Fittest loser

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  • Schaumburg native Sahaj Shah, 21, aka DJ Mr. Shaw, talks about his passion for being a DJ while practicing in his studio/bedroom. His craft requires him to be part-musician, part-engineer and part-street performer.

    Schaumburg native making waves on the DJ sceneJul 11, 2013 12:00 AM
    Give Sahaj Shah a turntable, laptop and some headphones and watch as he transforms into DJ Mr. Shaw. The 21-year-old Columbia College student from Schaumburg last month won the Boom DJ Battle, part of the B96 Summer Bash festivities at Toyota Park. “When he was a baby, he'd use my kitchen utensils like drumsticks and make dents and bumps all over my pots,” she said. “... I never imagined it would lead to this.”

  •  Aseem Jha of Lisle will be a senior at Naperville North High School. Aseem, who aced both his ACT and SAT college entrance exams, is taking a 7:30 a.m. history class this summer ďjust for fun.Ē

    Perfection comes with hard work for Lisle teen Jun 27, 2013 12:00 AM
    Aseem Jha may have earned perfect scores on both his ACT and SAT college entrance exam - a feat accomplished by just a miniscule portion of test takers each year - but there's a lot more to the 17-year-old from Lisle than just academics.

  • Most friends use the word “patriotic” to describe Jonathan Ehret. The 18-year-old from Mount Prospect is the Illinois finalist for a national American Legion scholarship, an Eagle Scout who broke his 82-year-old troop's record for the most merit badges and a member of the Civil Air Patrol.

    Mt. Prospect teen dedicated to U.S. Jun 20, 2013 12:00 AM
    Though barely old enough to vote, Jonathan Ehret has managed to revolve his life around activities and leadership opportunities that reflect his patriotism. The Mount Prospect teen, just graduated from a French-speaking school, is an Eagle Scout who broke his 82-year-old troop's record for the most merit badges and hopes to serve as a U.S. Army officer. “I've always known I wanted to serve my country somehow,” Jonathan, 18, said.

  •  Kevin Bickner, 16, of Wauconda has a tall, thin build thatís perfect for the sport of ski jumping.

    Wauconda teen among nationís elite ski jumpers Jun 6, 2013 12:00 AM
    Imagine sliding down a ramp at 55 mph then being propelled forward high into the air, everything going quiet as your body almost weightlessly sails along until landing with a thud, your limbs heavy, your body solid again. Thatís what ski jumping feels like, said 16-year-old Kevin Bickner of Wauconda, who after thousands of leaps since he was 9 years old is now one of the best young ski jumpers in the nation.

  • Filmmakers and brothers Richard, seated, and Ben Medina of Palatine sometimes collaborate on projects. Ben, 16, cowrote and directed the short film “Domino,” and graphic artist Richard, 14, designed its poster.

    Sibling rivalry propels young Palatine filmmakers May 23, 2013 12:00 AM
    Two young filmmakers from Palatine are making a name for themselves in the visual arts world and racking up some incredible experiences along the way. Richard, an eighth-grader, is the graphic artist, and Ben, a high school sophomore, is the writer and director. "I'm really proud of Richard, but there's boiling hatred there, too," Ben, 16, jokes. "We both operate in the visual arts, but luckily in very different areas."

  • Moira Kramp, the 2012 North American Irish Dance Championships winner in her age group, has traveled through North America and Europe to take part in Irish dance competitions.

    Arlington Heights teen dances her way to championship May 9, 2013 12:00 AM
    Dressed in a surprisingly heavy wool costume adorned with Celtic patterns, her already curly hair tucked into an even fuller wig, Moira Kramp exudes joy when she takes her position on stage. The Arlington Heights teen's movements look impossibly intricate and yet also effortless, leaving no one to doubt how she won the U-14 title at the 2012 North American Irish Dance Championships.

  • Wilbur You, left, CEO and founder of Youtech & Associates in Naperville, goes over some work with creative director Shawn Herrick. The two have been best friends since childhood. Wilbur, 22, will be graduating in May from Northern Illinois University with a computer science degree.

