Wonder Kids

Meet 11 students who have exceeded all expectations for anyone their ages. Despite such trying times, these young men and women are the embodiment of excellence.

Photos by Matthew Coughlin

Barry Dunning

11th grade // McGill-Toolen High School // Basketball Sensation

Why he rocks
You could say that basketball runs through Barry’s veins; he has been playing for as long as he can remember. This dedication to the sport is displayed in his ability to bolster his high school team, averaging double digits in scoring and rebounding. His push for greatness has paid off; Barry is the state’s top-ranked prospect for the Class of 2022.

Off the court
Basketball aside, Barry enjoys gardening. He also likes playing video games, “Naruto” being his favorite.

Future plans
When asked about his dream, Barry shows no hesitation: playing in the NBA. Before the NBA, he hopes to go to college to study sports medicine.

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Biggest influence
Barry’s grandmother plays a significant role in his success. She attends every game, no matter how far away from home. “She always tells me to work hard. She inspires me every day.”

Lily Hoyle

9th grade // W.P. Davidson High School // Documentarian

Why She rocks
Lily embodies the adage that age is just a number. While she was attending Phillips Preparatory School, her documentary, focused on racially inspired lynchings, was screened at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Along with filmmaking, she raises money for a school in Africa by selling painted oysters at a craft fair.

Future plans
Lily is starting her first year at Davidson High School. Although 8th grade was one for the books, she is eager to challenge herself by joining Davidson’s IB program in the fall. 

Outside of the classroom
When out from behind the camera, Lily continues to fight against racial inequality. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she participated in a children’s march for Black Lives Matter. “This opened my eyes to how the world’s just not perfect. There are so many things that need to change.” 

Biggest Influence
Lily’s grandmother reminds her daily to “spread love.” Very active in Lily’s daily routine, her grandmother devotes her life to helping others, an attribute Lily hopes to embody herself.

Joi Williams

11th grade // MCPSS Academy of Virtual Learning // Mentor and Model

Why she rocks
From a young age, Joi knew she wanted to spread her love for reading to others, and she has done just that. Joi started Literacy 4 Life, a company that collects and distributes books to lower-income schools in the Mobile area. Her giving back to the community doesn’t stop there. Joi is also a U.S. ambassador for the Wisdom Foundation, an organization that connects children around the world through writing letters; Joi travels the globe distributing these letters to each child. When not traveling the globe delivering letters, Joi models. She has modeled in fashion weeks in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and London.

Outside of Modeling
Despite Joi’s busy schedule, she always makes time to read. Currently, she’s immersed herself in a fantasy land, rereading one of her favorite series, “The School for Good and Evil.”

Future Plans        
Joi hopes to graduate in December of 2022. After continuing her work for the Wisdom Foundation, she plans to come back to the States to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Biggest influence
Joi’s biggest influence is her mom. “She’s been with me every step of the way … She’s one of my best friends.”

Elsie Harris

Recently graduated // Ben C. Rain High School // Athlete

Why she rocks
Elsie’s determination on the basketball court makes her a natural leader. Throughout her high school career, she led her team to the 5A regionals, averaging 27 points per game. She is unstoppable; when basketball goals in her neighborhood were removed during quarantine, Elsie scoured the city, finally finding one lone hoop. It was here that she continued playing, ensuring that she kept bettering her game.

Off the court
Although she puts in hours of work for her school team, Elsie can’t help but play basketball in her free time. She says, “If [I’m] feeling down, I know I can go play basketball to help clear my mind.”

Biggest influence
Elsie’s grandfather, Elijah Harris, who recently passed away, is still her motivator. “He was fighting sickness for so long, [but] he always showed up at my games. Everything I did, I wanted to make him proud.”

Future plans
Elsie has earned a full athletic scholarship from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. She will study nursing. After school, Elsie hopes to play in the WNBA.

Tucker Musgrove

Recently graduated // Mary G. Montgomery High School // Baseballer

Why he rocks
Tucker’s dedication to success, both in the classroom and on the field, are what make him a role model for his peers. Tucker served as class president during his first three years of high school, eager to make changes for the betterment of his class. He also graduated with a 4.5 GPA.

Biggest influence
Tucker is all about family. When asked who gets him through the challenging times, he says, “My little brothers. They look up to me, so I have to stay straight and play for them.” 

Future plans
This fall, Tucker is continuing his baseball career at the University of Mobile. He is studying pre-health, with plans to become an orthodontist.

Off the field 
With social distancing rearing its ugly head this summer, Tucker has taken up golf. He hopes that this activity, along with working out at the Performance Lab, will help to keep up his fitness level for the upcoming baseball season.

Allen Banks

12th grade // Citronelle Center for Advanced Technology // SkillsUSA Leader

Why he rocks
For two years, Allen has been the secretary for Alabama’s SkillsUSA, a nonprofit organization that shapes future workforce leaders. Allen has risen to every occasion, successfully influencing others to be better leaders. When asked about how SkillsUSA has affected him, Allen discloses that the organization has helped him become a better worker, leader and more efficient with his time. He believes that SkillsUSA is valuable to all, especially those who feel lost. For Allen, meeting and communicating with new people makes him a more well-rounded person.

