Focus on Youth: Meet Three of Arkansas’ Amazing Youth
photography by Janet Warlick, Shannon Brinkman and YGTL Photography
Going for the Gold
Jacob Fletcher realized his passion for horse riding at the tender age of 5. “The movie ‘Trigger’ got me interested in horse riding. I took lessons with an eventer and that got me started.”
Fletcher is hard at work this summer, training outside of Dallas for the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC), commonly known as the Junior Olympics. The NAJYRC was established in 1974 and is “the premier equestrian competition in North America for riders” 14 to 21 years of age; youth from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean participate in individual and team competitions. Fletcher is an eventer, a competition that consists of three phases.
“Dressage tests the harmony of the horse and rider through a series of movements; the next phase is cross country. It’s a timed event in a field, participants jump a series of obstacles. Last is show jumping, which takes place in a ring. You jump rails, and are penalized if they fall,” Fletcher explained. He said, the phases are based on movements and obstacles 1800s cavalries faced in cities and on the battlefront.
Fletcher is clearly passionate about his craft. “A horse has to be incredibly fit to participate in these events; cross country is held one day and the show jumping the next day.” He’s currently competing two horses; his favorite is an Irish sport horse whose “barn name” is Theo; his show name is The Prof.
Fletcher, the eldest of three, is the son of Chris and Lisa Fletcher and grandson of Judy and Frank Fletcher, well-known businessman and race horse enthusiast. Jacob, who this spring graduated from North Little Rock High School and will enter the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville as a double major in finance and economics, is the only rider in his family.
He will pursue his equestrian career while attending college, as he “wants to keep his options open.” His ultimate goal is to represent the United States in a professional team competition.
Fletcher trains from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m., depending on the summer heat, with Mike Huber, a medalist who represented the United States twice at the World Equestrian Games and now serves as member of the Olympic selection committee. The rigorous training has paid off; last year, Fletcher’s four-person team earned Silver medals, and he individually won a silver medal — an accomplishment he modestly calls “icing on the cake.”
He loves the thrill of the ride. “It’s a real adrenaline rush, especially competing in the cross country event; riders average 21 mph to make the time during the jumps,” Fletcher said. He also loves the artistry of riding. “I am amazed at how harmonious horse and rider become … how a horse responds to small gestures, like the rider placing more weight on his leg — the silent communication between a horse and rider results in incredible things.”
Cooking Up a Dream
Donald Stone was what one may consider an at-risk youth, but his love for cooking and a youth entrepreneurship program helped him realize his dream. At 16, Stone was enrolled at Little Rock School District’s Metropolitan Career-Technical Center (Metro), studying the culinary arts.
“I was drawn to the ‘art’ of food. Cooking has always been my love; it was a hobby. I used to cook with my grandmother,” Stone said. “My first year at Metro, I didn’t have a goal. I’d simply heard about the program, and knew I wanted to cook.”
Enter the Elevate Entrepreneur Systems organization. “Our organization teaches communities how to support youth entrepreneurship and teaches youth how to start businesses,” Matthew Hampton, co-founder, said. “The traditional model is to get an education and then establish a business. We teach students, ages 8 to 18, about the opportunities available to make money. In turn, the students grasp that education is a tool to help them achieve their goal of enterprise. It’s a kind of ‘reverse’ system. Once the kids think of entrepreneurship, they realize they can help solve problems in their communities. This is especially important in rural communities where young people want to leave once they graduate high school.”
“I knew I wanted to have my own business. I had a lot of ideas, and once culinary arts came into the picture I felt this is what I want to do. Matthew said ‘let’s sit down and write a business plan.’ That’s how my catering company Doughboy's Youth Catering Co. came to be.”
In the meantime, Stone continued his studies at Metro and apprenticed with Timothy Morton at 1620 Restaurant. “That was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I was able [to use what I’d learned] in a real world setting. I loved the fast pace of it all,” Stone said. While he spent the vast majority of the apprenticeship “on the line,” he learned what an instructor had told him: “it’s not just about what you’re doing, it’s what you learn. You learn by observation.” During the apprenticeship, he also learned about neatness, cleaning as you go and about plating the food for presentation. These skills — along with time management, overall planning and fast thinking — have been invaluable as Stone caters. Thus far, his clientele has included parties of 15 to 150 people and he’s served a variety of cuisine. “I can prepare many different menu items, from breakfast and brunch, to lunch and dinners, banquets and office meetings,” Stone said. His personal favorite is sautéed chicken served with a rice pilaf with fresh vegetables and chasseur sauce. He’ll further his culinary skills this fall when he enters Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School.
Stone said his goal ultimately is to become a restaurateur in New York City. In the meantime, this young man, with his quiet disposition and big smile — indicative of his nickname Doughboy for which his company is named — will continue to supply parties, big or small, with delicious food. For more information about Doughboy's Youth Catering Co., email Stone at email@example.com or call (501) 374-3233.
A Crowning Achievement
Ashton Campbell is not your typical beauty queen. “I’m really ‘sporty,’” she said. Not words one expects of someone who has spent the last year dressed to the nines, while traveling the state speaking at schools, fundraisers and community events.
Campbell is Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen 2011-12. For the last year, she has promoted the pageant’s national platform the Children’s Miracle Network and her personal platform Bridging the Generations. Her goal is to help break down the communication barrier between age groups.
Campbell, who has been singing since she was 3 years old, said, “I’m from a small town — Huntsville — and many of the people in my church are seniors. As a member of the youth group, we would often volunteer at [our local] nursing home. We’d bake, sing, help with arts and crafts, put on shows and perform skits.”
She entered her first pageant and established Bridging the Generations at age 13. She was drawn to the pageant system because of the scholarship opportunities. Thus far, Campbell has been in three preliminary, three state and one national competition. She is Junior Miss Arkansas High School 2009 and showcases her talent as a vocalist. “My ‘go-to’ power ballad is ‘Via Dolorosa.’ I’ve studied Spanish for several years and compete singing it in both languages,” she said. Thus far, she’s earned more than $45,000 in scholarships.
“The purpose of Bridging the Generations is to love and support our older generations. I learned to appreciate the stories they share, the remedies they know … to have respect for older generations. I found they are often not appreciated. My project includes Senior Stanley; it’s based on the concept of ‘Flat Stanley’ [the 'flat' visitor mailed back and forth between pen pals in a series of children's books]. Each kid involved [‘adopts’] a senior and takes a photograph of the senior with them as they travel and do activities — since many seniors cannot travel. We ask that they take a picture [while travelling] with their Senior Stanley photograph. Seniors have a wealth of knowledge. We can use their advice and the wisdom they’ve gained from experience.” The teens share their travel pictures with the seniors allowing them to interact and glean from one another.
Campbell graduated from high school last spring and passed her crown to her successor just last month. She’ll begin her next venture this fall at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville., where she’ll study human resource management. “I was drawn to this career because it will allow me to zone in on my ability to communicate with people from all walks of life,” she said.
Campbell has gained a good amount of experience through the pageants; she made 128 appearances in 365 days … a period she calls “an incredible year.”
Have you heard about …?
Taylor Wilson, the Texarkana, Ark., native, now 18, is the youngest person in the world to build a nuclear fusion reactor; he was just 10. Wilson now lives in Nevada; and as a 16-year old attended high school classes while studying at the University of Nevada, Reno, as well. To read more about this amazing kid, log onto sciradioactive.com.