by Greta Honsberger
Inside New Orleans is delighted to include a brand new feature in its publication titled “Teen Role Models.” For this issue, we have chosen five local teens that are indeed role models in determination, work ethic, and leadership. Learning about these very different yet driven young people has been a pleasure.
When she was about 11, Sylvie Sausse was a pretty typical pre-teen involved in activities like horse riding and competition dance. Soon, she decided that competition dance wasn’t something that she wanted to devote so much of her time, so she decided to try acting. What happened next would change the trajectory of her life and plans. At 11 years old, Sylvie was already 5’7 and looked much older. The directors at her acting school suggested she try modeling before acting because of her unique features. So, she did. She got her first test photos, submitted them to agencies, and soon after was picked up by several non-exclusive agents.
At 12, Sylvie was cast in an official New York Fashion Week show with a couture designer. As Sylvie puts it, she “just dove in head first,” and a significant modeling career was born. Wanting to hone her craft, she learned all that she could by attending workshops, fashion shows, trade-for-print, low-paying, and no-pay jobs to learn the industry inside and out. She gained a wealth of experience that would become vital to her career, and she loved every minute of it! Today, Sylvie is a 17-year-old senior at Mt. Carmel and continues to walk the world’s runways and travel worldwide for photo shoots. She boasts of walking in 9 New York Fashion Week shows, had a billboard in Times Square, and has modeled for designers such as Jovani, Portia & Scarlett, Adrianna Ostrowska Couture, Chick, and Lulu et GiGi to name a few. Sylvie reflects on the spectacular shows, photo shoots, clothing lines, make-up, and all the work that goes into creating this world, “I really admire the hard work, creativity, and entrepreneurship that the designers put into everything. It’s incredible what goes into every single line, every show, every shoot, every bit of promotion.” Sylvie obviously loves and appreciates every part of this beautiful world which she has made her own.
Being in these phenomenal productions and privy to the behind-the-scenes hustle has created a different perspective for this young lady. As for negative perceptions that people may have about the modeling industry, Sylvie wants people to know, “… in my experience, it’s been the farthest thing from negative. It’s been an incredibly positive part of my life. I’ve made the BEST friends in the world — and they are in all corners of the world.” Her experiences have taken her to places she never dreamed she would go.
Sylvie graduates in the spring and is currently applying to universities. Her primary interest is in business finance with a concentration in real estate. She has a penchant for real estate that goes back to when, at
13, she told her mom she wanted to purchase a piece of property near a beach and pay for it herself. Two years later, she did just that and now owns waterfront property in Bay St. Louis. She wants to pursue a career where real estate is involved and is even interested in 3D-printed concrete homes because they are cheaper, quicker to build, and almost disaster-proof. Whether she is modeling a dress underwater for a world famous photographer, wearing a $5,000 Swarovski Crystal dress while creating retro art decor at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, or filling out college applications for her future, Sylvie Sausse is the very picture of confidence, focus, intelligence, and beauty.
Parrish Abramson, Metairie Park Country Day High School graduate, describes his first fall as a Dartmouth College freshman as “Busy, but so much fun!” One would assume that leaving the familiarity of his New Orleans home for the northernmost Ivy League would entail a bit of a transition period, but that seems to have not been the case for this Dartmouth Big Green defensive back.
Parrish is embracing everything about his new home away from home, including long days in class, studying, and hours of football practice as part of the Big Green team. His schedule is busy, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. According to Parrish, being a part of the Dartmouth football team is “Better than I could’ve imagined. Not only do I get to play for a winning program and culture with a great group of people, [but] so many doors have been opened for me.” He appreciates the camaraderie of his team and shares a funny and unforgettable moment from a recent game with Columbia University. “Our kicker Ryan Bloch blew a kiss to the Columbia sideline before nailing the game-winning kick.” This solidarity is one of the many reasons that Parrish is living his best life in Hanover, New Hampshire.
