Outstanding San Diego youth are honored for their contributions to the community
The 25 Most Notable Teens in San Diego, as chosen by the San Diego County Public Defender, are honored for their achievements and contributions to the community.
Each year the office recognizes outstanding young people who are nominated for making a difference in their own way.
The students range in age from 13 to 19 and are recognized in categories including environmental protection, arts and culture, technology, community engagement, entrepreneurship, courage to overcome adversity and more.
Makena Stumpo, 13, plays the guitar well, but it’s the piano that really makes him sing.
“It just feels natural. It just feels like the right thing to do when I’m singing and playing,” he said.
Stumpo is an eighth grade student at Pacific Beach Middle School. When he grows up he wants to be a marine biologist, but he can also be a musician.
He has used his talent to raise awareness and donations for charities such as the Prevent Drowning Foundation. He raised $200 last summer by singing in a downtown park. He also sings at retirement homes.
“Most people have visions, but they don’t go out to achieve them. I think remarkable people are the ones who go out to achieve their dreams and their visions,” Stumpo said.
Leslie Pagel, 17, is a Crawford High School senior who is out and proud.
“I went through a lot of labels that didn’t really fit me personally, and I found that the label ‘queer’ is very broad and encompasses who I am. I don’t want to be put in a box, she said.
Pagel wears her diversity on her sleeve as proof of her strength, literally. During her freshman year, she and her parents moved to San Diego from Tijuana where she was harassed and bullied by classmates and teachers for being gay. At Crawford High School, Pagel has blossomed as president of the Gay Student Alliance. A budding artist, she uses her remarkable creativity to honor LGBTQ history and inspire others like her.
“I really felt like I was alone because adults made me feel alone – they made me feel like I didn’t deserve any rights or that I didn’t deserve any love. But the whole society is about love and it’s 100% another person like you,” Pagel said.
MedAlert is a potentially life-saving application that nurses can download. It was produced by a company whose CEO, Vedant Nahar, 16, is a junior at Scripps Ranch High School.
“My friend’s grandmother died accidentally due to a medication error in a nursing home. Using that as inspiration, my team and I created MedAlert because we wanted to solve the problem of medication errors in these nursing facilities,” he said.
Nahar is also a star athlete with a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and he is on the high school swim team. He plans to use all his experience, strength and hope to become a technology entrepreneur one day.
“Finding problems, innovating to create solutions, bringing them to market and getting people to use it to help people solve their problems,” he said.
The 25 Most Notable Teens in San Diego 2022
See the full list of the 25 Most Notable Teens in San Diego here.
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