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

Peter Holmes

The Potomac School

The idea of spending summers and school breaks in a science lab isn’t for everyone, but Peter Holmes was happy to do it. He’s always had an interest in using science and math to make the world better.

At The Potomac School, Holmes spent two years working on an independent research project to test a new method for producing ethanol as a biofuel. There were setbacks, he says, but being able to evolve through failure is a critical skill for a scientist. “It’s self-accountability. There’s not someone over your shoulder saying this is the correct way,” the McLean teen says of his high school’s independent study program. “It’s up to you to understand the bigger picture. If it doesn’t work, it’s how you respond.”

His work won him recognition from the Regeneron Science Talent Search as one of 300 scholars nationwide, and he placed third at the regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium at Georgetown University.

During his time at The Potomac School, Holmes chaired the Upper School Honor Council, served as captain of the basketball team, played lacrosse and was named a National Merit finalist, with top grades and advanced classes. Next year he plans to take his interest in science and math (and watching basketball) to Duke University.

Teachers describe the 18-year-old as not only a promising scientist, but also a leader who is inclusive and kind. “He’s often the quietest kid in the room because he’s listening,” says Tim Jaeger, Potomac’s assistant head of school.

When others seek the spotlight, Holmes tends not to dominate the conversation, Jaeger says, but rather to take thorough notes and synthesize everyone’s points into the next steps for action.

“He’s not pursuing these activities because there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s because he thinks the work is really important.”

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