You don’t have to wait for adulthood to make a difference. These Bay Area youngsters have earned kudos for unique achievements in all kinds of arenas, literally and figuratively.
Ella Clark and Emma Orrick
These 17-year-olds’ labors to unionize a Starbucks in Mill Valley failed by just one vote. According to the National Labor Relations Board, six workers voted yes while seven voted no. But Clark and Orrick, both employees of the Strawberry Village site, definitely brewed awareness about issues such as the lack of credit card tipping and control over mobile orders. A rising senior at Mill Valley’s Tamalpais High School, Clark says she was motivated by Starbucks’ treatment of workers in Buffalo, New York, at what became the chain’s first union shop in December. She persuaded Orrick, a rising senior at Redwood High School in Larkspur, to join her. “We are able to do this because we are high schoolers,” Clark told the San Francisco Examiner, the Gazette’s sister publication, before the June 6 vote count. “We can afford to stick our necks out, to lose hours or get fired for this because we don’t need this job.”
The 18-year-old drummer from Mill Valley didn’t have to wait for the June 9 graduation ceremony at Tamalpais High School to hear applause. As part of The Alive, the band he formed four years ago with brother Manoa, 14, and friend Bastian Evans, 17, Neukermans skipped school in March to open for the Foo Fighters at the Lollapalooza festival in Chile, then performed at the sold-out BottleRock festival in Napa over Memorial Day weekend. He also aced the musical version of a pop quiz earlier in May, when he learned from friend Olivia Vedder, daughter of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, that the band needed replacements at Oakland Arena that night for its COVIDpositive drummer, Matt Cameron. After a brief practice, Neukermans accompanied Pearl Jam on “Mind Your Manners,” which “only lasted 3 minutes, but gave me a lifetime of memories,” he wrote in a guest column for Riff magazine. Catch The Alive at an all-ages show July 23 at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco.
Although the four-star wide receiver still has his senior year to go at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, his plans for 2023 are firming up nicely. Considered one of the top 60 prospects in the country, in early May, the 6’2″, 210-pound versatile athlete formally committed to the Oregon Ducks during a livestreamed event at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula clubhouse in his hometown of East Palo Alto. A few days later, he became league champion in the long jump. The All-American Bowl in San Antonio and the Polynesian Bowl in Honolulu also tapped the 17-year-old, an avid fisherman, to play in their January 2023 all-star games. “He brings a lot of ability, skill and intangibles to the game,” national recruiting analyst Chris Singletary wrote in a scouting report for 247Sports.com. Proud mom Shirri Brockett praises his intelligence and “phenomenal” work ethic, sharing with the Gazette that “whatever he chooses to put his mind and heart to, he will accomplish.”
Isabella and Roman Fong
The San Francisco Section high school baseball championship on May 17, the first at Oracle Park since 2019, made headlines for at least two more reasons: Not only did the Washington Eagles best the Lowell Cardinals 6–1 for the former’s first title since 2012, but also the game marked the first face-off in uniform for these 16-year-old twins and rising juniors — and likely the first of any brother and sister in the stadium. Although pitcher/infielder Isabella didn’t end up on the field, her junior varsity coach Dan Reznik notes her resolve in coming back from an injury earlier in the year. “By the end of the school year, she was our most reliable pitcher,” he says. Roman, Lowell’s leadoff hitter and third baseman, was gracious in defeat, telling maxpreps.com, “It feels bad to be on the losing side, but I’m super proud of her.”
Summer vacation means getting down to work, not play, for this recent fifth-grade graduate of Stratford School in Palo Alto, who built a Little Free Library last fall outside his home in the city’s Crescent Park neighborhood. Before entering Woodside Priory in August — the son of Amit Agarwal, a senior vice president at Amazon, and architect Priyanki Gupta — Arjun plans to build his second freestanding library, most likely in East Palo Alto. That’s where Gupta “supports a charter school through the Peninsula Bridge program,” Arjun explains to the Gazette, adding, “I am still talking to them about my next project.” To fund construction costs, he’s relying on sales of his picture book, Where Is the Little Dinosaur?, via his website (letsread.fun). Arjun also finds reading fun. “I love many authors, but my favorites are J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan and Tui T. Sutherland,” says Arjun, whose favorite book series are Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Wings of Fire, and Calvin and Hobbes.