Photos by Angie Gray
From a budding naval aviator to a budding agronomist, there is no shortage of inspiring children in the First State. Here we introduce you to five students who are sure to make headlines in the future.
Max Brown, 11 years old
As a toddler, Max Brown saw any toy as a potential instrument. Wanting to encourage her son’s budding interest, his mother Ellie Brown enrolled him in violin lessons at the Music School of Delaware, under the tutelage of Jessica Hoffman and then Shelley Beard. Now in sixth grade at Wilmington Friends School, Brown has gone on to perform on one of the most prestigious stages in the country: Carnegie Hall in New York. He devotes most of his school breaks to honing his talent, including attending Northwestern University Bienen School of Music Summer Violin Institute and Ithaca College Suzuki Institute’s Preludio Violin Program for the past two summers. An incredible big brother (according to his mother), Brown also enjoys playing and training with his 6-year-old sister, River; the two kids even collaborated on a recent album titled Max and River Brown: Containment. And when he’s not playing the violin? “I [also] playing guitar, mandolin and piano,” says Brown, who recently added the school band’s percussion to his repertoire. “And I like playing football and reading.”
Bryggen Robertson, 8 years old
Most children’s first foray into dance is through ballet or tap dancing. Not for Bryggen “Bryggs” Robertson. Around the age of 3, she began taking lessons in Irish dancing, a genre that dates back to the 1600s and includes reels and jigs, similar to traditional Irish folk dances. Her mother, Becky Robertson, was introduced to former world champion Irish dancer Megan Harper-Fuentes, owner of the Harper Academy of Irish Dance in Hockessin and encouraged her daughter to try it out. Over the next six years, the young Robertson competed in regional and national competitions (called do), where she competes in the “open” category, the highest level of Irish dancing. At the 2021 USA National Dance Championship in Phoenix, she earned second place overall in the under-8 category. At the 2022 North American Irish Dancing Championships in Montreal last summer, she finished ninth overall in the under-9 category against top dancers from North America and a few competitors from Australia and Ireland. . Robertson, now in her third year at the Ursuline Academy, has Fei friends from across the country. “Love the competitive fun and my sparkly pink dress!” she says. When she’s not training, sometimes three to four times a week before competitions, Robertson says she enjoys swimming, running and reading.
He has game
Aaron Janusz, 17 years old
Aaron Janusz has yet to find a sport he dislikes. A member of the Special Olympics football and basketball teams, he has also competed in downhill skiing, figure skating, and horseback riding through Special Olympics Delaware. As a freshman at Concord High School, Janusz says he enjoys competing because it brings him pride and a sense of accomplishment. He is also an active scout, a member of the Silverside Swim Club team, and a cross country and track and field athlete for his high school. Aaron’s mother, Lauren Janusz, says sports help her son feel healthier and stronger, and allow him to connect and socialize with others who share his interests. Fleming was born with Down syndrome and underwent surgery at 2 days and again at 4 months. At the age of 2, he underwent heart surgery following a post-surgical stroke. “To see him compete the way he does is truly a miracle,” his mother said. “He continues to be a fighter.”
Feed the planet
Bethanie Knutsen, 18
As a fifth-generation farmer, Bethany Knutsen’s work ethic is in her genes. A Harrington native and valedictorian of 2022 at Woodbridge High School, she has given more than 250 hours of community service during her high school career. Knutsen was also the president of Woodbridge Future Farmers of America (FFA), the vice president of the Delaware State Teen Council of 4-H and the Delaware Dairy Princess. Additionally, she earned college letters in field hockey, soccer, and cross-country. She also runs her own day camp from her family farm, teaching children about farming and introducing them to life on the farm. “FFA taught me the value of hard work and giving back to the community,” says Knutsen. This fall, she is continuing her FFA work at the University of Delaware, where she will major in plant science and minor in soil science. She hopes to become an agronomist (a soil science and crop production expert who helps farmers improve their fields). Her interest in crops and soils was sparked in eighth grade when she took part in regional FFA event The Big E to present a project on soil health – and received a gold medal before placing fifth at the next FFA national convention.
Kenzie Fleming, 18
As a senior at Archmere Academy and president of the Miracle of Engineering (MOE) 365 robotics team of the premier robotics competition, Kenzie Fleming traveled to Houston, Texas last April for the championship. Teams traveled from as far away as Taiwan and Israel for the international youth robotics competition. Part of Fleming’s role as president was to teach young students and act as a function operator for Lightning Moe Queen, a name affectionately given to the team’s robot. His interest in engineering and technology took him even further as a freshman at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. “I look forward to the rigor and leadership opportunities at the academy,” says Fleming. She hopes to study aerospace engineering and eventually naval aviation. In addition to her leadership role with MOE 365, Fleming is also a competitive figure skater and self-taught baker.
Related: Delaware’s Top Teachers to Educate and Inspire in 2022