Savvy's 18 Under 18
Meet our state's future leaders, teachers, doctors and artists. We were blown away by the nominees for this edition of Savvy's 18 Under 18. The kids you'll meet in the following pages exhibit academic, athletic and community service records that are absolutely out of this world. Rest assured, the future of Arkansas is in good hands.
Meghana Bolimpalli, 15, has a trophy case that’s about to burst and a heart that’s bent on helping her community. She’s participated in science fairs since the fifth grade and has won numerous awards every year. She’s won first place overall in her school’s annual STEM fair, first at Regionals, was a recipient of the National Naval Science award, and was selected as a National Semifinalist for the prestigious Broadcom MASTERS premier science fair. She’s won Overall Grand champion at the Harmony Science and Engineering Fair in Houston, and won the silver medal at Genius Olympiad, “the world’s largest environmentally focused international science and engineering fair.” Meghana is an active member in many clubs and organizations and engages in community service. She’s an active advocate for protecting the environment and eradicating homelessness among children and youth in Arkansas. Meghana was nominated by her parents, Venkat and Madhavi Bollimpalli of Little Rock.
Madyson Bright, 11, is an exemplary Girl Scout who is on track to do big things in her community. She is a Cadette Girl Scout and has achieved the third highest award in Girl Scouts, the Bronze Award, for helping lead a project for the CALL Center to organize 60 backpacks filled with needed items for kids entering foster care. She also helped organize and donate almost 200 coats to the local women and children’s shelter. She received the Gold Presidential Volunteer Award the last two years for giving more than 75 hours to her community. She is a member of two competitive cheer squads and has won several national titles. Madyson is involved in the gifted and talented program at school, and wants to become a neurosurgeon. Madyson was nominated by her parents, Randall Bright, Jr. and Annette LaRue of Benton.
Cole Harrison, 10, is a true fighter with a fantastic attitude. Cole was born three weeks early and admitted to the NICU after both of his lungs collapsed. He had bilateral chest tubes, as well as a PIC line. He bounced back quickly, but unfortunately he did not grow as expected and was diagnosed with idiopathic short stature syndrome, delayed bone growth syndrome and human growth hormone (HGH) deficiency, for all of which he now very bravely gives himself HGH injections nightly. Despite medical setbacks, Cole has thrived. He competes in basketball, baseball, chess, Taekwando, golf and soccer. He consistently demonstrates talent, dedication and a positive attitude on and off the field. He cheers on his teammates, and never lets a loss get him down. Cole was nominated by his parents, Dan and Michael Harrison of Little Rock.
Katie High, 10, is a model, athlete, actress and a stellar big sister who dreams of becoming a teacher. Katie was awarded both Photogenic Winner and Most Promising Model, and was first runner-up at the 2013 Arkansas National American Miss competition. After those awards, she showed continued interest in modeling and acting, and trained at Excel Models and Talent. Katie loves acting and has appeared in all her school’s plays, and has also acted with the Maumelle Youth Theater. She walked the runway in the ALS in Wonderland fundraiser in 2014, and at McCain Mall’s fall fashion shows. She is on the honor roll at school, and was awarded the President’s Educational Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement. She enjoys cheering, gymnastics, basketball and soccer. Katie was nominated by her parents, Sam and Jennifer High of Maumelle.
Madison Faith Hines, 11, sets the example on being a well-rounded, athletic, philanthropic person. She’s modeled for Dillard’s and graced the local runways, but spends most of her time in athletics. She is a star on her basketball team, is a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo, has a wall full of ribbons for swimming and dreams of being an Olympic gymnast. She even helps teach little ones gymnastics. When her 5-year-old cousin, Carter, passed away from cancer two years ago, Madison was heartbroken. Each year since Madison found out Carter had cancer, without letting anyone besides her father and mother know, she gave all of her birthday money to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. She’s a go-getter with a heart of gold! Madison was nominated by her parents, Micah Hines and Jennifer Trafford-Hines of Little Rock.
Aspen James, 11, is smart, kind and has an amazing style that’s all her own. She loves reading and science, has an impressive book collection and has performed dozens of household experiments. She loves cooking, baking and presenting her food with style. In 2015, she helped her Destination Imagination team go to state, regional and the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee. Her grades have always been outstanding. She won the Gibbs Magnet Science Fair and went on to place in the state competition as well. In her last year at Gibbs Magnet, she won the Silver Presidential Award for academics, and even more meaningful, she won the Felicia Bell Hobbs Peace Prize, which is only given to two recipients each year and is based on the student’s attitude, compassion and personality over their five years at the school. Aspen was nominated by her parents, Thaddeus and Melissa James of Little Rock.
