How much do parents influence a child?
Can they make or break a child's success?
Parents probably wondered about that from the beginning of time. I know it's something I often talk about with my friends.
When I encounter an extraordinary teenager, I often think that behind that kid has to be supportive parents. Most of the time, that's true.
Probably the most extraordinary teenager I ever interviewed is Zander Srodes. Before he even reached his teen years, he had already written a children's activity book on protecting sea turtles. That book has been translated into several languages.
The teenager raised most of the money for publishing the books by applying for grants. For the past seven years, the activity book continues to be reprinted in languages around the world. I just learned it's now being reprinted in the languages of Tamil and Telegu.
I couldn't even pinpoint the countries that speak those languages, but in all probability Zander has been there. He has traveled to many places around the world helping on various environmental causes, especially educating people about the importance of protecting sea turtles.
By the time Zander graduated from high school two years ago, he had already established an international reputation as a young environmentalist and had been honored by at least a dozen national organizations.
Cited as being one of America's young heroes, he won the national Do Something Award given to eight teens that have helped to change the world. One thing he liked best about the award is that his picture and short bio was featured on the back of 25 million bags of Cool Ranch Doritos.
Last year, he won the Volvo for Life Award, an honor that carried a prize of $25,000 that he donated to Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida.
He could have given the money to any charity of his choice, but he said it was especially fitting that the money went to Mote Marine because people there first stoked his interest in sea turtles.
This is how it all happened: When he was 11, Zander was walking on the beach with a flashlight. Linda Soderquist, a member of the sea turtle patrol told him to turn off the light, explaining how it would harm sea turtles coming on the beach to lay their eggs. At first he didn't listen, but Linda continued to impress upon him the importance of keeping sea turtles from harm.
Always a precocious kid who was thirsty for information, Zander called Mote Marine Laboratories in Sarasota, asking to meet with them so he could learn more about sea turtles. Instead of treating him like an annoying kid, officials there took time to meet him and explain their sea turtle project.
Because of that encourag