Wonder Kids 2023

You’re on your own, kid! Standouts and superstars, these 12 exceptional Bay-area kids reach for the sky while making our local area proud.

Photos by Chad Riley

Jonah Delange

Recent Graduate // W.P. Davidson High School // Double-threat Athlete

Why He Rocks
Jonah is a doubly talented athlete in both football and soccer. He started playing soccer as a young boy, taking it to the next level at Davidson. He only discovered his football skills in the eighth grade. The kicker and midfielder gained accolades in both sports, including being named Mobile County Player of the Year for the 2023 soccer season.

Off the Field
An AP Scholar, Jonah was ranked eighth in his graduating class. He carefully balances both sports and recreation. “My dad told me when you need to work hard, you work hard. When you need to rest, you rest just as hard,” says Jonah. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends, fishing and playing video games.

Future Plans
Jonah’s success on the football field earned him a spot on the team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where he will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. “I am thankful that I kept playing because it led to me playing at the D1 level at UAB,” he says.

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Biggest Influence
“Despite being a soccer coach and previous player, my dad always supported me in every sport I played,” he says. “My mom was always ready to take me to practice or to drive long hours to watch me play no
matter where it was.”

Oluwatimilehin Ogunade

Recent Graduate // Murphy High School // Academic and Aviation Aficionado 

Why He Rocks
Oluwatimilehin, known as Timi, has a few bragging rights. Born in Nigeria, he immigrated to the United States about 7 years ago, arriving in Mobile in the summer of 2018. He earned a 33 on his ACT and graduated with a 5.1 GPA. The WKRG Scholar-Athlete of the Week was also honored with the Mobile County Learning Leading Award for academically talented, well-rounded students. Timi is also an aviation enthusiast. “I marvel at how far humanity has come with flight,” he says. “It is incredibly fascinating that we can transport hundreds of people thousands of miles in just a few hours.”

Out of the Sky
Timi plays soccer and swims when not studying aviation. He enjoys long-distance running and has been exploring weightlifting recently. “I love to hit the gym almost every day, not just because I love lifting but I also enjoy seeing the results.”

Future Plans
“I plan to go into the aviation program at Auburn University and get my degree in professional flight,” he says. “I then want to go into the aviation industry as an airline pilot.”

Biggest Influence         
Timi’s mom, an aviation mechanic, introduced him to the aeronautics world. “She overcame many odds and worked incredibly hard to achieve a career in her dream field,” he says. “I look to do the same.”

Janie Ford

11th Grade // St. Paul’s Episcopal School // Record-breaking Heptathlete

Why She rocks
A heptathlon consists of seven events and Janie excels in them all. The St. Paul’s athlete is the All-Classification (A-7A) State record holder in the heptathlon and is also the No. 1 triple jumper and 100-meter hurdler in Alabama for the 2023 season. She broke a nearly decade-long state record at the 2023 Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) Heptathlon, scoring 5,118 points and winning the title.

Off the Track
“Staying organized and listening to the advice of my coaches and teachers helps me keep balance,” says Janie. “Any spare time I have I usually spend with my friends.” She also plays pickleball for fun and travels whenever she can.

Future Plans
Janie has plans to run track during college. Like many juniors, she has just begun the recruitment process and is excited to see which university she attends in the next few years.

Biggest Influence
In both sports and life, Janie looks up to her mom, who also plays the role of her lifelong coach and role model. “My mom has had the biggest influence on me,” says Janie, “and I wouldn’t be where I am today without my dad, brothers and grandparents. My family supports me in all that I do.”

Jaden Rice

11th Grade // Alma Bryant High School // Production Prodigy

Why She Rocks
Jaden is behind every band event, production and play at Alma Bryant High School. “I fell in love with running all the equipment,” she says. She oversees the setup, operation and maintenance of the audio-visual equipment. Jaden has also taken on leadership roles with the brand-new Music Tech Production team and is the technical manager for the chorus and band. “One of my favorite things is how hard I’ve gotten to work and the friends that I have made,” she says.

Off the Soundboard
When Jaden is not backstage, she is often performing onstage. A dancer for over a decade, Jaden participates in regional and national New York Los Angeles (NYLA) dance competitions. She recently received the Senior Miss NYLA title.

Future Plans
With practical, hands-on experience under her belt, Jaden is looking at colleges where she can further develop her audio knowledge after graduation. “I want to major in music technology and minor in engineering,” she says. “I would like to get a job running sound for either musicals and theaters or concerts.”

Biggest Influence
Jaden has learned many things from her dance teacher, Channi Zirlott, as she competes and takes classes. “She always pushes me to grow and is there whenever I need help,” Jaden says. “She is an amazing person and the greatest teacher to be able to look up to.”

