20 Under 20: Students Making A Difference
This issue features our second annual 20 Under 20 project recognizing students who have passion and take initiative to help others in the community. Billy Wren and Chris Calvert suggested that we focus on students and, with Oglethorpe University’s Peter Rooney, we developed this feature to honor kids and teens who give back. It’s an uplifting way to start the new year.
This year’s honorees have stories that are remarkable, heart-warming and inspirational. And, they are just beginning their life’s work. One of our ‘09 20 Under 20 alumna, Emory University’s Kieu-Thu Bui wrote to me, “since Atlanta INtown’s feature, I have more confidence to pursue bigger goals and dream bigger dreams. You have helped me realize my potential to be someone unafraid to step out into the world and make a difference.” Another student, Paideia School graduate Jeffrey Johnson, is now studying at University of Pennsylvania on full scholarship. Jeffrey and another 20 Under 20 alumna, Hope Lennox, nominated students this year – passing along the tradition of recognizing others.
We’d like to thank Drew Charter School for their assistance in this project and for hosting our reception on Jan. 13. In our February edition we’ll have photos from this event. Please email me if you would like information on how to submit a nomination for 2011 or to become a sponsor. Thank you to the businesses and schools whose advertising support makes this section possible. – Wendy Binns, email@example.com
Melissa is the vice president of campus relations for AIESEC (aiesec.org), an international professional student organization that helps develop leaders, at Georgia Tech. She leads a large team of members and is responsible for recruitment, campus events, philanthropy and faculty relations. Melissa also organized a campus-wide refugee tutoring effort through the IRC in Atlanta and organized a campus-wide Work Abroad Fair to showcase opportunities available to students. She’s also the founder and head coordinator of the Georgia Tech President’s Scholars Mentoring Program, vice president of the Lambda Sigma Honor Society, volunteers with Adopt A Grandparent and has co-founded Atlanta Social Venture Camp, which will have its first meeting this year for students to discuss entrepreneurship, specifically social entrepreneurship ventures. Melissa said: “I feel a great sense of purposefulness and fulfillment when I give back to the community as I feel like I am doing God’s will and fulfilling the purpose he has for me. I can only try my best to love him and his children and leave the rest in his hands.”
Eric Estroff, 15
Nominated by Jonathan Day
Eric’s list of affiliations shows just how committed he is to giving back to the community, and he has a particular interest in the environment. He is a service leader for Open Hand (projectopenhand.org), which delivers meals to the homebound. He was selected to participate in the inaugural Student Climate and Conservation Congress last summer where he met with 100 other student environmental leaders from around the country to learn about climate change. After the event, he became the National Student Coordinator for The Green Schools Alliance (greenschoolsalliance.org), a nonprofit organization that raises environmental awareness, and empower students, as well as faculty and staff. He is planning a green resource fair and conference to kick off the 2010 Green Cup Challenge, which sees schools from across the country working to reduce carbon emissions. “I am very proud that I have been able to be an inspiration for other students to get involved including an inspiration to my family to go green as well as have an impact on my school and my community,” Eric said. He is the son of Suzanne Blonder and Armand Estroff.
Miranda Lynch, 15
Ben Franklin Academy
Nominated by Manette Messenger
Miranda has worked with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, The Kidney Foundation and helped raise money to help rebuild homes in Mississippi destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. Last summer, Miranda and her father, Tom, went to South Africa on vacation, but were so moved by what they saw there and stayed an extra week working in the remote village of Nzinga. When she got home, Miranda created the nonprofit Isipho (isipho.org), which means gift, to continue helping the people of Nzinga. The organization provides tools and information to the people so they can create self-sustaining ways to grow food and provide basic education to their children. “When you meet the people in Nzinga, you can see your own life reflected in theirs, and they feel like family,” Miranda said. “When I see them out there gardening, and see the children working with new blocks, and reading new books, it lets me know that we helped them, and that so many lives will be so much better.”