    Aurora college student has knack for startups Apr 25, 2013 12:00 AM
    Wilbur You always had the kind of entrepreneurial drive that is almost impossible to rein in, and that almost landed him into trouble when he was just 10. By the time the Aurora resident was 21, he was on his third startup business, all while managing a full course load at Northern Illinois University. Wilbur, now 22, is the CEO and founder of Youtech & Associates, a creative ad in Naperville.

  • University of Illinois senior Matt Schuelke assists with cutting-edge imaging research aimed at benefiting diabetic patients. The Hoffman Estates native, who five years ago suffered a serious brain injury while skiing, has been accepted into multiple M.D./Ph.D. programs.

    Budding Hoffman Estates scientist overcomes brain injuryApr 4, 2013 12:00 AM
    In the hours after experienced skier Matt Schuelke landed a jump headfirst on a rock — cracking his skull and driving bone into his brain — his parents stood by helplessly as their son lay in a coma. No one knew whether the Fremd High School junior's brain would swell, or what impairments the injury would leave. So it's nothing short of a miracle, they're sure, that Matt is now on the verge of not only graduating from the University of Illinois, but joining one of the nation's most prestigious combined MD/Ph.D. programs en route to becoming a physician scientist.

  • Buffalo Grove native Mike Wilner competes on the still rings for the University of Illinois men's gymnastics team. He's ranked No. 1 in the event nationally and has his sights set on a national title.

    Buffalo Grove gymnast a lord of the rings for Illini, U.S. Mar 21, 2013 12:00 AM
    You know you're doing something right when former Olympians are wowed by a performance. That's been the case for Buffalo Grove native Mike Wilner, a University of Illinois gymnast who's ranked No. 1 nationally on still rings. The computer engineering major also will compete in this summer's 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel. "I could see him being a national champion, even this year," said Illini head coach Justin Spring.

  • Connor McHugh, 13, of Wheaton encourages sprinters while helping the Special Olympics basketball and track teams at Hubble Middle School in Warrenville. During the fall, Connor serves as an assistant football coach at his school, St. Michael Parish School in Wheaton.

    No limits: Teen refuses to “take my circumstances”Feb 28, 2013 12:00 AM
    Connor McHugh, an eighth-grader at St. Michael Parish School in Wheaton, refuses to let the circumstances of his birth define him. Born with no arms and underdeveloped legs, Connor hasn't let it stop him from becoming a coach for his school's football team. In January, he received the Inspirational Athlete award at the 2013 Comcast SportsNet Sports Awards.

  • Buffalo Grove native Megan Bozek just broke the University of Minnesota women's record for career goals (42) and career points (135) by a defenseman.

    Buffalo Grove native trying for red, white and blue jersey Feb 21, 2013 12:00 AM
    Megan Bozek's natural ability and dedication have propelled her from a 19-month-old lacing up her first pair of skates to co-captain of the No. 1-ranked University of Minnesota women's ice hockey team — and a hopeful Olympian. She just broke the team record for career goals and points by a defenseman, and soon hopes to trade in her maroon and gold sweater for the red, white and blue. "It's incredible putting on that jersey with your country's colors," Megan said. "You're playing for more than yourself and your team."

  • Eduardo Perez of Hanover Park, a senior at Elgin High School, has accepted a four-year scholarship to Stanford University. Here he's pictured with his acceptance letter. Eduardo is on the varsity track, swim and soccer teams.

    'Drive to be successful' leads Elgin High teen to StanfordFeb 14, 2013 12:00 AM
    The backpack Elgin High School senior Eduardo Perez carries around school isn't like that of most of his classmates. For starters, it's packed with 34 pounds of books and notes - all of them color coordinated by subject. It's that kind of organization and dedication that have made Eduardo a success at just about everything he's tried in high school, and earned him a full ride to Stanford University.

  • Alex Taikwel

    Legally blind, Palatine teen's vision for life is clearJan 31, 2013 12:00 AM
    Being legally blind is no reason to sit on the sidelines altogether, Alex Taikwel says. Although becoming a traditional medical doctor, reading his short stories in public and taking the football field with the marching band may not be in the cards, the Palatine teen still volunteers in a hospital, writes and plays instruments. "Sometimes it's frustrating that I face limitations," Alex, a Fremd High School senior, says. "But I've come to terms with it."

