activities, including beach camps, hikes in Malibu and the annual Skechers Friendship Walk. I think it’s really unique, because we find ways to incorporate the South Bay’s laid-back attitude into our community service.”
To date, Shivaani has accumulated an astonishing 1,000 community service hours working with The Friendship Circle. Somehow, she has time to do homework and achieve incredible grades. She hopes to one day combine her love of service and math and science and become an engineer, helping to solve the many problems that society faces.
But first things first. “My biggest goal for the next year is to write a parametric function that imitates my signature,” she says. (Laughter) “Just kidding. My goal is to have as much fun during my first year of college as possible, while learning everything that I can.”
Amanda Summer Villapando, 17 | Manhattan Beach
Amanda Villapando fits perfectly in the shoes of your typical Manhattan Beach teenager: breakfast at Uncle Bill’s or The Kettle, shopping at The Beehive, maybe some beach volleyball or a run on the Greenbelt. But her kicks get more traction than many of her peers, primarily due to her involvement with Skechers annual Pier to Pier Friendship Walk, a fundraiser for special needs education.
“Seeing the impact that the organization has on kids with special needs and local teens made me want to get involved,” says the Mira Costa senior. Her incredible efforts behind the scenes at this important local event propelled her to an impressive co-chair seat.
“Amanda played a key role in raising over $150,000 for The Friendship Circle, simply by sharing her experiences to the Eisner Foundation and Share, INC.,” notes Skechers’ Michael Greenberg. “Her ability to command a room at such a young age is something to be seen.”
The busy teen also dedicates extra hours to volleyball, as captain on an indoor team, and competes as an all-star track and field athlete. But it’s her time volunteering with The Friendship Circle that she considers her biggest accomplishment. “This organization has taught me the importance of helping others and given me the confidence to speak in front of large groups of powerful people,” she says.
So look out, corporate America. In 10 years, it may be Amanda you find leading your meeting from the other side of the conference table.
Indigo Monk, 17 | Manhattan Beach
Indigo Monk views living in the South Bay as a privilege, though it depends on the season as to whether you’ll find her here. “I love the beach and love to surf, so I couldn’t ask to live in a better place in the summer,” says the teenager. “In the winter, I have the opportunity to live in Breckenridge, Colorado and travel around the world to compete in snowboarding. I have the best of both worlds.”
At the ripe old age of 3, Indigo began snowboarding—a passion that has driven her to become the competitive young woman she is today. In order to achieve her professional goals, she knew some sacrifices would have to be made.
“The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to attend public school in Manhattan Beach and pursue a career in snowboarding,” she confides. “It wasn’t until last year that I began attending California Virtual Academy, but since I began, I’ve been able to get my assignments turned in early, and that makes focusing on training and contests much easier.”
Indigo’s specialty, slopestyle snowboarding, recently became an Olympic event, so it’s crucial now more than ever that she stay at the top of her mental and physical game—especially if she’s going to qualify to compete in the 2018 games in South Korea. Currently, she is one of only a few women set to compete in the U.S. Snowboarding Junior World Championships in 2013.
“My life wouldn’t be the same without snowboarding, There is nothing in this world that fulfills me more or gives me more happiness.”
Katie Mignola, 18 | Manhattan Beach
Known around Vistamar School as a leader and risk-taker, Katie sticks up for the underdog and feels strongly about her convictions. She repeatedly shows that having a big heart also requires equal energy, courage and determination if you want to get anything accomplished.
Passionate about providing a voice for those who receive unfair treatment in society, she leads her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Network chapter. She received the Princeton Book award last year for her service and commitment to social justice. In addition, she competes with the fencing team, photographs for the school yearbook and volunteers with the Roundhouse Aquarium in Manhattan Beach.
After a community service trip to Nicaragua last spring, Katie made the decision to pursue veterinary science, hoping to assist abused animals on the international stage. “In Nicaragua, I saw a very weak, malnourished dog. His face is the one I think of whenever I think about why I put so much effort into school,” she says. “I’m doing it all for him and to save others like him.”
Following college, Katie hopes to intern at an animal hospital or spend time abroad with a program like Veterinarians Without Borders or VIDA. “My parents have told me since I was little that I could follow whatever dreams I had,” she shares, “because that’s what they did, and it worked out for them.”
To celebrate Chef Makoto’s first lead performance on The Food Network’s Iron Chef America, Sashi welcomed Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Top Chef champion Michael Voltaggio, Ironnori’s Noriyuki Sugie and Patina’s Waylynn Lucas for a once in a lifetime culinary experience. Guests enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a six-course tasting menu, and a special screening of Chef Makoto’s episode. Photography by Aaron Bush, aaronbush.com.