20 Standout South Florida Teens Who Are Forces In Their Fields

20 Standout South Florida Teens Who Are Forces In Their Fields

by Alyssa Morlacci Jan 2017 Also on Digital Edition

If our future lies in the hands of our youth, chances are we’ll be A-OK. From entrepreneurs to philanthropists to athletes, these 20 standout youth are making a difference and leaving their mark on our community. 

Emil and Dariel Liakhovetski

Cellists  /  19 and 16

Emil and Dariel Liakhovetski learned how to play the cello at a young age, thanks to their grandfather’s influence. After performing together for many years and improving their tune, the duo created RockCellos, combining the classic sound of cello with rock. After appearing on “America’s Got Talent” in 2014, the brothers’ performance went viral, captivating fans by the millions. They finished as finalists and even came out with a debut record. Today, the brothers can be found hitting the books at Florida Atlantic University and will be touring in Europe come 2017. 

What has been your greatest accomplishment?

E: I think our greatest accomplishment has been inspiring a lot of young people to think outside the box, especially when it comes to music.

D: No matter what we­, or anyone for that matter, has accomplished in their life, I think that in the end, the most important thing is staying grounded and staying close with your family. I am very proud to say that we have an incredibly supportive family that makes it possible for us to do what we do.

What’s the most rewarding part of playing the cello?

E: The most rewarding part is the emotion we get back from the audience—especially when they are amazed at what cellos can sound like.

D: There’s an inexplicable feeling that comes with being on stage. Although the cello is perhaps the most beautiful sounding instrument, I think the true joy comes from the fans when we are on stage. It’s their energy and exhilaration that gets us going, and that, to me, is what makes playing the cello so exciting.


Nikki Lickstein

Singer/Songwriter / 16

Nikki Lickstein’s musical capabilities include drums, guitar, ukulele and upright acoustic bass. She sings, writes and performs in hot spots like Nashville and Las Vegas, in addition to her home in South Florida. The West Palm Beach resident, who attended the Latin Grammy Awards in November, plays in the jazz band and the orchestra at Dreyfoos School of the Arts. When she has free time, she enjoys rooting for the Miami Heat and volunteering for Big Dog Ranch Rescue. Her song “Ex Crush” aired on the U.K. radio station XRP for more than two months, and her song “What Happened Next” was nominated for an American Songwriting Award.

What has been your greatest challenge?

I have been playing guitar for over a decade and several other instruments, too. Songwriting comes naturally to me, and I am a musician at heart. However, I didn’t start vocal lessons until last year. ... It’s something I still struggle with today and continue working at with my wonderful vocal teacher, Melissa Jacobson.


Rachel Zietz

Entrepreneur  / 16

This isn’t Rachel Zietz’s first appearance in our magazine; and we aren’t the only publication recognizing the Boca Raton teen for her accomplishments. Rachel was recently included on TIME magazine’s list of 2016’s Most Influential Teens alongside Sasha and Malia Obama, Olympian Simone Biles and “Dance Moms” star Maddie Ziegler. The Pine Crest School student created her multimillion-dollar company, Gladiator Lacrosse—which retails high-end lacrosse equipment—four years ago. This led to her appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Not only is Rachel a teen CEO, but with only two percent of women-owned businesses breaking $1 million in sales each year, she’s also challenging gender norms. 

What has been your greatest accomplishment?  

I just finalized a deal with DICK’s Sporting Goods for distribution of my products in select stores and on their website, which is a huge deal for my company. One of my original goals when I started my business was to see my line of products in retailers across the country, and [it] is so rewarding that I have now reached that goal.


Nathan Berman

Philanthropist  / 18

When Nathan Berman was in the seventh grade, his Saint Andrew’s School class took a trip to Food for The Poor based in Coconut Creek. “I was exposed to some very harsh realities that millions of impoverished people around the world cope with as part of their daily lives,” says the Spanish River Community High School student. The trip inspired him to create Teens for Tomorrow, a platform and community for philanthropic youths. To date, the organization headed by the Boca native has gathered $200,000 in unused inventory from companies, and financed the construction of a home in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with a second in the works. 