As a New Orleanian who has grown accustomed to the seasons running together and the expected temperature going from hot to hotter, Parrish is delighted with his new environment. He says about the flora and fauna that surrounds him, “Something that’s hard not to notice every day is the beautiful fall scenery. The changing colors on the trees are something out of a movie. I love just lying in the middle of the green and taking it all in before winter sets in.” He is also prepared for the winter, but like anyone from Southeast Louisiana, he is excited to have snow.
Although few students would deny that part of the Dartmouth College life involves some real merrymaking, Parrish does take his education seriously. Most of his classes require a great deal of studying and written work, so a high level of self-discipline is required for him to make the grade. As such, despite football and the beckoning of the inviting environment that surrounds him, he works hard in his classes. He enjoys learning and notes that his favorite class this semester is Politics of Israel and Palestine. Of the intense subject, Parrish expresses, “Learning about such a polarizing topic has been very eye-opening and insightful, and I’m glad I took it. It’s really helped me learn about my Jewish heritage.” For this bright young man, it sounds like Dartmouth is a place for a great time and an exceptional education.
Although this son of New Orleans misses the great food from his homeland, he has settled nicely into the Ivy League. With the continued support of all those around him, his kind and fun-loving nature, and the self-discipline it takes to succeed, Parrish Abramson is winning on all fronts. As he so aptly put it, “A Dartmouth education will get you absolutely anywhere.” It will be exciting to see where Parrish’s “anywhere” will be.
Miss New Orleans Teen USA Ava Watson became involved in pageants by happenstance. Like most students during the Covid 19 Pandemic, Ava was in front of a computer screen all day as she participated in virtual learning. She was desperate to find something to keep her occupied. “… I was looking for an activity – – any activity!” Because she is tall and is often told she should model, her search to find an activity landed her in modeling school. Attending modeling school gave her the confidence to walk down the runway and empowered her to sign with some modeling agencies. While modeling prom dresses in Atlanta, Ava had the opportunity to meet other models who were involved in pageants. Hearing about their pageant experiences piqued her curiosity, and Ava began to consider the opportunities that could come with participating in them. Ava says of the opportunities, “I became interested in pageants because they were representing their communities, acting as role models for younger girls, and developing their public speaking skills.” It was the perfect fit for her.
Her unforgettable pageant experience began, and she has not looked back. When asked what her favorite aspect of competing for her title was, she enthusiastically explains, “…the other contestants. I’ve met so many girls from around Louisiana that I would have otherwise not met.” She debunks the competitive teenage girl myth, conveying that all the girls were trying to be the best people they could be. They joined together in their support for one another. Ava elaborates on their bond by explaining, “It’s a sisterhood that they’ve welcomed me into, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
So, who is Ava Watson other than Miss New Orleans Teen USA? A sophomore at Willow High School, she enjoys swimming, working out, and taking flying lessons. She is a girl who loves her family, friends, and rescue dogs and loves wearing jeans and a t-shirt as much as she loves being in a gown and heels. She possesses a dry sense of humor and appreciates a good practical joke. Her more serious side reveals that she has struggled with and learned to compensate for a learning disability. Of this she is proud, and with hard work, makes A’s and B’s.
An avid traveler, Ava appreciates the perspective that being in another culture offers. It is a valuable experience and makes her appreciate her own New Orleans culture, a culture that she genuinely loves. About her beloved home, she shares a charmingly worded observation. “If you need a reminder about how lucky we are to be New Orleanians, just take an aerial tour of the city. She’s tangled and complicated but undeniably beautiful.” What an accurate and moving way to speak of her city, the city she represents with pride. As for her time as Miss New Orleans Teen USA, she is busy and loving every second of it. She has enjoyed participating in events like the Sugar Cane Festival parade, where she promoted animal rescue. She is also involved in fundraising for the Miracle Beauties Pageant for girls with special needs. The Miracle Beauties Pageant is a charity that means a lot to her. In explaining her passion for helping young girls, she says, “I want other girls to know that they don’t have to be perfect to make a difference, and being Miss New Orleans Teen USA has given me a platform to do that.” What started as a simple distraction during the Pandemic became a gift that has given Ava Watson opportunity, confidence, and a chance to share her passion and authenticity as she helps others. This Miss New Orleans Teen USA is a down-to-earth young lady who knows who she is and embraces all that she is.
