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musical and theatrical—but Joshua’s success isn’t due to family pressure. “No way did I desire for him to be a musician,” says his dad, Jun Mhoon, who feels he missed out on his own childhood when music took over. Joshua started playing just over 20 months ago. He was interested in guitar, but his hands were too small, so Harry Steckman, artistic director of Steckman Studio of Music in Oak Park, suggested piano. In his 35 years of teaching, Steckman says he’s never seen a child learn so fast. He memorized “Eleanor Rigby” in “about five minutes,” according to Steckman, and has mastered everything from Schumann to Joplin to Bach. Most impressively, he snagged several prominent awards, including first place in his category for Duet and Soloist at the 2011 Granquist Music Competition, one of the state’s largest music contests and only Joshua’s ninth formal concert. He also received one of the highest honors in the world-renowned National Federation of Music Clubs competition in 2011 and was asked to compete again this February, when he’ll enter at a much more advanced level. “I like that you can show people what you can do—and I just like playing for people,” Joshua says.—Elisa Drake

JAYLIN FLEMING, 12 BASKETBALL PHENOM
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Ask Chicago seventh-grader Jaylin Fleming who his favorite NBA player is, and he reluctantly says Kobe Bryant. After we tease that, as a point guard from Chicago, he really should have said Derrick Rose, he hesitates. “Oh, yeah. Of course, Derrick,” he says. “I love Derrick.” Wait, you’re on a first-name basis with Derrick Rose? “Yeah, I’ve played with him some,” says Jaylin. “He’s been really cool.” Such is the life of a basketball wunderkind. The story goes that at eight years old Jaylin was watching his older brother play ball in a gym with a family friend who played for Marquette University. Jaylin thought he’d like to try the game out, and immediately began doing things that take years of practice. Since then, he’s been ranked as the No. 1 player in the nation for his age by scouting site middleschoolelite.com, joined the AAU team MeanStreets—the same youth basketball program that launched Rose—and has begun a career as a model and commercial actor. He was even hired as a

playoff correspondent for Lopez Tonight, and shot free throws against NBA legend Reggie Miller on camera. But Jaylin says his work as a spokesman for Triple Threat Mentoring—an organization that works with troubled and incarcerated kids—has been the most rewarding opportunity. “That’s been amazing,” he says, “to be able to help and talk to those kids.” But pressed about what’s been the most fun, Jaylin smiles. “I’d have to say the Lopez show.” —Jonathan Messinger
6 STAS’ GUNKEL, 10 BLOGGER

At age seven, while most of his peers were oblivious to politics, Stanislaw “Stas’” Gunkel was blogging about the 2008 presidential election at Report from Planet Stas’ (planetstas. blogspot.com). He started the blog in 2007— when his favorite topics were LEGOs and Star Wars—and in 2008 it got political. With a series of posts labeled “Kids for Obama: Election Commentary,” the Edison Park resident outlined the reasons then-Sen. Barack Obama should be president. Five days before Election Day, Stas’ received a personal thankyou letter from Obama. “When the letter

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