What has been your greatest challenge?

This past summer I was presented the opportunity to intern at Google, helping to implement an innovative and interactive food program that feeds 95,000 employees in 65 countries daily. I worked at six regional Google headquarters throughout Europe and visited eight factories throughout Asia where equipment for Google is manufactured. Knowing little about the technology or food service industries and never having worked abroad, the opportunity was exciting but equally daunting.



Rafe Cochran

Golfer / 12

Last year, Rafe Cochran staged his first charity golf tournament and raised more than $41,000—a number that would make most non-profits envious. The young golfer, who aspires to pursue the sport in college and beyond, has put his passion to good use for Food for the Poor. The Palm Beach resident became interested in golfing at age 5, when he asked his parents for a lesson. What started out as a half-hour session once a week turned into an hour-long session twice a week and then tournament play. After participating in the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation’s European Championship in Scotland, he was hooked.

What was your proudest moment?
My proudest moment was the day of my charity golf tournament. I felt so rewarded to see it all come together and to know I was doing something good for others.


Oliver Askew

Race Car Driver / 20

Tequesta’s Oliver Askew is one of the top racing drivers in North America, having recently finished as first runner-up at the Silverstone Walter Hayes Trophy. A first-generation racer, Oliver fell into the sport on his 8th birthday when his father took him to Moroso Motorsports Park (now Palm Beach International Raceway) to drive rental go-karts. Now, the Tequesta resident is working toward his goal of competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series. 

What has been your greatest challenge?
Having come from virtually nothing to where I am today has been my greatest challenge, and the road has only just begun. Without having tremendous funding in a sport that can be very expensive, to get where I am today has been tough. I have been thrown into many difficult situations in racing, but I seem to always find myself working with the right people and succeeding in those tough situations.



Lizzie Garcia

Ballerina / 15

Lizzie Garcia is impressive enough, having performed the Nutcracker with the Miami City Ballet School, won first place at Shake The Ground dance competition, and received a scholarship to study with the Joffrey Ballet’s summer intensive in Los Angeles. But unlike many of her peers, the West Palm Beach resident didn’t begin her training as young as 2 or 3 years old. In fact, she didn’t start until four years ago—when she took her first steps after having spent 17 months in a wheelchair. While Garcia suffered from Sever’s Disease in both of her Achilles tendons, she became addicted to watching the show “Dance Moms.” Garcia, who lives in West Palm Beach, decided that if she could walk again, she would become a dancer. And that she did.  

What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge was catching up to my peers from a wheelchair [to] being able to dance at their level. It was very hard for me, but I worked extremely hard, practicing eight hours a day, six days a week to get to my goal.


Cadence Schultz

Singer / 14

Cadence Schultz has been a crowd favorite at spring training during the last two years at Roger Dean Stadium, having sung the national anthem to open nearly 10 games for the Palm Beach Cardinals and two games for the MLB St. Louis Cardinals. The Jupiter native has dreams of winning “The Voice” (once she’s old enough to compete). Until then, she’ll be balancing classes at Independence Middle School, singing notes with the Florida middle school all state choir and updating her SoundCloud profile with new covers of top 40 songs to Broadway hits.

Do you have a role model? If yes, who?
My role model is Barbra Streisand because although she has horrible stage fright, she still finds the courage to sing in front of big crowds. Stage fright was one of the aspects I had to overcome as well.


Jaidyn Brody

Fundraiser / 11

The chronic lymphocytic leukemia Jaidyn Brody’s grandfather faced propelled the then-fourth-grade student to do something on his behalf. From the Palm Beach resident’s first fundraiser two years ago to her most-recent one, she has brought in more than $18,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Palm Beach Area Chapter. Her grandfather has been the key to her proceeds as she has watched him struggle yet remain strong, inspiring her to forge ahead and find donors. When she has the opportunity to fundraise, she finishes as much homework as possible (she is a communications major at Bak Middle School of the Arts and wants to become an author) and then gets charitable.