Madison Lacy, 16, is a progressive who loves to work behind the scenes to find new, fresh, innovative solutions to problems. Madison is a member of numerous organizations such as the National Honor Society, The Drama Club, Donaghey Scholars, and Black Girls Code. She volunteers with organizations such as The Arkansas Heart Association, Habitat For Humanity, and The Humane Society of Pulaski County. Her mother calls her “genius baby” because since the time Madison was born her aspirations have been to become a scientist. She has always been “solution-focused.” Madison works alongside other creatives at the Arkansas Innovation Hub in product development for her mother’s interior design company, International Flair Designs. Madison was nominated by her mother, Kymberlyn Lacy of Little Rock.
Sierra Lacy, 15, is outspoken, witty, organized and tech-savvy. Sierra gives back to her community through Arkansas Children’s Hospital Star Achievers, Habitat For Humanity and The Ronald McDonald House Supper Club. Academically, she’s involved in Donaghey Scholars, Black Girls Code, EAST and National Honor Society. She’s co-captain of her high school dance team and a hurdler for the track team. Sierra developed concepts to expand her mother’s company. She spent the summer at the E.Fay Jones School of Architecture and Interior Design Camp and coding camps with her sister Madison. Although Sierra is an aspiring medical doctor, she enjoys every facet of entrepreneurship that she’s learned from working alongside her mother. Sierra was nominated by her mother, Kymberlyn Lacy of Little Rock.
Nicole Occidental, 16, has a bright future in medicine. Last June, she was invited to attend the Congress for Future Medical Leaders in Massachusetts. She met many talented people and was able to watch live hip-replacement surgery. After the congress, she was presented a Certificate of Excellence and got a letter of recognition from Sen. Tom Cotton and U.S. Rep. French Hill. In July, she attended the Harvard Summer Camp where she was one of 280 students selected out of 7,000 applicants, and one of the 18 students accepted at Intro to Neuroscience Camp. She has also been invited to attend the Harvard Medical School Beta Program, which will cover Intro to Immunology and Physiology. Nicole was nominated by her parents, Dr. Jucelle and Carol Occidental of Sherwood.
Kiera Portie, 10, has a serious passion for community service. She has been active with Recycle Bikes for
more than two years, repairing, washing and testing out bikes and volunteering at the organization’s events. She also attended Cyclofemme this year because she enjoys bike riding, and wants to encourage more girls to ride bikes. Kiera also attended the Little Rock Junior Park Ranger camp where she learned about the natural environment in Little Rock’s park system. For the last two years, Kiera has volunteered with Cranksgiving to help with their annual food drive, and she volunteered at the Autism Speaks Arkansas Walk to hand out balloons to all the walkers. She passes out joy everywhere she goes! Kiera was nominated by her mother, Shana Buterbaugh of Little Rock.
Corbin Pitts, 10, is an active athlete, actor and writer who loves the spotlight. Corbin is an honor roll student, videographer for his school’s Dogtown Derby community project, a Cub Scout, plays soccer on a competitive traveling team and takes voice, dance and acting lessons. He’s been cast in 12 shorts films, a television pilot, 13 commercials, two storybook ballets and countless plays/musicals. Corbin has shared the stage with his sister, Grace, in many productions including “Elf,” “Mary Poppins” and the world premiere of “Project Elan” at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, and others at the Argenta Community Theater. Corbin also likes to be behind the scenes as he’s been writing screenplays, and has cast many of his friends and former co-stars in his upcoming films. Corbin was nominated by his parents, Kyle and Christen Pitts of North Little Rock.
Grace Pitts, 13,is a rising star on the stage and at her school. She takes dance, voice and acting lessons, is a Student Council Representative and a cheerleader at her school, where she is also on the honor roll. Her grades, school activities, performing, family and friends are all very important to her. Grace has been cast in 10 short films, a television pilot, 13 commercials, countless plays and 10 storybook ballets. Grace and her brother, Corbin, work with Broadway Kids Auditions and Ethan Paulini in New York, and are in the process of auditioning for national tours, and will attend a weeklong Broadway Bound intensive in New York City this summer with Young Performers of America where they will work with Broadway stars. Look for her in the role of Mary Lennox in “The Secret Garden” at Argenta Community Theater this spring! Grace was nominated by her parents Kyle and Christen Pitts of North Little Rock.
