Extraordinary Teen Awards 2019

Prepare to be humbled. From a tech entrepreneur with patents pending to a 'Voice' contestant, these local students are on a path to greatness.

Photo by Erick Gibson

Kelsey Isman

Yorktown High School

“My happy place is in the pool,” says Kelsey Isman.

The highlight of each week comes on Sundays, when she volunteers for Arlington County’s adaptive swimming program, teaching children and adults with disabilities. Although she doesn’t face the challenges of needing a wheelchair or having a developmental disability, she says she can relate to the freedom her students feel in the water.

“Swimming has always been my escape from everything going on,” says the 18-year-old, a four-year varsity swimmer at Yorktown who graduated with a 4.2 GPA. “It’s really, really interesting to learn about the different ways people learn.”

Her interest in the brain has carried through her volunteer work and into her plans for college, where she will swim for Wesleyan University and study Spanish and neuroscience. Someday, she’d like to teach or help people with disabilities through science.

At the Highlands Swim and Tennis Club in McLean (not far from her home in Chain Bridge Forest) she organized fundraisers such as gathering canned food and toiletries for homeless shelters and food banks. She hopes to do the same at Wesleyan.

During her time at Yorktown, Isman also started a chapter of the regional student group Our Minds Matter to raise awareness and money ($3,600 this year) for mental health education—something she feels is especially important in the pressure cooker of Northern Virginia. “We all have our anxieties and stresses,” she says. “It’s important to talk about them and not act like it’s something to be ashamed of.” –Tamara Lytle


Categories: People