Tell me about your proudest moment.
My proudest moment was being able to get 50 free passes to the Rapids Water Park for children who had been diagnosed with blood cancer, along with their families, who are associated with the Pediatric Oncology Support Team. I was standing at the entrance with the entire group of children and their families—with huge smiles on their faces, and it felt so good.



Sophia Reineke

Sailor / 18

The first time Sophia Reineke tried her sport, she hated it. She was 7 years old at the time, and her parents signed her up for a sailing camp at the Lauderdale Yacht Club. “I was scared of the water, the boat and pretty much everything that was involved with the sport,” says the senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. However, she stuck with it, bribed by her coach to participate in exchange for salt and vinegar Pringles. Eventually, Sophia found she enjoyed the sport for its competitive nature and travel opportunities. And now with the goal to become an Olympian, she’s likely to succeed. Sophia recently won the sailing national championship at the Cressy Nationals in Galveston, Texas, making her the second female to ever win the competition (the first being U.S. Olympian Paige Railey in 2005). 

What has been the key to your success? 
The key to my success has been consistency. Whether it is consistency in the gym, in how I fuel my body, in practice scheduling, or in my everyday life. All of this leads to consistency in my results.


Alexandre Rotsaert

Tennis Player / 17

Alexandre Rotsaert grew up watching his parents play tennis at their community tennis court. Once he received his own racket, he began hitting the ball and learning the game from his mom. Today, the Boca Raton resident still plays tennis with his mother—that is when he’s not competing in the finals for both the U.S. Hard Court and Clay Court National Championships. He also qualified for the U.S. Open Junior Championship this past summer, and he doesn’t plan to leave the court any time soon. 

What has been your greatest challenge? 
My greatest challenge in tennis has been finding ways to immediately bounce back from tough losses and not letting it affect me too much. It is something I continue to work on daily. 

Do you have a role model? 
I look up to Rafael Nadal. His work ethic, attitude and how he continues to grow in each and every game really inspires me.


Alina Suarez

Philanthropist/Entrepreneur / 15

Often, troubling times are necessary for great outcomes. For Alina Suarez, her diagnosis with ulcerative colitis at age 11 prompted her to create the IBuDs Support Group to unite preteen and teenage patients with Crohn’s and colitis. Along with her sister, Mariana Suarez, Alina sends care packages to those affected with the diseases to spread the message that they are not alone, and to provide information packets so that understanding the diagnosis is a bit easier. Through her company and fundraising events, she is on a mission to help find a cure for IBD.  

What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Through fundraising events, such as yoga classes and movie nights, and my hard work to collect donations, I am proud to announce that we have raised over $40,000 for [Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America] for research.


Hannah Herbst

Scientist / 16

Hannah Herbst is a sophmore in high school—and a freshman in college. The Boca Raton resident taking dual enrollment classes at Florida Atlantic University was named 2015’s Top Young Scientist when she won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge in Minnesota for creating her Ocean Energy Probe. After attending a robotics camp, Hannah was inspired to invent the technology when she exchanged letters with a pen pal in Ethiopia. “She was living in a region that struggled with a stable source of energy,” she says. “My newfound robotics skills equipped me to attempt to combat the energy poverty of that region.”

What has been the key to your success? 
Resilience has been the key to my success. At times, I’ve been discouraged by my failures or by people who don’t understand my passion; however, my role models and friends always encourage me to bounce back and work hard to make a difference.


Kirsten Klos

Volleyball Player / 18

Kirsten Klos can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a volleyball and balance beam at her home. She began gymnastics at age 4, and her mom was a volleyball coach. The Fort Lauderdale resident spent hours each day balancing on the beam and bumping the ball, until one day she could do both at the same time—adding in a leg lift or spin. Her mother said, “One sport at a time, please.” But the mix of coordination and balance is what lead to Kirsten’s success in beach volleyball. She’s competed in the Junior Olympics three times, become a national champion in indoor volleyball with her club team three times and won the state championships with the St. Thomas Aquinas High School team three years in a row.  

How do you balance volleyball and school? 
It’s not easy. I often stay up until midnight and wake up at 4 a.m. to finish my homework. My mom will stay up with me for company and moral support. I don’t usually complain because I’m doing what I love.