Lena Amare

12th Grade // Fairhope High School // Award-winning Swimmer

Why She Rocks
The numbers don’t lie: Lena is a champion. The Fairhope High School swimmer ranked third in women’s swimming in Alabama for the 2022-2023 season and is currently third in Alabama for women’s swimming recruiting. She was the Gulf Coast Area Aquatic League (GCAAL) Female Swimmer of the Year for seven years and holds 24 GCAAL records. She was the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) State 7A Swim Champion in 200 and 100 Freestyle two years in a row.

Out of the Water
Lena has a long list of academic achievements, including a Harvard Book Award and a 35 on the ACT. She volunteers with Pelican’s Nest Science Lab and created art for T-shirts that benefit the Fairhope Educational Enrichment Foundation (FEEF).

Future Plans
“My plans are to go to college to study medicine and swim,” says Lena. Due to her faith, she intends to enroll in a university that allows her to rest and worship on Sundays. “I have never competed on a Sunday,” she says. “My life would be out of balance if I didn’t put Jesus Christ first.”

Biggest Influence
Lena’s brother Davis is her greatest inspiration. “He is in Africa for two years serving a mission,” she says. “I don’t go a single day without thinking of him.” 

Ishayu Chakroborty

12th Grade // UMS-Wright Preparatory School // Research Devotee

Why He Rocks
Ishayu (known as Ish) has a packed resume, but his study of cancer tops it. Findings during a Mitchell Cancer Institute (MCI) internship under Dr. Simon Grelet led to his research project on breast cancer, diabetes and obesity genetics with guidance from Dr. Sooraj Kakkat. The UMS-Wright Scholar with Distinction was then tapped to present his research project at the 2023 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in a program for high schoolers. He was one of just seven U.S. student presenters.

Out of the Lab
When Ish is not busy presenting his findings at national cancer research meetings, he enjoys diving and swimming on his high-school team. He is also a second-degree black belt in taekwondo.

Future Plans        
Ish began another project with guidance from Dr. Dhananjay Tambe at the University of South Alabama this summer. “Once I graduate, I plan on pursuing a degree and career in mechanical engineering and using my experience with biology, particularly cancer biology, to conduct interdisciplinary research,” Ish says.

Biggest Influence 
Ish’s parents, cancer researchers themselves, are his core inspirations. “Watching them work for everything they have today, all while putting me first, has had a big impact on me for which I will always be grateful,” he says.

Anna Grace Sparks

Recent Graduate // McGill-Toolen Catholic High School // Volleyball MVP  

Why She Rocks
Where Anna Grace leads, great things follow. She guided McGill-Toolen’s Dirty Dozen in a 51-8 season to the 2022 State Championship where she was the 2022 Class 7A State MVP. It doesn’t stop there. Amongst a slew of other titles, Anna Grace was named the 2022 – 2023 Gatorade Alabama Volleyball Player of the Year. “Being chosen is an honor. I know there were other great choices,” she says. “It made me proud of not only myself but the other seniors who put their love into growing Alabama volleyball.”

Off the Court
Anna Grace’s free time is understandably limited, but she still fits in a few hobbies. “I love making art to express myself, which is an outlet for me,” she says. “I also enjoy making art for others. Most of my creations are pieces that are meaningful to the recipient.”

Future Plans
Anna Grace will be a freshman at the Queens University of Charlotte in the fall, where she will play volleyball and major in graphic design and minor in creative writing. “I would like to work as a creative director for animation companies,” she says. 

Biggest Influence
Anna Grace lists her immediate family, her volleyball coaches Kate Wood, Laura Johnson, Sam Nichols and Mary Coye Ward, and her high-school teachers Brittany Leahy and Joe Arensberg amongst her many positive influences.

Eleanor Byrd

12th Grade // Citronelle High School // Native American Dancer 

Why She Rocks
Eleanor, who goes by Elle, has several titles: Citronelle High School student, cheerleader, AP and honors student, and MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians princess. “It means the world to me to have served as princess for my tribe two terms thus far,” she says. She takes great pride in her role, in which she participates in cultural events, and advocates for the tribe’s needs and interests. She even initiated the Native American Studies Club on campus. “It’s a great opportunity to educate others about the culture and history of Native Americans,” she says.

Out of Regalia
In addition to cheerleading and organizing the Native American Studies Club, Elle served as president of the Family and Consumer Sciences Student Organization (FCCLA) club last year and has been selected for homecoming maid for three years thus far.

Future Plans
Elle aims to represent the tribe for a third term as princess this fall. She plans to attend Auburn University after graduation to pursue a degree in veterinary science. “I believe that being a veterinarian would be the perfect way to combine my love of animals with my desire to help others,” she says.

Biggest Influence
Elle names her mother as her role model. “I am grateful for all that my mother has done for me, and I hope to one day be just as strong and selfless as she is,” she says. 

