"A lot of people ask me, 'Why don't you just be a normal teenager, live a normal life?'" says 15-year-old Ben Casnocha, having lunch on a cloudy January afternoon at a crepe place in Cole Valley, the neighborhood he's lived in since birth. He speaks in an earnest, articulate baritone, and his vocabulary is devoid of the "um"s and "like"s that riddle most teenagers' conversation. His face has already shed its boyish roundness, and at a sturdy 6-foot-3, he's tall enough as a sophomore to play center for the vaunted University High School basketball team. He has a game later this night, in fact, and he's dressed in loose-fitting warm-up attire: stylish sweat pants and complementary sweat shirt, high-top sneakers, and a baseball cap pulled over his wavy brown hair. But even with his size and his clean-cut looks, he evinces a thoughtfulness at odds with the stereotypical high school jock, and a lack of pretension that sets him apart from most adolescent intellectuals. "I don't want to be normal, I want to be something else," Casnocha says, his broad, friendly features curling into a frown. "The emphasis people place on the classroom," he grouses, shaking his head. "It doesn't offer nearly... More >>>
"A lot of my peers are smarter than I am," says
15-year-old Ben Casnocha. "They just can't express
what they're thinking as well."