Kids These Days ...
Three RHS students, succeeding on their own terms
Lexi Pass, Nathan Walker, and Jason Bangser follow their passions outside of their school life.
Photo by Scott Mullin
Jason Bangser received his first guitar at age nine, never imagining where those first few notes would take him. He discovered jazz in middle school and says, “No pun intended, but it really struck a chord with me.” Now 16, he has established himself as an accomplished jazz musician, playing regular gigs at Sarah’s Wine Bar and Tavern 1757.
He is involved in the Youth Arts Forum, an organization that allows young musicians to play at venues like the Bitter End in New York, but sometimes he plays for experience and exposure to support charities like Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The first time Jason played at the Bitter End, he admits to being awed. “It’s such an iconic venue.” After playing there several times, nerves gave way to familiarity. “Now it seems like a second home to me.”
Jason has also lent his talent to other fundraising endeavors, notably, Sandy Hook Promise, for which he co-wrote the song “Counting on You.”
Another memorable performance was getting to play onstage with legendary Bucky Pizzarelli. “It was the most nervous I’ve ever been,” he admits. Jason plans on pursing a business or finance major in college but knows that he will continue with his music. “I see myself playing for the rest of my life,” he says.
For Lexi Pass, 16, the launch of her peer-tutoring business, Alpha Dog Math, was the right equation: she needed spending money and she loves math. Double win. Lexi soon realized she had several friends also interested in tutoring. A budding entrepreneur, she created Alpha Dog Math in 2014. Catering mainly to middle-school students, Alpha Dog Math offers one-on-one tutoring, she says “to increase confidence and competence.”
The concept is simple. Parents contact Lexi through the Facebook page, where they communicate their child’s needs and desired times. Lexi charges a one-time administration fee and matches the student with one of her tutors whom she has personally vetted for capability. After that, the parent pays an hourly fee directly to the tutor.
“Peer tutoring is successful because,” Lexi says, “it’s less intimidating and kids tend to listen to one another better.” The peer component is not just tutoring, but mentoring as well. She recalls tutoring two middle-school sisters and also advising them on what to expect in high school. The three remain friends today, playing on sports teams together.
Alpha Dog is thriving; word of mouth from satisfied parents has brought in more opportunities. Currently, Lexi has 11 tutors working under her direction.
The biggest challenge so far has been learning the etiquette of business communication with parents. “There’s definitely a learning curve there,” she admits.
Lexi hopes to pass Alpha Dog on to a responsible underclassman when she graduates. As for her future plans, she wants to major in engineering, and she would consider continuing to tutor.
There are not many high-school students who can claim to have assisted a motor-vehicle-accident victim and a few short hours later are in physics class. But for Nathan Walker, 17, it would be a normal occurrence. Nathan is an emergency medical technician (EMT) with the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corp. “I’ve always had an interest in helping people,” he acknowledges. The EMT training course seemed a natural fit.
Obtaining his certification was a year-long commitment: approximately 170 hours of course work followed by state and national testing. Nathan was then paired with EMTs out of Norwalk Hospital for on-the-scene training. “It was intimidating at first,” he says. Tasks like calling the incident into the hospital require using a specific lingo. Even riding in the ambulance took getting used to. “When the lights and sirens are going, it’s hard to hear, and everything moves around in the speeding ambulance.”
Nathan now works six-hour shifts on the weekends. Nights are either quiet or really busy he says. Busy is always better. “You get excited when there’s a call.” One of his most memorable calls was a stab wound. “That was pretty interesting. Obviously, you want a positive turnout.”
The past year has built his self-confidence. “When I go into calls now, I know what I’m doing, so I feel I can take charge.” With graduation on the horizon, Nathan is certain he will pursue something in the medical field. Meanwhile, he’s a good person to have in a crisis. When a friend crashed his bike recently, Nathan stepped in, saying, “Don’t worry, I got this.”