Extraordinary Teen Awards 2017

This years winners are pouring their talents into humanitarian work, the arts, environmental protection, social justice and dreams of Olympic gold.

Photo by Michael Ventura

Julia Phaltankar

St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School

Somewhere along her path through high school, Julia Phaltankar says she really began to appreciate the importance of diversity and equity. Maybe it was the family trips to India, where her father was born, and to China, the country her mother left as a college student with $60 in her pocket and no English. “That story had a profound impact on the things I do and motivates me to work harder,” says the Arlington teen. “I have these opportunities my parents didn’t have, so I should capitalize on them.”

At St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, Phaltankar founded the Asian Student Union and organized fundraising campaigns for relief efforts such as those aiding earthquake victims in China’s Sichuan province. In 2015, she traveled with a school group over spring break to an orphanage in Romania to volunteer, shoveling manure on a hillside to plant 400 trees. “It smelled really bad but it was a lot of fun,” she says, and the trip dispelled some of her preconceived notions about other cultures—including what life in an orphanage is actually like.

A natural leader, Phaltankar helped get 85 percent of her class registered to vote before the 2016 presidential election, all while heading the Student Business Association, serving as co-president of the student council, captaining the varsity volleyball and basketball teams and taking fi ve A.P. classes her senior year.

“I like being able to get people out of their comfort zones to motivate [them] to try things they haven’t tried before,” she says. The University of Virginia welcomes her to its freshman class this fall.

Timothy J. Doyle, associate director of college counseling at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes, describes Phaltankar as brilliant and driven, yet fun: “There’s this kind of energy within her that bubbles to the surface, that’s just palpable.”

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