Education & Family
The Kids Are Alright
Baltimore youth are giving us hope for the future.
“Kids these days . . . ” These words have likely been uttered by every aging generation since the dawn of time. They’re spoken as conventional wisdom: that young people are little more than lazy, narcissistic lugheads, and that, with them as our successors, the human species is essentially doomed. It’s almost Darwinian. After all, who really wants to grow old and be replaced?
Over the past several decades, these rants have been fueled by the likes of fast cars, rock ’n’ roll, sex, drugs, and, of course, the internet. And now, in 2019, the alarm seems to have only grown louder and stronger. There’s the factor of technology, for starters, with study after study forewarning the damage being done to the brains of children who’ve been raised on digital screens. Add to that social media, which even us adults know is eating away at inner confidence and outer communication skills. Not to mention sexting. Don’t even get us started on the Kardashians.
Then there’s all the hard stuff beyond their control, like crushing college debt and climate change, with tuitions through the roof and new international reports stating that the ultimate environmental crisis is as close as 2040.
But even amidst the bad press and harrowing predictions, we still find ourselves standing in awe of these kids—the post-millennials, the iGeneration, Gen Z, whatever you want to call them. And maybe right now more than ever.
In ways that our generations couldn’t, they’re embracing their individuality, not fending it off to fit in, and they’re accepting each other’s differences, not cowering in fear of them. Maybe that’s in part because they’ve been raised in strange and scary times. It's 2019, the year that post-9/11 babies will become full-fledged adults, and their coming-of-age years have been spent witnessing two wars, watching the economy tank, and seeing our country fall into a state of deep divide. But they’ve also watched movements form—from Black Lives Matter to #MeToo to Everytown—and they’ve learned to advocate because they know that everything is at stake.
They’re standing up against climate change, speaking out against gun violence, and donning pink hats in support of women’s rights. They’re calling out politicians, running for public office, and even getting nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In other words, they’re growing up right before our eyes, and likely far faster than we did. Sometimes they’re the most grown-up people in the room.
Around the globe, across the country, and right here in Baltimore, young people are defying expectations and the odds, refusing to be defined by any thing or person but themselves. They’re pushing gender boundaries, protecting the planet, and going for the gold (literally)—all before their 18th birthdays.
Kids these days. They give us great hope. And if our future is in their hands, we think we’ll be alright, too.
THE BUDDING CHEFS
Sammy Baunoch, 13 & Sara Baunoch, 15
Seventh-grader, home-schooled and freshman, Baltimore School for the Arts
While most kids are famously finicky about food, Sammy and Sara Baunoch not only eat exotic fare— they make it from scratch, too. Their passion for cooking started when their mother, Beth, was teaching at the Community College of Baltimore County. For one of her classes, area chefs taught the Baunoch kids how to cook global cuisine while Beth’s students worked as the crew.
The class ended in 2017, but the siblings have kept cooking. The duo now offers their own tutorials on their YouTube show Sup! Kids Cooking and website. They’ve even written an Amazon e-book, Snackation. “Cooking is a great creative outlet,” says Sammy.
“It relieves stress,” adds Sara, “especially when it’s actually done and I can eat it.”
Sammy specializes in all things savory; Sara specializes in sweets. Their skills were showcased on a recent episode of the Food Network’s Chopped, where they came in second place and impressed host Ted Allen with their use of ramen pizza croutons in a chili shrimp appetizer, as well as rambutan for a shortbread cookie topping. “He said, ‘Keep cooking, you have a great future,’” recounts Sammy.
From the inviting kitchen of their Lake Walker home, the siblings prepare Hawaiian Spam musubi and Brazilian brigadeiros. As Sammy sears the meat and cooks sticky rice like a pro, Sara effortlessly rolls the desserts in her hands, then coats them in nonpareils.
While Sara will likely pursue her passion for music—she currently studies classical guitar at Baltimore School for the Arts—Sammy, who is home-schooled, plans on one day having his own eatery. “I want to work for Grant Achatz, a Michelin-starred chef in Chicago,” he says, “and then come back to Baltimore and open a restaurant. The dream is to get three Michelin stars of my own.” —Jane Marion
When your kid begins to seek knowledge, make sure you’re smarter than Siri.
By Geoff Brown
From the moment your new child arrives, there’s some helpful grandparent or intense blogger who is eager to explain the basics of baby ownership. But once your child starts turning into a real person who can hatch schemes and implement them (for our son, this happened around age 5), you’re all on your own. You will find yourself, for example, in your kitchen, staring at a halfdozen bowls and counters covered with goo. “But why,” you will plead into the void, “does he need to make so much glue slime?”
This is about the time you realize you have a fully conscious human being (albeit completely inexperienced, and very short) living in your house. One who wants information constantly and will get it from whatever source they can. That means Alexa, Siri, YouTube, Bruno Mars songs, or worse—their friends’ older siblings. (Older siblings are the mortal enemy of the diligent parent.)
