The Secret Lives of Teens: A Special Report »
What goes on when kids are out of sight? And, more importantly, what are they thinking?

Major League »
Our panel of admissions experts answer questions about getting into college

Hanging Out »
The teenage social circle, dissected

It hit her one day during dance class. Amid the falling pieces of ceiling and the occasional bat flying about an old studio room on the third floor of Southold Dance Theatre in South Bend, Indiana, Amber Neumann felt her calling. She had been taking lessons since she was four years old, commuting 30 minutes to the studio from her house in Niles, Michigan, in the family’s light blue minivan. But it wasn’t until that moment in 2005, shortly after Southold hired Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik, principal dancers from the Cincinnati Ballet, that Neumann finally realized she… more >>


In the beginning, he fiddled with Legos. By age 12, he tinkered with computers. A couple of years ago, he toyed with game theory. These days, he assembles molecules. “I just always wanted to understand how to build things,” Eric Shyu says, bashfully downplaying the genesis of his scientific curiosity. But it’s no fluke. The Illinois Math and Science Academy grad has five research publications under his belt, the title of Intel Science Talent Search Finalist, and a promising future waiting for him at MIT… more >>


Actors always talk about their motivation, but Jackson Challinor’s reasons for getting into theatre weren’t exactly artistic. “My mom asked me if I wanted to do theatre camp. I wasn’t listening, so I said yes,” he says, remembering how he was tuned into his iPod and headphones—and not his mom—at the time. He was nine then; now, six years later, he is coming off a starring role in Profiles Theatre’s Graceland, a darkly funny play by Ellen Fairey that was a surprise summer hit. In the play, Challinor stalked the stage as a love-struck and lonely teen who falls for the same… more >>


The college scouts, the sports reporters, and his teammates at the elite Nike basketball camp don’t know it, but six-foot-seven-inch Jereme Richmond—with his tattoos, size 18 shoes, and formidable wing-span—has a terrible soft spot for his little sister. When the Waukegan High School senior is tempted to slack off—on the court or in the classroom—he often thinks of the wiry, doe-eyed nine-year-old Jordan. “My sister is my motivation for everything I do,” says Richmond, who is also close to his parents, Bill and Kim. “She jokes around and asks me to buy her a… more >>


It was neither clout nor prestige that first drew Joel Sircus to politics, but rather its similarities to his other obsession: sports. “I loved the strategy, the aggression, and the passion of it,” says the Walter Payton College Prep senior. “Sports has a ritualistic and overt following, but politics had a more mysterious shape, so I wanted to become a fan of it like I was a fan of sports.” By his sophomore year, the teenage political junkie had become the youngest intern for Senator Dick Durbin. A year later, Sircus was one of 30 high-school juniors selected from… more >> 


Outside, it’s a glorious June day, full of the possibilities promised in the second week of summer break. Inside, it’s a different story—at least at first glance. Here, in the back room of a warren of labs on the grounds of the Chicago Botanic Garden, Kassandra Davis is perched on a stool, eyeing with grave concentration a dozen miniature test tubes. She fills a dropper with solution before carefully measuring out the liquid. This is no time for daydreaming; Davis is prepping the tubes—each holding the tiniest crumb of a leaf from the Aster genus of plants—for… more >>


Writing a novel requires intense discipline and self-assurance. That eliminates most teenagers from the trade. Not Shelby Brody, a junior at the Latin School of Chicago, who completed the fifth draft of her first novel, Jennifer Sharp, this past spring. “After this next draft, I want to send it out and try and do things with it,” says Brody. “I think it’ll be ready.” “I’ve known kids who want to get a story published; Shelby wants to do this for a living,” says Billy Lombardo, a creative-writing instructor at Latin and the artistic director of Polyphony H.S., the international… more >>


Terrence Thompson didn’t understand why. Neither did any of the other students in his class. But they did it automatically. They sat together by skin color. “The black kids sat together. The white kids sat together. There were two Asians—they sat together! We didn’t know why; we even discussed it. But we didn’t move,” he says. That one class his sophomore year at Whitney Young High School stuck in his mind, so the following summer, when he started to write his first screenplay, Thompson decided to explore the idea of teenagers and race. “When you notice… more >>



Photography by Ryan Robinson