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Check out the Accomplishments of These Inspiring Young People

Written By: Nicole Hakim
Photographed By: Damien Noble Andrews and Jane Chouteau Inspiring Young People

If you’ve ever heard the phrase that the youth are the future, then you should know that it is entirely true. With their boundless imaginations and endless motivation, they do whatever they can to make their dreams come true and help others in the process. Whether they are trying to clean up the environment, flying across the map, guiding people to a healthier lifestyle, creating a new useful invention, working with a team to score a win, climbing a mountain or using their skills as a chef to help kids find light in the darkness, each one of our determined young Do Experts are on his or her way to show others just how far one can go, if they only put their best foot forward.

Vanis Buckholz
Creator of My ReCycler
Age: 14

The earth is a beautiful place, but unfortunately, not many are committed to preserving its beauty. Meet Vanis Buckholz, the creator of My ReCycler, which aims to clean up streets, beaches, parks and much more by picking up trash and recycling it. In his seventh year of business, Vanis has collected over 75,000 pounds of trash and has joined the Project Hope Alliance, a charity that helps homeless children in Orange County. With his involvement, he has not only helped the environment, but also the people who call the earth their home. Seeing someone so young take care of the environment is truly inspiring, and as Vanis says, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.”

Q: What inspired you to get into recycling?

Vanis Buckholz: It was for an Earth Day project in elementary school. I picked recycling because it seemed like a smart thing to do. Once I started, I thought we should keep doing it. When I realized we could make money doing it, we started the business. My grandpa always told me to start a business, so I did.

Q: How did you come up with the name “My Recycler?”

VB: I started my business on my scooter and, then on my bike; that’s how I got to all my customers. The name matches what I actually do: I recycle, and I ride my bike.

Q: Were there ever times of struggle? How did you push forward?

VB: Yes, because it grew so fast, it was hard to keep everything organized. I just focused on what I had to do. I took care of my commitments and stayed organized.

Q: What plans do you have for your business in the future?

VB: I want to grow it as big as I can and add other services. I’d like to get my own recycling yard and hire others to join it.

Q: How does it feel to be considered one of Orange County’s most influential “Game Changers?”

VB: Wow! It’s shocking. I’ve been doing this for half of my life, so it’s nothing unusual. It’s still really cool.

Q: What is one of your biggest achievements while in business?

VB: That would probably be helping other kids.

A Piece of Advice: Buckholz says the most important thing for people to help is to do something.

Stay Active: When he’s not recycling, Buckholz likes to spend time sports car racing with his dad, hanging out with his friends, surfing, skateboarding, go-kart racing and playing basketball, volleyball and golf.

Photoshoot Location:
Orange County Recycling Center
1601 E Edinger Ave
Santa Ana, CA 92705

 

Isaiah Cooper
Youngest African American to Fly Across the US
Age: 17

To many, the idea of flying can be quite scary. To others, it’s a merely a way to get from one place to another. To Compton-native Isaiah Cooper, flying is a sense of freedom and accomplishment. At the age of only 16, Cooper achieved a milestone last July, as he became one of the youngest people to fly across the United States. The 8,000-mile flight took two weeks, and though this is quite an accomplishment, Cooper is far from finished. He hopes to take his passion to the next level and become the youngest person to fly around the globe.

Q: When did you want to become a pilot?

Isaiah Cooper: I was a young kid, and I wanted to do it as a hobby. I was five or six years old at the time.

Q: It sounds really scary! How do you keep calm and push forward?

IC: I don’t really have moments of doubt. I’ve been in an accident before, so I’m ready for what flying brings.

Q: Have you flown any of your family?

IC: No. I don’t have a license yet, and on top of that, most of them are scared of planes, so it’s going to be hard.

Q: Have you met any young children inspired by your adventures? How does it make you feel?

IC: Oh, yes. Some will contact me online or through social media. I’ll sign autographs and take photos. I love inspiring them. The fact that I can show them a different opportunity at life brings satisfaction to mine. I wish to show many kids in the United States the same thing.

Q: What advice do you have for kids on how to follow their dreams?