Newman senior Austin Guillory has quite a lot to look forward to in the next year. Currently, Austin is enjoying his senior year as a cornerback for the Greenies, but next fall, he will be a Harvard Man. Last July, Austin, who also drew offers from the likes of Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton, and Yale, committed to play football for Harvard. Austin began playing flag football at nine and transitioned to tackle ball in middle school. Since that time, he has spent countless hours training, learning, growing, and strengthening his skills on the football field. Clearly, his dedication to the game and hard work has paid off.
When asked who inspires him, it was an easy question for Austin to answer. “My parents are my greatest inspiration,” he says, “They have always believed in me, encouraged me, and emphasized that I could do great things.” The inspiration and encouragement that have been constant in his young life not only came from his parents but from athletic trainers as well. Like his parents, they have led by example. By their actions, they have shown Austin that hard work and perseverance are the keys to success. He expands on this notion, “They all, in their way, have taught me the importance of doing the little things when no one is watching and becoming the best at what I do on the field and in the classroom.” From the lives of those he respects the most, he has gleaned from their actions the kind of man he wants to be.
Football is definitely a big part of Austin’s life, but only a part of who this young man is. For starters, this future Harvard Man is wise beyond his years and recognizes the unbeatable combination of hard work and dedication, particularly regarding his education. An excellent student, who enjoys reading and playing chess in his downtime, Austin can’t wait to get to Harvard next fall. He says about the exciting years that lie ahead, “ I look forward to meeting some of the most brilliant individuals in the world. I may be in the locker room with the next President of the United States, roommates with a future king, or in class with the person who will cure cancer.” There is no question that Austin is motivated to embrace everything and everyone that will cross his path in these upcoming years.
Having yet to choose a major, he explains that Harvard encourages their first-year students to take various classes before committing to a field of study. Whatever degree he decides to acquire, Austin will pursue it with the same zeal and determination that has come to be his modus vivendi.
Senior Michael O’Brien is a disciplined and dedicated athlete who plays baseball for John Curtis Christian School and recently committed to Mississippi State University. As he explains, his baseball interest came at an early age. “I started playing baseball as soon as I could walk.” Tossing and swinging with his dad would soon lead to his first competitive game, where, at age four, he played on a six-year-old team coached by his dad. That was just the beginning for this dedicated baseball player.
Baseball has been very good to Michael. Not only has the sport given him a clear path to his future in terms of college, but it has also given him a unique but straightforward routine that comes from loyalty to the sport. Structured is how Michael lives his day-to-day life, and with that has come many benefits. His day begins with the standard breakfast with a protein shake and daily vitamins. Then things shift into high gear for this young athlete and student. He arrives at school and begins with P.E., which is weightlifting. His day continues when he returns to work out after a long day of classes. These workouts are more baseball intense. Additional lifting and running, throwing, and hitting drills are required. Michael puts his all into this demanding practice to prepare for the next challenge.
Although preparing for the next challenges in baseball and academics is paramount to Michael O’Brien, he also understands that there are other essential aspects to life. Being a kind gentleman is a guiding force in his life. When it comes to knowing the essence of who he is, Michael says, “I put my faith in the Lord. I love and respect my parents. I believe in giving firm handshakes while looking the person in the eyes.” These humble principles, no doubt taught to him by his parents, are standard for Michael.
As a Mississippi State Bulldog, Michael is excited about what lies ahead. “I’m anxious to learn from the older guys who have the experience of playing at the highest college level, which in my opinion, is the SEC.” There are many great experiences for him to savor in the years to come.
Influenced by his parents, who are in the field, Michael wants to study international business and possibly minor in biology. The drive that motivates this young man is strong. He gives his best and full attention to everything he does, including being a good friend, spending time with his family, playing golf with his dad, running drills, or studying for a test. His best has brought him to where he is today and will lead him to where he wants to be tomorrow.