We want to impart our values to our son, but we also realize that in the internet age, we’re in a constant battle to remain his primary source of information. For a while, they need to see you as an omnipotent deity, or, at the very least, more than just the person nagging them to pick up their socks.
The noble way to achieve this, of course, is to be thoughtful, compassionate, and wise. When kids ask questions, pay attention. Provide comprehensive answers, and then discuss. But you may also need to employ other, more Machiavellian tactics.
Study their behaviors and interests, and then use these observations to make it seem like you can read minds. (Catch them reading books about ancient Egypt? Surprise them with a trip to The Walters to see real mummies.) Look for opportunities to demonstrate your technological superiority. (Their best friend is going to Thailand this summer? Show them how to use FaceTime to communicate across the globe.) And don’t be afraid to use guile. (Ask them how much the moon weighs, which is a trick question. It doesn’t weigh anything; it’s in space. Boom. You’re a genius.)
Our son is now 9, and we can already see a few probing maneuvers toward teenagerhood (“Yes, Dad, duh, I know that.”), but I’m pretty sure we’ve established enough good credit to keep him talking to us. And not just to ask for pizza money, but how to deal with life and love. We’re trying to give him the tools he needs to grow into a man and succeed on his own. But we hope he’ll always be able to trust us enough to ask the hard, even uncomfortable questions. Like the one he posed yesterday: “When I flush rocks down the toilet, where do they go?”
THE BIONIC GIRL
Andreea Basescu, 13
Eighth-grader, Hereford Middle
Andreea Basescu has one minute to earn a win for her team in the Maryland VEX Robotics State Championship for middle schools. Her thumbs fly across her remote controller as she manipulates her metal robot to catapult balls and caps while dodging opposing robots.
With five seconds left, she drives the robot onto the multi-level platform, winning the match and qualifying her team, which also includes classmates Emma Hsieh and Miranda Self, for the World Championship. “It was a pretty tight battle,” says Andreea, “but we won because we were working so well together.”
While she has been building robots since fifth grade, the Hereford eighth-grader says her love for engineering began with Legos when she was little. Since teaming up with Emma and Miranda two years ago, she’s taken on the role of builder and driver, which requires researching new designs and constructing robots in between softball practice and helping her 11-year-old sister, Alexandra, who has just gotten into robotics herself.
Thanks to weekly practices at the nearby high school and weekend sessions in Andreea’s basement, her team has become a force to be reckoned with—finishing 21st in the technology division of last year’s World Championship. As for being one of the only all-girl teams, Andreea thinks they sometimes communicate better than their male counterparts. “If one of us has an idea, we talk about it and try it together,” she says.
Although Andreea is still a few years away from landing her dream job—a mechanical engineer at NASA—she plans to use the same skills she's learned through robotics to do so. “Robotics teaches you to have determination, because it’s not going to work the first time,” she says. “You just have to have hope and keep trying again and again.” —Kaitlyn Pacheco
THE TOP BRASS
Keith Fleming, 16
Sophomore, Baltimore School for the Arts
One of Keith Fleming's favorite phrases is “think outside the box.” He says he was doing exactly that when he joined OrchKids, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s music program for city youth, when he was in first grade. “It was something different,” he explains. “A lot of my classmates wanted to play sports or grow up to be, like, a police officer.”He was also thinking outside the box when he picked the tuba as his instrument. “A tuba can do what a violin can do if you play it right,” he says, now a high school student at the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts and a participant in Peabody Preparatory’s Tuned-In program.
But Keith’s main message, the thing he gets most excited about, is that music can be an agent of change. “Music is something that everybody can relate to,” he says. “I know a lot of people who, if they’re mad or sad, music is their outlet.”
Dan Trahey, or “Mr. Dan,” as Keith calls him, the co-creator of OrchKids and the co-founder of Tuned-In, has watched Keith progress over the years, from a rambunctious little kid who often landed in the office for misbehavior to the poised young man he is today. “His leadership has helped skyrocket this program,” says Trahey.
Keith, who grew up in West Baltimore, is so passionate about the benefits of music that he has given talks on the subject at conferences around the country. “It kind of amazed me what I could do when I did music, like how far it could take me,” he says, noting one seminal moment two years ago, when he went on tour in Europe with Mr. Dan and other OrchKids. “I’m the first person to travel out of the country in my family.”
That trip convinced Keith to pursue music as a career, while another one, to New Orleans, solidified his desire to play brass jazz. Mr. Dan thinks Keith has everything it takes to be a professional musician. But a new kind, he says, which combines all these local influences—jazz, classical, hip-hop, trap, even go-go—into something fresh. “I think Keith represents the current sound of Baltimore as much as anyone I know,” he says.
All it takes is a little thinking outside the box. —Max Weiss