IC: Stay focused, stay positive, stay around positive people who want to encourage you, and put your best foot forward in school. Everything you learn in school will help you in real life.

Q: How did it feel when you were flying 8,000 miles around the US?

IC: I loved it. It’s a sense of freedom you won’t get from driving a car. I love flying through the clouds; it’s so exciting.

Q: What do you have planned for the future?

IC: I would actually like to open my own organization. Hopefully I can make it so kids can get the same chance I did.

Ballin’: When he’s not flying, Cooper also enjoys playing baseball and basketball.

Dream Flight: Cooper says his dream flight destination is Jamaica.

Photoshoot Location:
Compton Airport
901 W Alondra Blvd
Compton, CA 90220

 

Jaysea Devoe
Youngest Certified SUP Yoga Instructor, Founder of SeaVibes Yoga
Age: 15

Jaysea Devoe has loved yoga from a young age—when other forms of sport didn’t work for her—and has found a sense of happiness within the practice. However, as relaxed as yoga makes her, merely practicing isn’t enough. Devoe is also a certified yoga instructor, and she is only 14 years old. Teaching at the Yoga Bergamot every Wednesday night, Devoe shows that her young age doesn’t matter because she is able to share the passion and relaxation that yoga brings her to her students.

Q: How did you get into the yoga hype?

Jaysea Devoe: I was about eight years old. I had been taking kids’ classes at a dance studio that offered yoga one or two times a week. I loved it. I tried all different sports, but none really worked, and yoga just stuck with me. I took the teaching training when I was 12.

Q: What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?

JD: For me, I noticed how yoga helped me with school and relaxation. It inspired me to help others because it helped me.

Q: How does doing and helping others do yoga make you feel?

JD: Yoga is such an important thing that everyone should practice. Being able to help others make their bodies healthy makes me happy. It empowers me to help others.

Q: Walk us through a typical class when you’re instructing.

JD: Normally, I go in and teach at Yoga Bergamot. I teach on Wednesdays, and I put incense and music on. When the students show up and line up their mats, I welcome them and introduce myself to new students. I start off slowly with one pose for a few minutes to reflect on our bodies. We pick up the pace in the middle with sequences that build up, and at the end of class, I bring the sequences down to reflect.

Q: What advice do you have for people who want to try yoga?

JD: I hear students say they can’t do yoga because they’re not flexible. Yoga is meant for working on flexibility. If you haven’t started yoga, go to a local studio and take a few classes. Go for a few days a week and build it up, and see if you notice any differences in your mind and body.

Q: What are some of your biggest achievements in the yoga field?

JD: For me, it’s my clothing and jewelry line called SeaVibes. We have a little shop where I teach. It gets me into a new thing while incorporating yoga.

Water Baby: When Devoe isn’t doing yoga, she likes to surf and paddleboard.

World Traveler: As an instructor, she wants to share her love for yoga around the world, and explore new cultures as she does so.

Photoshoot Location:
Ponto Beach Tower 21
Carlsbad Blvd
Encinitas, CA 92024

Carson Kropfl
Creator of the Locker Board Skateboards
Age: 11

Nothing can extinguish a child’s imagination, especially if he has an idea that he’s passionate about. In order to pay for his surf contests and lessons, he started the Locker Board—instead of doing chores. They are made with recycled skateboard decks, and when Vans learned of Kropfl’s ideas, he was set up with a monthly recycling program at two stores in So Cal where he is given donated skateboard decks to upcycle into Locker Boards. This year, Carson will be a mentor at the Independent Youth Teen Network, and he is also donating $1 for every Locker Board he sells to the Tony Hawk Foundation.

A: What is the Locker Board and how did you think of it?

Carson Kropfl: Locker Boards are recycled skateboard decks that I’ve reshaped to fit inside backpacks and lockers. I put new tracks and wheels on them and sell them for $69. I’ve always wanted a skateboard I could fit in my locker and backpack, so I decided to just start making one.

Q: Any notable people who have a Locker Board?

CK: We sent out [a board to Barron Trump], and it’s in the White House, but we haven’t heard anything quite yet.

Q: How many Locker Boards have you sold?

CK: To date, I’ve sold 151. We’ve been selling them for three-and-a-half months.