Matalia Hill, 17
Christa McAuliffe Academy
Nominated by Vanessa Hawkins
Matalia has worked with The First Tee of Atlanta (thefirstteeatlanta.org) program for five years and is now a junior administrative assistant managing the Saturday morning sign-in desk as well as working with coaches and directors during summer programs. She also volunteers as an instructor for the Fernbank Science Center’s Science Night Out, guiding 60 elementary school students through hands-on activities and experiments. The daughter of Lillian and Milton Hill, Matalia also volunteers with Dream Makers Youth Foundation, which provides educational and recreational services to special-needs children and teens. “To volunteer is something that helped me grow as a young adult,” she said. “I have learned how to give back to my community in sports and in academics and I plan to continue on as a active volunteer.”
Caroline Ptacek, 16
Nominated by Kim Dennis
Caroline, pictured top center, works with Create Your Dreams (createyourdreams.org), an organization focused on enriching the lives and fulfilling the dreams of underprivileged children in Atlanta. She – along with her sister and best friend – tutor students every week, work with the art club and Caroline had her friends donate supplies to the organization rather than buy her presents for her 16th birthday. Caroline said: “The kids at CYD are exceptional and always show their appreciation. I feel that they give more to me with their friendship and thankfulness than what I give to them. My work and everyone’s work at CYD will hopefully inspire others to give back to the community that has given them so much.” She is the daughter of Kurt and Edie Ptacek.
Nandi Marumo, 18
Nominated by Jeffrey Johnson
Concerned about other Paideia students unwillingness to be open about race relations during the school’s annual Race Day, Nandi initiated a discussion group that evolved into the group RAD (Race! Action! Discussion!). The group now meets weekly, has trained a core of 38 student facilitators and plans Race Day events. For her efforts, Nandi won the Headmaster’s Award at Paideia and the Princeton Prize in Race Relations, where she spent a weekend with students from all over the country at Princeton’s annual Race Symposium. “My experience at my school led me to start the conversation of race, and it has changed my entire relationship to Paideia and to my peers,” Nandi said. “I have built strong relationships with my friends because we can talk about race. I am proud that I was able to turn my frustration and anger into a group that continues to question, broaden and expand each other’s ideas of the world and of ourselves. RAD will exist at Paideia long after I graduate, and I am proud to know that my action has and will have a positive impact on Paideia students in the future.”
Chloe Johnson, 18
The Lovett School
Nominated by Anna Glaser
Chloe is involved with CARE International (care.org), a nonprofit organization fighting global poverty, and traveled to Ecuador with a dozen other students from The Lovett School and Paideia. While there, Chloe focused on youth, domestic violence and micro-lending programs to help lift the country out of poverty. “I went on this trip under the assumption that I would be able to help people who are trying to help themselves, but I what I got in return was no comparison,” she said. “I got to influence a culture and represent my country in a positive way. It was a truly humbling experience.” The daughter of Carolyn Fluitt and Tyrone Johnson, Chloe has also been involved in the Lovett organization Confronting Atlanta’s Poverty, which delivers lunches to the homeless on the weekends, and also babysat at the Women’s Homeless Shelter.
Stephanie Perello, 19
Nominated by Heather Stanizewski
As a member of the Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity on campus, Stephanie has worked with FurKids, Hands On Atlanta and MedChair to name just a few. She also volunteers with The Center for Civic Engagement, which can range from helping kids at Lynwood Park with their homework to working with Habitat for Humanity (atlantahabitat.org). She logged 32 volunteer service hours with Habitat and also spent part of last year’s winter break helping to build homes in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The daughter of Mayra Jones, Stephanie plans to become a doctor in the future, and has volunteered at Doctors Hospital and local nursing homes. “It means a lot to me to give back to the community,” she said. “The gratification that you get when you have completed building a house for a family who lost everything or seeing a child’s smile when you walk through the door. Knowing that I am the one that was able to put that smile and happiness in their lives brings me the greatest joy.”
Emily Huff, 11
Sutton Middle School
Nominated by Wendy Binns
In 2008, Emily started a jewelry company called Pop Rocks Jewels (poprocksjewels.org) with inspiration from her role model, Haley Kilpatrick, founder of Girl Talk, a program in middle schools to empower young girls. Proceeds from the sale of the jewelry goes to the Ronald McDonald House, Bert’s Big Adventure, Atlanta Humane Society and Girl Talk. In the last two years, Pop Rocks Jewels has donated nearly $3,000. “Through Pop Rocks Jewels, I have gotten to meet some amazing kids that inspire me with how they handle some seriously tough illnesses and hard times,” Emily said. “It’s also super cool when adults tell me that I inspire them to get more involved and help the community. That makes me really proud.”
