Meet the winners of our fifth annual Extraordinary Teen Awards—12 of the county’s best and brightest students, chosen from nearly 100 nominees. This year’s winners include an award-winning mathematician, a budding politician and several athletes who are attracting local and national attention. These teens show it’s possible to shine both in and out of the classroom.
Senior, Thomas S. Wootton High School
Hannah Burr’s parents were understandably skeptical when she told them she wanted to spend five months of her junior year skiing at Waterville Valley Academy, a New Hampshire boarding school for high-level ski racers.
“We made it clear that the only way this was going to work was for her to make academics her first priority,” says her father, Mike Burr.
Not only did the North Potomac teen maintain her academics, she earned perfect scores on four AP tests and maintained a high GPA at Wootton while spending several hours daily on the slopes. At Waterville, tutors work with students to help them keep up with schoolwork sent from home.
Hannah, now 17, started racing at Pennsylvania resorts such as Whitetail and Liberty Mountain while in elementary school, after a ski instructor noticed how quickly she mastered basic skiing skills. Soon she was winning local races and attending offseason ski camps in Colorado, New England and other locations. In high school, she began spending a few weeks of each school year at Waterville, culminating in those five months during junior year.
Hannah discovered at the boarding school that she was among a much more competitive field of skiers than those she had raced against at home.
“That experience could really wreck people, especially at her age,” says Tom Barbeau, director of the alpine program and one of Hannah’s coaches at Waterville. “She went after it in a way that was truly courageous, and her improvements were phenomenal.”
Hannah attributes her successes, which include qualifying for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) Eastern High School Championships in 2013, to determination and a willingness to work her way up from the bottom.
“I kept an open mind, and strived for a nonjudgmental attitude,” she says. “I knew I was going to learn from the experience, and that’s what I did.”
Hannah opted not to go to Waterville during senior year, instead skiing for Whitetail’s racing team. She plans to attend college in the fall and hopes to ski with a club team. —Amy Reinink