Biggest Influence
“My mom is my biggest supporter. She has pushed me more than anyone in my whole life to strive for more. Basically, she’s the best mom ever.” 

Future plans
Allen plans to attend college after high school. He hopes to study business marketing.

Outside of politics
Like many high schoolers during the pandemic, Netflix was Allen’s best friend. When he left the house for some vitamin D, Allen headed straight to the basketball court with friends.

Stephen Conrad

11th grade // St. Paul’s Episcopal School // Swimming Phenom

Why he rocks
Stephen has been swimming since the age of 5, and his devotion has culminated with a No. 2 ranking in Alabama for his class. “Swimming has taught me how to put in hard work and to never be satisfied … I think it’s helped me understand that I’m not always going to be the best. There’s always more work to be done.”

Out of the water
Much like many of his teenage counterparts, Stephen enjoys playing basketball in his free time.

Future plans
Stephen is ready to challenge himself. Due to COVID-19, he was unable to achieve his ultimate goal of competing in the 2020 Olympic Trials for swimming. However, he is ready to go for the next season!

Biggest influence
Jeff Conrad, Stephen’s dad, has played a major role in Stephen’s perseverance. Jeff doesn’t just cheer on Stephen from the stands — he is a swimming official, on deck with Stephen for all of his races. “It didn’t matter what sport it was. It didn’t matter where it was. Through it all, my dad’s always been there for me.”

Vanessa Siggers

Recently graduated // Murphy High School // Science Whiz

Why she rocks
Not only did Vanessa graduate at the top of her class, she also earned the NOAA Sea Grant Scholarship at the Alabama Science and Engineering fair. She says, “Learning about science makes you think. It’s weird how so many phenomena occur around us, and there’s not really any direct evidence to explain everything … It’s just kind of mind-blowing.” 

Biggest influence
Vanessa’s mom, Valarie Farooq, is a registered nurse. She has been the driving force in Vanessa’s career choice.

Outside of the classroom
Vanessa loves to watch movies. Her latest flick? “Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins.

Future plans
Vanessa is attending the University of South Alabama this fall, where she plans to triple major in Spanish, French and biomedical science with hopes of becoming a physician.

Claire Frazier Bolton

Recently graduated // McGill-Toolen High School // Athlete and Singer

Why she rocks
Claire Frazier is the epitome of multitalented. She began running for McGill-Toolen in 7th grade and hasn’t been able to stop since. She is a two-time national qualifier and an Alabama state record-holder in two events for track. In her time off the blacktop, Claire Frazier also sings. She released her first single in April.

Off the Track
“I love going on bike rides with my parents. We’ve done a lot of that since quarantine.” 

Biggest Influence
McGill track coach Drew Bently is her biggest influence. Claire Frazier recounts Coach Bently’s mantra, “You have to be inspiring,” as the most impactful.

Future plans 
Claire Frazier is attending and running for the University of Virginia this fall. Due to her shortened season this past year because of the coronavirus, she plans on dedicating her races to McGill-Toolen in all of her future runs as a Cavalier.

Kelsey White

Recently graduated // Baker High School // Hurdler to Watch

Why She rocks
Kelsey’s leaps and bounds are a trademark of her strength. She is a phenomenal hurdler, showcasing her talent in the Alabama High School Athletic Association in 2019. She also won the state heptathlon, which is made up of the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter sprint, long jump, javelin and 800-meter run. 

Biggest Influence
When asked who her greatest supporter has been, Kelsey immediately says her mom, Alexis White. “She’s the strongest woman I know … She’s strong-willed, strong-minded, she doesn’t let stuff bother her easily. My mom is my biggest inspiration.”

Future plans
Kelsey is attending Samford University on a full athletic scholarship this fall. She is majoring in psychology, with plans to become a clinical psychologist for teenagers.

Off the track
“I watch a lot of anime. My favorite show on Netflix is ‘Naruto.’” 

Elsa Engeriser

Recently graduated // Bayside Academy // Avid Academic and Sailor

Why she rocks
When not in the classroom, Elsa is traveling up and down the East Coast to uncover truths about climate change. In 2018, Elsa was selected to study global warming in the Arctic Circle by gathering chemical data and examining bird migration patterns. When she’s not on Naval 26s, she’s sailing 420s at the Fairhope Yacht Club.

Biggest Influence
Elsa’s parents, Barbara and Luke Engeriser, have always encouraged her to be excellent. “They’ve always supported me and helped me. My dad introduced me to science, and my mom helped with my career path.”

Out of the water
Elsa’s academic nature affects everything she does. During the pandemic, she found jigsaw puzzles to be a great outlet for any quarantine stir-crazies.

Future plans
This fall, Elsa is attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in either electrical engineering or computer science. Her dream job? A theoretical physicist.

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