Daniel Feuer, 17
The Weber School
Nominated by Rebecca McCullough
Daniel created Smoothie Kidz, a nonprofit that gives complementary smoothies and baked goods to cancer patients in the process of receiving chemotherapy, as well as providing support and comfort to the families. The organization, which has raised more than $2,000, is sponsored and supported by Planet Smoothie and has nearly 70 volunteers. Smoothie Kidz began by visiting the chemo suites at Northside Hospital, but now visits other metro hospitals and hopes to add more. “I am proud of the incredible relationships that have been established with the cancer patients,” Robert said. “It is the greatest feeling in the world to know that you have made their day. While they constantly deal with pain and nausea, I know that my smoothies will not only soothe their physical pain but fill a gap for those who have no family with them and going through this horrible experience on their own.” Robert is the son of Dr. Gerald and Judy Feuer.
Randon Holt, 17
Benjamin E. Mays High School
Nominated by Vanessa Hawkins
Randon has been volunteering with The First Tee of Atlanta (thefirstteeatlanta.org) since 2007, where he mentors children and assists with clinics during summer camp events. He’s also been one of Zoo Atlanta’s Volunteens since 2006, where he interprets animal exhibits for visitors. Randon, the son of Stacie Stepney, has also volunteered at the Piedmont Heart Institute, Spread the Word Church Ministries and America’s Youth Alliance Impact Academy, where he is working to create a financial literacy component that involves golf for the The First Tee program. “It’s important to me to help other people and organizations who have helped me to get to where I am today,” Randon said. “It warms my heart to know that I made an impact in a junior golfer’s life just by showing him/her how to properly hold a golf club and how to persevere when they may be having an off-day.”
Carol Ross, 19
Nominated by Harold McNaron
This Tennessee native, pictured far right with other volunteers, began her volunteer work while still in high school in Memphis, working with peers in the Youth Villages group home. She worked to help empower the teens there, and brought that experience to college, where she became a member of Volunteer Emory (volunteer.emory.edu). Carol is now working with fellow student Caitlin Keese at the United Methodist Children’s Home, organizing activities ranging from jewelry-making to poetry workshops. The daughter of Alice Ross and the late Charles Ross, Carol has also participated in Hands On Atlanta Day, volunteered at local homeless shelters and plans to spend her spring break with the Appalachian Service Project. “My favorite part about giving back is changing the community through the growth of the volunteers I work with,” Carol said. “To me, service work is equally about the volunteers and the people served. Everyone learns and grows and changes and benefits, and they all have the potential to take that experience and turn it into something bigger in their lives.”
Sara Cohen, 18
Nominated by Marci Mitchell
Sara works with community service organizations including the Boys & Girls Club, working on the Jesse Draper Walk-A-Thon, which recently raised $14,000, and helped organize a field day for 6-to-9 year olds on campus. Sara also serves as co-advertising chair on Woodward’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity and has assisted in many build days. As a leader on the task force for Junior Civitan, she organizes the annual canned food drive for the Atlanta Community Food Bank (acfb.org). The daughter of Jeffrey and Diane Cohen, Sara likes the hands-on involvement of her service work. “It is so easy to write a check these days,” she said. “To me community service has meant putting in that extra effort to be part of something so much greater than yourself, which is a humbling yet important experience in so many ways.”
Ariella Axler, 17
The Weber School
Nominated by Rebecca McCullough
Ariella – or Ari, as friends call her – created Take A Swing (takeaswingtennis.org), a nonprofit that provides tennis instruction to under-privileged Atlanta children. Take A Swing has partnered with several organizations, including Wilderness Works and the Atlanta Union Mission. The organization was also recognized by Nike’s Youth Venture program as an example of great sports programs created by youths. “I was motivated to create Take a Swing, Inc., because I wanted to use my skills as an avid tennis player to benefit the community,” Ari said. Over the course of two years, Take a Swing has expanded to involve more than 50 high school volunteers and served more than 300 children. Ari said that her organization strives to be a “gamechanger” for potential at-risk children. “The definition of Gamechanging is not simply to score points or to hit an ace; it means teaching others to take initiative, inspiring confidence, sparking action and spreading hope. I strive to live my life as a Gamechanger.”
