Ledyard - “Kuvi, go use the bathroom sink,” Temina Chebelyon chided her older brother. She was tackling a daunting tower of dinner dishes, and his attempts to wash his hands were breaking her flow.
Likuvi Chebelyon, 17, smiled, then waited quietly until Temina leaned toward the dishwasher to cup his hands under the faucet.
Chebelyon graduates from Ledyard High School June 18. A karate devote, he's absorbed the philosophy so that even a hand-washing is approached with a disciplined mindset. Have patience, wait until the right moment, then don't hesitate.
Karate helped him decide to study biomedical engineering when he enters Worcester Polytechnic Institute next fall. He hopes to work with amputee prosthetics, improving movement of the body.
”It's not really a matter of what kind of body you have, it's how you use it,” Chebelyon said, noting that karate sparring partners come in all sizes, and all demand a unique approach. “Maybe we could improve it some ways in what its limits are.”
Chebelyon was introduced to karate by his stepbrother, Baxter Linn, a senior at Norwich Free Academy. Linn wants to be a movie stuntman, and Chebelyon is his partner-in-mischief. The pair recently jumped off the roof of the house, and they keep old mattresses in the front yard to practice maneuvers. Chebelyon said he avoids injuries from his escapades by rolling. But before rolling, he said, he lands on his feet.
”He's resilient,” said Chebelyon's mother, Nancy Linn. “If Kuvi was a plant, I would say he would be a perennial for sure.”
Chebelyon and his sister were born in Maryland but moved to Kenya for six years to live with his maternal grandparents, avoiding his parents' divorce. In Kenyan schools, he said, students are disciplined by stick, but kids have more freedom to roam than they do here. He speaks fluent Swahili from his years living there.
He moved back to the United States in 2001. His mother is remarried to an Electric Boat engineer who has a son and daughter the same ages as Chebelyon and his sister. The four teens clean up after dinner together on nights the Linn siblings are there, joking and jostling with an amiable chemistry. They speak in detail about topics from woodworking to downloading.
Chebelyon, it seems, is interested in everything.
His French teacher, Renee Sylvestre, said he gets so excited about learning that he sometimes forgets to finish his work, unable to resist poring over the French books she stores in her classroom.
”He could pull straight A's without a problem, but he doesn't because of the spongelike quality of his brain,” Sylvestre said. “It's hard for me to fault a student for wanting to learn more.” She said he's engaged and mature beyond his years.
”He's a joy,” Sylvestre said. “If I had a whole class of Kuvis, I would be one happy woman.”