Gage Rogers, 16, shows excellent discipline and compassion, and is sure to achieve great things in his future career in the military. Gage has shown strength following the loss of his father three years ago, and has continued to excel in anything he chooses to do. He has been part of JROTC at his school for three years, and has decided his career path will lead to the military to serve his country. He is a Staff 1st Lieutenant in the JROTC and has competed in the JROTC drill team, and also had the honor of representing in the Color/Honor Guard. He maintains good grades in school, is a great uncle to two nieces and continues to help around the house. He volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House, THV’s Summer Cereal Drive and Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kids' Sake. Gage was nominated by his mother, Andrea Rogers of Hensley.
Samantha Rusk, 16, has a passion for serving her community and excelling in school. She devotes time to feed the homeless, ring the Salvation Army’s bell each Christmas and start a shoe drive, “Sweet Feet from the Soul,” which she promoted and enlisted volunteers to become a great success. For this project she received recognition as “Volunteer of the Year” in North Little Rock. Samantha has been an active member of the North Little Rock Mayor’s Youth Council and participated the North Little Rock-Uiwang, South Korea, Sister City Exchange Program. Last summer, Samantha participated in a prestigious National Youth Leadership Forum for emerging leaders of the 21st Century, and traveled to Washington, D.C. to spend a week with 375 student leaders and government officials. Samantha was nominated by her parents, Kaysie and Tom Rusk of Maumelle.
Mason Camferdam Simmons, 13, was able to overcome the medical odds with his unwavering faith. A few years ago, he was so badly burned that doctors said he wouldn’t regain all of the pigment in his skin and would be left with permanent scars. The first time the nurse showed him a mirror, he looked and said, “God’s going to heal my skin.” The nurse explained the odds to him, and when she left he looked at his parents and said, “She must not know how awesome my God is at what he does,” his mother said. Within eight months you couldn’t tell Mason had been burned. Every time Mason would go to the doctor they were shocked with how fast he was healing! Mason’s mother said her son’s faith was bigger than all of her fears, and he continues to amaze their family. He is a great brother, always looking out for, helping and protecting his siblings. Mason was nominated by his parents, Ross and Jessikah Camferdam of Benton.
Tatum Stanley, 17, is leading her graduating class and setting the example for school involvement. Tatum serves as her student body president and maintains a 4.0 GPA in addition to her involvement in many school clubs. She is a member of the Forensics Team, Swim Team, STARS program, Student Council, Mu Alpha Theta, Honor Society and
the Beta Club. Tatum is a wonderful storyteller and placed third in storytelling at the Tournament of Champions last year. She volunteers with her church in the summer, and is a mentor to elementary students through the STARS program. Tatum also enjoys acting on stage and has appeared in several school plays. She is a self-motivated student that strives to do her best. Future plans include attending college to gain an elementary education degree. Tatum was nominated by her parents, Doug and Kim Stanley of North Little Rock.
Skylar Elizabeth Stone, 10, may be the strongest kid in central Arkansas. She was diagnosed with a rare birth defect called Schizencephaly, and was not supposed to survive through her first year. Ten years later, Skylar perseveres with the strength and courage of 100 men. She recently became a big sister and is loving it. She deals with so much in her life and has gone through more in her 10 years than most people go through in their lifetime. Through it all, she is so happy and loves life and continues to defeat all of the odds. Skylar was nominated by her parents, Clint and Lindsay Overman of Alexander.
Michael Glen Tarkington, 16, most loves helping others. He was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at age 3, but has never let anything keep him from living the life he wants to live. Michael is kind, and has a great sense for knowing when someone needs a hug or a kind word. He is often ignored or dismissed because of his limitations, but he never gets angry or discouraged. Michael loves computer and art classes at his school and wants to be a computer programmer. He is an active member of his church youth group and attends a yearly mission trip where he loves to serve other people. He also enjoys helping out at the Ozark Mission Project by designing artwork and helping with the webpage. Michael was nominated by his parents, Michael and Carissa Tarkington of Conway.