James McGrath

Kiteboarder / 17

James McGrath flies across the sky at heights of up to 50 feet, the wind in his hair and the water below his feet. As a professional kiteboarder, his office is anywhere the breeze blows 15 knots or higher over an open ocean. His sponsor is Cabrinha, a cutting-edge kiteboarding company in Maui, Hawaii. As a home-schooled student with a flexible schedule, the Tequesta resident has the freedom to travel and compete. This past Christmas, the co-founder of “Kiting for Kids,” which aims to bring “waves of joy” to children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases, helped spearhead a successful toy drive.

What has been your proudest moment?

One of my all-time proudest moments and accomplishments is an organization…called “Kiting for Kids.” It began as a small toy drive a few years ago, and last year we needed a large U-Haul truck to transport all the toys. Seeing these kids and their families smile while undergoing cancer treatment is very rewarding.


Holly Cassels

Runner / 14

Holly Cassels began competing in the sport of track and field during her first year at William T. Dwyer High School. That was in 2012. Since then, she has qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championships every summer, placing personal bests in the high jump and the pentathlon along the way. Maybe the grilled chicken and rice she eats prior to her athletic events is the trick to winning. (Although, admittedly, her favorite post-competition indulgence is a cheeseburger and a milkshake.) The Palm Beach Gardens resident says she manages to balance her extracurricular activities with school through the help of her coaches, parents and track club.

What do you hope to be when you “grow up?”
When I grow up, I want to run in college and then professionally. However, after my running career is over, I would like to become a radiologist or a private physical therapist for professional athletes.


Austin Everard

Singer/Songwriter / 19

One could describe Austin Everard as well-rounded. The Akron, Ohio, native loves snowboarding and, now that he lives in Jupiter, he wants to take up surfing. He co-owns a T-shirt company, A.P.E.S. Co. (Austin & Parker Everard’s Supply Company), with his younger brother. All of the above have played a part in the William T. Dwyer High School graduate’s career as a singer/songwriter that, last fall, resulted in his debut on Power Mix Radio, an Internet-based station, for his single “Beauty and a Beast.”

How did you start singing/songwriting?
I’ve always liked to sing (according to my parents). I decided that it was my passion when I was in eighth grade, and I performed in my school talent show. I knew the moment I stepped onto the stage for the first time, when I got that rush of excitement and adrenaline, that I wanted to pursue it as a career.


Tucker Smith

Magician / 10

Tucker Smith’s first magic show was at his aunt’s wedding in front of 100 guests. As soon as he pulled off his first trick, he could barely wait to wow the crowd with the next one. He has set his sights a lot higher than performing in front of family members, friends and loved ones; he wants to wind up in Las Vegas, where David Copperfield and Penn & Teller have skyrocketed to stardom in front of packed houses. The Jupiter resident practices every day after he gets home from school, making sure to fit in homework and football practice, and spends his weekends experimenting with props and learning new illusions.

How did you find an interest in magic?
When I was 4 years old, my grandmother had a magician named Chris Craft perform at her Christmas party. I was instantly mesmerized when he levitated off the ground. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Every trick he did, I immediately wanted to know, “How?” I asked him to show me a few tricks, and he gave me some beginner’s basics. I would practice throughout the year and was always excited to see him the following year to show him what I learned.


Hayden Swergold

Travel Blogger / 13

Hayden Swergold is the youngest member of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a program that teaches middle-school go-getters how to start and run their own businesses. The Palm Beach resident attended Envision’s Junior National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., a six-day affair that helps ambitious youths realize the power of their potential to enact social change. His talent? Blogging. His site? Cruising With Kidz. He has been on six cruises and explored dozens of destinations in order to impart his knowledge of traveling to other children interested in finding that ideal vacation experience.

How did you begin blogging?
While on a cruise, I pulled out a six-plug outlet strip from my suitcase. My dad asked me why I brought it, and I explained to him that cruise ship cabins never have enough plugs for all of our electronics. He then suggested I share my experiences and traveling tips with other kids and families. I thought it would be great to write a kid’s travel blog.




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