Q: Who was the first person to get their very own Locker Board, besides yourself?

CK: It was Oct. 25th—I put the boards out there on Oct. 29th—and two of my friends came over and bought one.

Q: Do you have any other inventions you’ve done?

CK: A while ago, we started a company called Streetubez. It’s like tarp surfing, and that’s when you get a big tarp, and then you set it down and take one corner and pull it. The wind takes you like a wave, and you skate through it. The tarp is a triangle and is made out of parachute material, and you skate on the streets. It’s super easy and fun to ride. We did a Kickstarter. We didn’t make it, but we’re going to start it up again.

Q: Do you have any advice for kids who want to invent?

CK: You just have to push through and work as hard as you can. Then you’ll have time to play. Work hard, shred hard!

The Great Outdoors: When he’s not inventing, Kropfl enjoys playing with his friends, biking, skateboarding and surfing.

Bieber Fever: Kropfl says he’d think Justin Bieber—who skates a lot in Venice Beach—would enjoy his own Locker Board.

 

Elina Linner
Global Handball Prodigy
Age: 19

Handball—a sport that contains two teams that throw a ball from outside a goal zone, hoping to get the ball past the goalkeeper. Hailing from Sweden, Elina Linner has brought her love for the sport to the United States. With hopes of joining the US Olympic team, Linner puts everything she has in the game and credits her coach, Juliano de Oliveira, who is always there to support her as she makes her dreams come true.

Q: When did you fall in love with handball?

Elina Linner: When I was eight years old, I started playing. My dad was a goalie, and he wanted me to try it, and ever since then, I was in love and just kept playing.

Q: What do you do to shake any nerves before a big match?

EL: I usually start talking to my dad to help me get motivated. I also put headphones in and listen to music to just forget about it.

Q: Which handball players do you admire and look up to?

EL: Elizabeth Hartnett who plays for the US National Team; she’s one of my closest friends.

Q: What do you feel is your biggest achievement in handball?

EL: That would probably be when I played in the national team in Auburn, and when I played in Brazil against other national teams.

Q: What do you hope to do with handball?

EL: For the USA Olympic team, beach handball will be in 2024, and I’m training for that. It has been one of my biggest dreams since I was little. I told my mom she’d one day see me play handball on TV.

Q: What’s next for you and handball?

EL: Next year is the Pan American Championship for beach handball. If my team places high enough, we will be in the World Championships. Then, we will try to qualify for the Olympics!

Multifaceted: Besides sports, Linner is also interested in real estate and has an internship.

Swedish Life: If she could play handball with anyone, Linner would play with a Swedish player named Isabelle Gullden.

Photoshoot Location:
Ronald Reagan Elementary
79800 Liberty Dr
Palm Desert, CA 92211

 

Anthony Slosar
Youngest Person to Climb Mt. Whitney
Age: 7

Whether one is an experienced hiker or just starting out, climbing a mountain at any stage of life is a long, difficult and impressive feat. It’s even more impressive when you’re only six years old and have already climbed a mountain that is over 14,000 feet, and that is just what Anthony Slosar did last August. Coming from a family of hikers, Slosar made history with his father, mother, brothers, and sisters. Even when his mother and siblings had to turn away halfway through the climb—because of altitude sickness—Slosar wasn’t about to give up. He continued on with the 22-hour journey and came back with a heightened sense of confidence and achievement.

Q: What inspired you to climb Mt. Whitney?

Anthony Slosar: My original reason was because my brother, Jackson, did it a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t allowed to. When I got to the top, I asked my dad if I could watch Captain America: Civil War, since I was already there. I only watched about 10 minutes of it, though.

Q: How long did it take to complete the climb?

AS: It took about 22 hours. That was with no sleep, just some one-minute catnaps; those only felt like a second. When you get to the top, the oxygen gets thin, and you’re already tired, so it was rough. The craziest part was when my mom turned around, she wanted me to go with her, but I didn’t want to quit!

Q: Did you ever feel like giving up?