Tyler Alexis Sturdivant, 10
Charles R. Drew Charter School
Nominated by Laura McCrodden
Tyler has become the face of Drew Charter’s After School Program (drewcharterschool.org). Mature beyond her years, Tyler is regularly called upon to give adult visitors tours of Drew’s ASP and has received rave reviews. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she helps other fifth graders with their homework. “I enjoy tutoring and that’s why I want to be a teacher when I grow up,” Tyler said. “I like the way others’ faces light up when they get the concept. When I am able to help someone understand it gives me a sense of pride. I can give a lot, but knowledge is priceless to me and to pass it on is free.“ Tyler is the daughter of Tavarres and Tasha Sturdivant.
Sofia Broffman, 12, Sutton Middle School
Audrey Broffman, 11, E. Rivers Elementary School
Nominated by Hope Lenox & Beth Pann
Despite their ages, these sisters have proven they have a gift for giving back. Three years ago, the duo set up a lemonade stand every Saturday at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market. Their outgoingness has attracted plenty of customers, and every dime they’ve raised – more than $2,000 – has been donated to The Bridge (thebridge-atlanta.org), a residential facility for abused teens. The daughters of Elisa Gambino and Neal Broffman, the sisters are proud of their efforts. “It makes me happy and proud that we raised a lot of money to help teenagers who were abused learn to cook good food and take pride in their accomplishments,” Audrey said. Sofia echoed those sentiments: “When we give to The Bridge we might be helping someone have a better chance in life and this means everything to me.”
Robert Sewell, 18
The Lovett School
Nominated by Anna Glaser
Robert has been active with the Darius Goes West Foundation (dariusgoeswest.org), which raises awareness and funds to find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the number one genetic killer of children. For his Eagle Scout project, Robert held a showing of the documentary Darius Goes West at The Lovett School, and helped raise $12,000 by selling copies of the video, t-shirts, bumper stickers and other merchandise. Robert also organized a carnival for the foundation in Athens, arranging the entertainment and appearances by UGA football players. Robert said: “I am very fortunate to be healthy. My friend, Darius Weems, isn’t as fortunate. He already lost his older brother to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and is fighting a valiant battle himself. Darius is a role model to me. He decided to make a difference while he still can. As a result, he has touched so many lives, including my own.” Robert is the son of Kim and James Sewell.
Alfred Rudzki, 19
Nominated by Heather Staniszewski
As the Philanthropy Head of the Rho Delta chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity (chakettclub.org), Alfred organized a team and raised money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life last year. He also participated in a Boys & Girls Club of America day on Greek Row for Halloween, and last year he volunteered at the Lynwood Park Recreation Center after school program, spending 13 weeks helping children with homework and leading activities. “I’m most proud of working with the children at Lynwood, more than anything else,” Alfred said. “I love working with children. You’re one of the important forces early in their life, and you are adding to the bedrock that everything else is built on.” He is the son of Nita and Anthony Rudzki.
Tavarez Tate, 16
Carver Early College
Nominated by Christopher Bennett
Tavarez began his volunteer work at church, working as a youth leader with Fern Avenue Holiness Church’s outreach program to provide free food and clothes to the community throughout the year. He is also the president of the Waller Scholars student board, a nonprofit for at-risk youth that emphasizes creative writing and speech. As part of Waller Scholars (wallerscholars.org), Tavarez created the Project G.A.P.S. (Give a Pair of Socks) program. He also has volunteered at a local nursing home and is an active member of the CREW Teens, which provides academic support for teens in the East Lake community. Tavarez, the son of Shamica Tate, said his desire to give back came from his grandmother, who always says, “Give and it shall be given back to you.” Tavarez said, “I’ve come to realize that my greatest support team in life is the community, and it’s important for me to acknowledge how much I care.”