Mehul Patel, Hicksville High School
Mehul Patel said he can't talk too much about kwiq.me, the social networking site he and a friend are developing, because they haven't yet received patents to protect their work.
Suffice it to say that inspiration came from frustration with current products. On a site like Facebook, for instance, "what you see is not necessarily what you want to see," Patel, 17, said. "Our goal is to make that happen, to achieve relevance for the user."
Patent lawyers and server space cost money that the Hicksville teen doesn't have. Venture capitalists might have money, but so far they've been reluctant to sink it into a project being rolled out by someone barely old enough to drive.
"They think, 'You're teenagers; how are we supposed to trust you?' " Patel said.
Whatever challenges stand in the way of Internet stardom, Patel has already overcome some stiff ones, arriving in Queens from his hometown of Dhamaj, India, in 2009 speaking Hindi but barely any English.
"I could say 'hello, how are you?' but I couldn't understand anything," he said.
By the time he hit Hicksville High School in 2011, Patel knew much more, having set himself a goal of learning 150 new words a day.
"I was reading as many novels as I could," he said. "What words I didn't understand, I underlined and looked up at the end of the day."
Patel was a good fit for the district, where the student body speaks 36 languages. He made friends in after-school activities like the Key Club and won a fan in guidance counselor Allie Hannon.
"There's something extra about this kid," she said. "He's entrepreneurial, he smells success. He's willing to take the time and put the effort in. He's a risk taker."
HIGHER ED: Patel will attend the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and double-major in physics and computer science.
AT COLLEGE I'M MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO: Cybersecurity research, for which the school is well regarded.
What makes you extraordinary"Perseverance and a desire to strive to be the best."