AS: There is a spot—a portal—at Mt. Whitney where some had to quit because we didn’t have any camping gear. Quitting wasn’t an option! When I finished the climb, I had no idea how much there would be left when I had to go back down. It was good for my self-esteem because it made me extra confident! My dad had a backpack, and if I wanted to stop, he was ready to cut holes in it so he could carry me, but I didn’t want that! When it turned dark, I couldn’t believe we were still going; I thought they were elves in the forest as we walked back, and I was scared, but I wouldn’t stop!

Q: Do you have advice for anyone wanting to climb mountains?

AS: Don’t quit!

Family and Football: If Slosar could hike with anyone, he would hike with his mom, dad, siblings and Tom Brady!

The Great Outdoors: Slosar also likes to play soccer, ride his bike, swim, fish, camp and play with his siblings.

Photoshoot Location:
Arroyo Trail
17261 El Vuelo
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067

 

Jack Witherspoon
Chef, Leukemia Survivor and Author of “Twist It Up”
Age: 17

Diagnosed with leukemia at age two, Jack Witherspoon has relapsed twice at age six and 11, and has even gone through a bone marrow transplant. However, Witherspoon has moved past the darkness by finding solace in cooking. With a cookbook, a visit to the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, and a charity that raised over $150,000 for pediatric leukemia research, Witherspoon has achieved so much by age 16.

Q: What inspired you to start cooking?

Jack Witherspoon: I’ve had leukemia three times. It was during my first relapse when I was six, and I was in the hospital a lot. I found the Food Network and all the cooking shows, and I fell in love with food. I got my mom to write down recipes, and when I got home, I’d make some of them.

Q: How did you stay positive during difficult times?

JW: It really hit me when I was six because I had friends and school. All those things were just taken away when I was under treatment. The cooking was the bright light that kept me positive in the midst of everything. I really needed something to get my mind off everything that was going on, and cooking kept my mind off all that.

Q: What is the first dish you ever made?

JW: I started off just helping my mom, but the first dish I really ever made was a five-cheese mac and cheese I saw on “Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels.” The night after I got home, my mom and I made it. It was really cool, making something by myself and having people eat it and enjoy it. It’s a really good feeling.

Q: Which recipe in “Twist it Up” is your favorite?

JW: It’s 60 of my favorite recipes, so it’s kind of hard to choose, but I’ve got to say either my spaghetti carbonara—it’s easy, it’s fast and it’s really good—or my shepherd’s pie, which has a little bit of sentimental value because I made it on the “Tonight Show,” and I got to cook it with Jay Leno.

Q: Tell me about your charity. When did it start and what have you done to raise money?

JW: I have my own endowment at Miller’s Children, where I was treated for my first two bouts of leukemia. It’s called the Jack Witherspoon Foundation. Proceeds from my book also go to that foundation. I was also Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Boy of the Year in 2015. I’ve raised a lot of money for a lot of different charities, but they’re all for leukemia research.

Q: What do you think is one of your biggest achievements in the culinary world?

JW: My cookbook is one of my biggest achievements. It was a lot of hard work, and it was my first big project. I was 11 when it was published, and as it was going to print, I had a relapse with leukemia, so my book launch was postponed.

Q: Which chefs inspire you the most?

JW: I got to say Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, all those Food Network chefs inspire me to keep cooking, but now, as I’m getting older, I’m watching more Gordon Ramsay; he really knows his stuff.

Q: Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to learn how to cook?

JW: You want to keep it simple in the beginning and work your way up. I started off helping, learning everything I could, and watching videos. Practice really makes perfect.

Q: What do you have planned for the future?

JW: I’m going to be making my own business. It’s going to be a cookie company called “Sconies.” It’s a cross between a cookie and a scone. We’re hoping to launch with three different varieties like vanilla bean, chocolate chip and lemon zest.

Cooking Up a Storm: Witherspoon says one of the most fulfilling things is inspiring kids in the hospital by doing cooking demos.

Across the Board: When he’s not cooking, Witherspoon likes to hang out with friends, skateboard, snowboard and surf.

Photoshoot Location:
Primo Italia
24590 Hawthorne Blvd
Torrance, CA 90505
310.378.4288
The Youngest to Climb Mt. Whitney to Flying a Plane Across the Country, Check out Their Stories!

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