  • John Davis, Jr. of South Elgin was one of just 115 seventh- and eighth-graders selected to play in the JuniorRank the All-American Academic Bowl this month. He was a long snapper and center. Athletes in the game must carry a 3.0 GPA or higher.

    South Elgin teen makes all-star football teamJan 24, 2013 12:00 AM
    Big hits, touchdown runs and long passes are the plays that usually dominate football commentary. But have you ever thought about what it takes to be a great long snapper? Fourteen-year-old John Davis Jr. has since he was a little boy, and it's that focus that's made him one of the best long snappers for his age group in the nation.

  • Rachel Cliburn of Long Grove is spending the year getting her master's degree in neuroscience in the Netherlands after winning a prestigious Fulbright grant.

    Long Grove Fulbright student takes on science of addiction Jan 10, 2013 12:00 AM
    Rachel Cliburn remembers combing through a scientific journal during her sophomore year at Baylor University, the authors page piquing her interest. "I thought, 'it's someone's job to actually do this, just to find stuff out?'" Rachel said. "'That could be me!'" The Long Grove native has since embraced life as a researcher, and last year she was named a Fulbright student. The 22-year-old now lives abroad in the Netherlands working toward a master's degree in neuroscience.

  •  Tomoki Hiwatashi

    Suburban Standouts continue to shine on local, world stage Jan 3, 2013 12:00 AM
    We weren't quite sure what we'd find in May 2011 when we set out to showcase extraordinary young people for our new Suburban Standouts column. The suburbs, it turns out, are teeming with gifted minds, accomplished athletes, talented artists and driven students who thrive, often in the face of hardship. We checked in with six of our favorites to see what they've been up to.

  • Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes Jr. of Aurora is a junior at Aurora University, where he serves as president of the Latin American Student Organization. He’s also the youngest person ever to serve on the East Aurora School District 131 Board of Education. He says his parents, Ignacio Sr. and Lourdes Cervantes, always pushed him to work hard and aim high.

    Latino student youngest school board member in burbsDec 27, 2012 12:00 AM
    Ignacio "Nacho" Cervantes Jr. is the kind of guy who won't go out all weekend unless he's done with his work. These days, that means balancing his duties as the youngest board member in the history of East Aurora High School District 131, his studies at Aurora University and his work for the family catering business. "I am very dedicated in everything that I do," he says.

  • Breanna Bogucki, a freshman at Cary-Grove High School, has autism. She won the Special Talents America contest last month by singing a Taylor Swift song.

    Cary-Grove freshman has autism — and a gift for music Dec 13, 2012 12:00 AM
    No one could have predicted that Breanna Bogucki, a Cary-Grove High School freshman, would one day dazzle live audiences and impress tough critics with her singing. Breanna, who has autism, last month won the Special Talents America. "Breanna immediately hit me like, 'Oh my God, this girl has a fantastic voice.' Not only that, her pitch is excellent," judge Jim Peterik said.

  • Hersey High School student Alex Baratta shows some of the works of art he brought back from his volunteer work in Ghana and other travels.

    Arlington Heights teen helps others abroad, excels at home Dec 6, 2012 12:00 AM
    Alex Baratta could be Nike's trademark slogan personified. If the Hersey High School senior ever feels the weight of his full plate — juggling three varsity sports, a perfect GPA, service trips abroad and robotic competitions at home can be a challenge — the Arlington Heights teen tells himself to buckle down and "Just do it." And do it well. "Whenever I take something on, there's no backing out," Alex, 17, says.

  •  18-year-old Lake Zurich High School senior Stevie Finedore is a professional model who has worked in New York and Europe.

    Lake Zurich teen making a name for herself as a modelNov 29, 2012 12:00 AM
    When Stevie Finedore takes a job, her uniform could very well be eight-inch heels, a slicked back bun and smoky black eyes. It's just another day at the office for the Lake Zurich High School senior, one of the modeling industry's freshest faces and already a runway fixture at New York Fashion Week. "This has been the most fun and most surreal ride," Stevie says. "I never thought something like this could happen to me."

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