Augusta Lane Jones

Photo by Renata Pavam

Recent Graduate // Bayside Academy // Classical Ballerina

Why She Rocks
For over 15 years, life has kept Augusta Lane on her toes — literally. During that time, she has been a classical ballerina, which she describes as her “most extensive, fatiguing, yet most gratifying accomplishment,” and a member of Mobile Ballet’s Corps de Ballet for six years.“I will carry the work ethic I formed through dance with me wherever I go, on every stage and in each season of life,” she says.

Off the Stage
Most days, Augusta Lane’s time is spoken for. The straight-A National Honor Society student is active in multiple Bayside clubs, and her community’s faith life, attending Bible studies and events several days a week.

Future Plans
Augusta Lane will attend Texas Christian University (TCU) in the fall. “I am looking forward to making new relationships, rushing, attending sports events, being in a new environment, studying and walking through every door that TCU will
open,” she says.

Biggest Influence
“My parents have always supported me while I follow my dreams and passions,” Augusta Lane says. Her brothers, both attending Baylor University, also played a huge role in her college decision. “I am so excited to reunite with them in Texas,” she says. “We will only be an hour apart.”

Orin Wilson Jr.

Recent Graduate // Lillie B. Williamson High School // Scholar Athlete

Why He Rocks
Playing sports since age 7 paid off for Orin. He made quite an impact on his alma mater’s football team. Orin was a starting linebacker, and his 117 tackles landed him on the Alabama defensive tackle leaderboard. It wasn’t long before he was named team captain. This past May, he was awarded the National Foot Locker Scholar Athlete Scholarship, given to only 20 students nationwide who showcase academic, athletic and civic excellence. Not only that, he’s a double-threat athlete, excelling at baseball, as well.

Off the Field
Orin is a scholar and school ambassador. He was inducted into the National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society and placed in advanced classes throughout high school. When he is not gaining accolades in sports and the classroom, Orin likes to take time for himself and meditate, a hobby that allows him to relax from his hectic schedule. 

Future Plans
The Montford Point Marine Scholarship winner plans to attend Alabama A&M University to major in exercise science and play football at the next level.

Biggest Influence
Orin looks inward for motivation, “knowing that I can be better than who I have been,” he says. In the academic world, he says teacher Carey Arensberg has been his helper and cheerleader since the 4th grade.

Lauren Herr

12th Grade // Alma Bryant High School // Fitness Fanatic

Why She Rocks
135, 225, 225, 425. These numbers represent the poundage of Lauren’s personal records in bench press, squat, deadlift and hip thrust. Since teaching herself fitness with YouTube videos in the eighth grade when her mental health was at its lowest, she has found strength and renewed purpose. She has overcome many obstacles, both in the weight room and in her personal life, with determination and a smile. “Seeing both mental and physical progress is a huge motivation,” she says. She now interns at WOW Fitness through the Mobile County Public School System’s summer internship program.

Out of the Weight Room
When not weightlifting, Lauren expresses herself through dance with lessons at her school and on the Kickin’ Canes dance team. “I’m also on the competition team at my dance studio Southern Poise Dance Center,” she says. A gifted student, she is a member of several honor societies and serves as a school ambassador.

Future Plans
Lauren’s big goal as she applies to college and for scholarships is not surprising. “I would love to own a gym in the future and do personal training,” she says.

Biggest Influence
Lauren credits her parents for teaching her discipline and a positive attitude, her dance teachers for boosting her confidence, and both her best friend as well as her cousin for teaching her the importance of valuable relationships. “With them, I can truly live,” she says.

Mimi Smith

Recent Graduate // St. Michael Catholic High School // Space Sensation 

Why She Rocks
Mimi attended space camps at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center throughout high school, developing out-of-this-world skills — and earning a few awards — along the way. Her team won the Best Team Award in her second year at camp. She was also selected to attend Elite Camp, an invitation-only advanced camp, where she was a project leader. “Over those three years, I got to put into practice my passion for space, engineering and community with like-minded kids my age,” she says.

Back to Earth
Mimi is an avid soccer player. As senior captain, she led her soccer team to the 2023 State Finals for the first time in school history. “I’ve been playing the sport since I could walk and there is not a season that has gone by that I have not played soccer,” she says. She also loves to sing as part of the worship team at her church and with her sister.

Future Plans
Mimi has lofty ambitions to attend the University of Alabama in Huntsville to major in aerospace engineering and play on the women’s soccer team. “I then want to get my master’s degree at the Air Force Technology Institute and join the U.S.
Space Force,” she says.

Biggest Influence
“God always comes first,” Mimi says. “Ever since I put it all to Him, my life has been joyful, and I know when hard transitions appear, I have someone I can go to.”

Related: Wonder Kids 2022 · Wonder Kids 2021 · Wonder Kids 2020

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