Kids These Days!

“06880” regularly praises Staples High School’s astonishing actors and musicians, robotics whizzes and talented writers.

Occasionally, I shine a light on great athletes (though that’s really the job of newspaper sports pages).

Yet Staples’ halls are filled with less heralded, equally remarkable boys and girls. Very quietly — but quite passionately — they do wonderful things. 

Here are 3 of them.

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Art Kelly always enjoyed helping around the house. At 3 years old, he was outside watching lawnmowers.

A few years later he walked around the neighborhood with a weed whacker.

At 10, he helped neighbors with chores like raking. His $15 fee was a lot cheaper than “real” landscapers — but he did a great job.

Six years later, he mows, mulches, weeds, edges, plants, aerates, prunes, tills and de-thatches. He has dozens of regular customers, 8 employees — all fellow Stapleites — and a great name for his own company: A Work of Art Landscaping.

Art owns a truck and trailer — along with plenty of equipment. But he’s just a sophomore, with only a learner’s permit. So his father drives him around.

Art bought everything with his own money. That’s exactly the way this independent teenager thinks it should be.

Art Kelly, with some of his equipment.

Art Kelly, with some of his equipment.

He prides himself on being more conscientious than some “professionals.”

“You have to protect gardens and beds” when mowing, he explains. “A lot of companies just shoot stuff into it, without even caring.”

Art has learned many other aspects of business. He uses QuickBooks for invoices and estimates. He’s well versed in the world of credit cards and taxes. Right now, he’s finishing paperwork to be an LLC.

Every lesson is profitable — even when, as with a few early estimates, he took losses. “That’s the only way to learn,” he says philosophically.

Of course, some customers think they can pull one over on a high school kid. “I’m not afraid to walk away if someone tries to take advantage,” Art says. “This is a business. If your goal is only to get the lowest dollar, it’s not worth it for either of us.”

A Work of Art Landscaping's work of art.

A Work of Art Landscaping’s work of art.

Art is currently running a promotion: Show him last year’s mowing bill, and he’ll take 10% off it.

And if you’re worried about him leaving in 2 years for college: don’t. Art plans to stay around here for school, to better serve his customers.

(To learn more about A Work of Art Landscaping, click here, call 203-557-4457, or email awoalandscaping@gmail.com.)

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“My whole world is fashion,” says Emerson Kobak.

“I love creativity and art. Whenever I sew or draw, I’m happy.”

Since she was 7 — when her grandmother taught her how to make a skirt — she knew that’s what she wanted to do.

The next year, Emerson’s mother bought her a beginner’s sewing machine. At 9 she made and sold pillowcases at charity events. She called her business LOXO — “lots of hugs and kisses.”

At 12, Emerson made her own bat mitzvah dress. “I wanted it to be different, and special,” she notes.

For every big event since, Emerson has created her own clothes. She made her sister’s elementary school graduation dress (and her own).

Emerson Kobak

Emerson Kobak

Every Saturday at 7:30 a.m. for the past 3 years, Emerson has taken the train to New York. She’s there all day, studying drawing and sewing at the Fashion Institution of Technology.

Though only a freshman last year, she started the Staples Fashion Club. She researched similar groups in other schools. She found like-minded designers and models.

Then she made a business plan. Her goal was to organize a fashion show.

“Fashion For a Cause” takes place Friday, May 13 (7 p.m., Toquet Hall). All proceeds go to Dress for Success — an organization that provides support and professional attire, to help underprivileged women succeed.

Emerson is making 12 different outfits for the show. Other designers contribute their own.

Emerson Kobak, modeling one of her creations.

Emerson Kobak, modeling one of her creations.

Emerson has taken care of every detail. Westport Pizzeria, Matsu Sushi, Oscar’s Delicatessen and Davids Tea are donating all the food and drinks. There’s music too.

The upcoming fashion show is a great — and generous — way for Emerson to follow her passion.

But it’s not the only one. This summer, she heads to Cornell University’s fashion design program.

Where she will continue to make her very distinctive, and quite fashionable, mark.

(To learn more about “Fashion for a Cause” — or to buy tickets — click here. To check out her website, click here.) 

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The first time Dylan Horowitz flew a drone, he crashed it.

But he’s got great hand-eye coordination. He soon had the hang of it.

He also realized that neighbors and realtors were looking for better images of homes than Google Street View.

His first job was nerve-wracking. Lots of people watched, and there were mechanical complications.

But — as with flying his drone — Dylan quickly figured things out. He’s now got a thriving business: High in the Sky Imaging.

Dylan Horowitz, with his drone.

Dylan Horowitz, with his drone.

He charges $100 to $400 an hour — far less than the $3,000 homeowners pay for helicopter photos.

Plus, Dylan says, “My service is better.” His high-quality images are available within 2 days.

“People love seeing their houses from a new perspective,” Dylan says. “There definitely is a ‘wow!’ factor.”

Every house is different, of course. Dylan designs a new plan for every flight. He includes a wide variety of angles, and soars over lawns, gardens, pools and outbuildings.

The biggest challenge is trees — but not because of the flying. They interfere with a drone’s satellite connection.

His goal is to show homes in the best possible way. However, some owners and realtors have noticed things like rusty roofs, and decided not to post the videos.

One owner fixed his roof, then invited Dylan back again. Another embarked on a landscaping project, after noticing cracks on his property.

Dylan hopes to branch out. He’s a golfer, so golf courses are a natural. Drone photos show off different aspects of each hole. Dylan’s voice commentary is an extra bonus.

After that — who knows? For Dylan Horowitz, the sky’s the limit.

(To learn more, click here; email highintheskyimaging@gmail.com, or call 917-797-2034.)

7 responses to “Kids These Days!

  1. Gerry Kuroghlian

    Loved these stories of great students! G. Kuroghlian

  2. Roberta Tager

    Thanks! Your super great stories are much appreciated.😊

    Sent from my iPhone

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  3. These kids are amazing! I feel like an underachiever 😉

  4. Charlie Taylor

    Great idea DAN.. Talent lives everywhere

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  5. Jane Schaefer Johngren

    OMG! What a great way to start the day, Dan – thank you! These awesome stories made me smile, but also in a way are very moving. I’m sure there are many, many more kids with creative, innovative ideas and accomplishments of their own, which we need to remember when current events overwhelm us. I agree with Amee, but it does give us hope for the future.

  6. Megan Slingo

    FANTASTIC! Thanks Dan for sharing! I have to say your story about Art, hits close to home. My husband Butch owns a Landscaping company and he started building it at the age of 19 just as Art is doing. We need more Art Kelly’s these days! My husband has had a hard time finding summer help in the recent years because either kids don’t listen, don’t see the importance of doing good work, or just don’t want to do manual labor! Congrats to him and and we wish him much success! Art Kelly- if you ever see a big dude, with a green chevy dump truck or a tan pick up pulling a landscaping trailer around town..please stop and say Hi to Butch (Butch’s Landscaping)…he is a great friend to have and loves to barter and share his 25 years of experience! We are also both Native Westporter’s

  7. Jacque O'Brien

    Bravo! It’s not all common core and testing. These stories show the world what kids can do when they have a purpose and a passion! Thanks for highlighting these super students!