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A Number of Achievements

Jennifer Tilton
Jennifer Tilton, 14

Future study: Math, maybe architecture

Homework regimen: Two hours on weeknights

Hours of sleep a night: Generally, eight

Video games: None

Socially: “I fit in pretty well socially with all the other math nerds, whatever you want to call them.”

For fun and games: Swimming, Facebook, math competitions

Favorite TV:
“Make It or Break It” and “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”

[Photo: Donna Victor]
At an age when most kids are finishing middle school, Jennifer Tilton is finishing her junior year in high school, first in her class and second in the state in the Florida Mathematics League, with perfect scores on the SAT subject-area tests for math and physics.

Her life in the academic fast lane owes in part to her elementary school, the private Weiss School in Palm Beach Gardens, which let her start kindergarten at age 4 and skip first and fifth grades. She was 11 when she started at public Suncoast Community High School — one of the nation’s best, according to Newsweek — in its math, science and engineering magnet and its International Baccalaureate program. As a freshman, she took AP calculus. “She was always one of my top students and proved it by receiving a five on the AP calculus AB exam at age 12,” says teacher Beth Bobay, who’s a star herself, having won the Siemens Foundation AP teacher award for Florida for 2008-09.

Tilton acknowledges math came fairly easily. “It was like I learned it before,” she says. She’s good at memorizing and doesn’t procrastinate.

“I don’t think I’m better than anyone else,” she says. “Everyone’s good at something. I just happen to be good at something that’s really easy to show.” If it’s any consolation to the math-challenged, she says she’s no natural talent at swimming and has to work hard. She must be working hard enough. She is slated to be co-captain next year of the high school team and was named as an honorable mention pick to the girl’s all-area team by the Palm Beach Post.

A Sound Future

Alexander Niles
For an eighth-grade school project, Niles decided to make electric guitars.

Alexander Niles
, 16
Rising Junior, Dr. Michael Krop Senior High, Aventura
[Photo: Donna Victor]
As an eighth-grader assigned to devise a business plan for a class, Alex Niles watched classmates offer up candy-selling plans. He wrote about making custom electric guitars. “I knew I could do it,” says Niles, all of 13 at the time.

He’s made four guitars, investing $2,000 in each. “They feel great, and they sound great,” he says. He hasn’t sold any, but he did win the state National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship competition, becoming a national finalist before losing out to fellow Miamian Jessica Cervantes [Trendsetters, March 2009].

Finishing 10th grade at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High in Aventura, Niles, now 16, plays guitar, piano, drums and bass.

He still works on his Niles Custom Shop Guitars but, truth be known, he would prefer making it big with his indie rock band, The Saurus. “I know that we’re good,” he says. He also knows it’s a fickle business; law school is plan B.


» Madison Fortenberry, 17, Pace High School, Pace, started a robotics camp for elementary kids, designed a robot to perform school administrative work and captained the winning team at a national robotics competition. For the Air Force, he’s built robots for a navigation demo.

» David Weinberg, 17, and Paul Vitale, 18, Spruce Creek High School, Port Orange, wrote software and used Wiimotes and other off-the-shelf components to create $75 interactive whiteboards for Spruce Creek that have nearly the same capabilities as $2,000 commercial whiteboards.

» Maureik Robison, 17, Booker High School, Sarasota, jazz drummer and National Honor Society president, founded “Sounds for Seniors” concerts at nursing homes featuring his jazz quartet.

» Sade Morris, 17, Miami Northwestern Senior High, Miami, never knew her mother and was 8 when her father died. Raised by her aunt, she has worked at a supermarket since 14, interns at Jackson Memorial and will graduate high school with an LPN license and hopes to do premed at Barry or the University of Miami.