20 Under 20
Meet our fourth annual 20 Under 20 honorees. We asked public and privates schools along with universities and service organizations to submit nominees for students who have gone above and beyond to give back to the community.
This is an exceptional crop of teens, who are doing service work that many adults would blanch at. Our honorees have traveled to distant countries, founded non-profit organizations, overcome adversity and given hundreds of hours of their personal time.
You’ll meet a young woman who survived a brain tumor and turned her love of swimming into a fundraising opportunity, which netted thousands of dollars for CURE Childhood Cancer. You’ll meet a young man who organized a trip to Tanzania and spent nearly a month helping villagers learn how to produce clean, safe drinking water. And you’ll meet a young man who collected thousands of books to help a rural Georgia community in dire need of more reading material for its students. These are just three of the uplifting stories you’ll read and we hope the dedication of these Intown students will inspire you to give back to the community.
We would like to thank Grady High School for allowing us to photograph our cover on the campus and photographer Daniel Whitefield of Imagopix for donating his time and talent. Atlanta INtown will be holding a reception for the honorees this month at Osteria 832 in Virgnia Highland and we would like to thank Homegrown Restaurants and Rich Chey for making this possible. In our February edition we’ll have photos from this event. If you would like to become a sponsor or nominate a student for 2013, email wendy@atlantaintownpaper. com. Thank you to the businesses and schools whose advertising support makes this section possible.
– Collin Kelley, Editor
Preston “Stone” T. Persons, 15
Grady High School
Stone, the son of Michael and Dana Persons, may just be a freshman, but he’s been giving back to the community for years. From the age of 10, he’s volunteered at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, tutored at-risk kids at The Intown Academy, planted trees with Tress Atlanta, helped build a house with Habitat for Humanity in West Virginia and his family regularly hosts exchange students through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). “Giving back means helping people in your community, and creating a better place for all of us to live, play and work,” Stone said. “I like the feeling you get when you find out just how much your help means to these people.
How you can give back: Give your time, donate books, furniture, or cash to The Intown Academy (intownacademy.org); become a host family for the exchange program (ciee.org/host); volunteer at Habitat for Humanity (habitat.org).
Kaitlyn Grace Dinkins, 18
Pace Academy/Harvard University
Kaitlyn, daughter of Jim and Lynn Dinkins, created a scholarship called Hope for Hoops to encourage young girls to strive for excellence in the classroom and on the basketball court. She raised money in order to provide a scholarship for girls to play AAU basketball for Peak Performance Elite. “I am just so happy that I have been able to reach people and give girls the chance to have fun and get to play basketball,” she said. “My favorite part is physically giving the girls the plaques signifying they have won the scholarship.
How you can give back: Make a donation to peakperformancebball.org.
Laetitia Butler, 17
Atlanta International School
Laetitia is passionate about theatre and she’s extended that love to not only giving back locally but also globally. Last summer, she traveled to the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in western Uganda with UK-based non-profit Theatre versus Oppression, which uses applied theatre to bring about change and positive development. She worked with teenagers at the settlement for two weeks, using theatre to explore the issues that surround being a teenager in the camp (lack of education and lack of parent/community support among them). “It was empowering both for me and the participants as they were able to communicate in a physical and artistic way,” Laetitia said. “During my time in Uganda, I was also able to teach primary school daily mostly in English, Math and French.” The daughter of Hélène Butler, Laetitia is also a contributing writer for VOX, the teen newspaper in Atlanta.
How you can give back: Make a donation to Theater versus Oppression at theatreversusoppression.com. Readers can also donate directly to the settlement camp in Uganda at coburwas.org.
Eve Brown, 18,
Grady High School
The daughter of Julie and Clark Brown, Eve started giving back by volunteering for Meals On Wheels and then to Habitat for Humanity. In her junior year, she helped recruit volunteers, planned fundraisers, and planned the building of a house with fellow Grady students. She’s organizing another home-build for this year and even co-planned a benefit concert at The Masquerade to raise funds. Eve is also involved with One Love Generation, nonprofit that groups student artists with professionals from Atlanta to work on community art projects every week. “I am proudest that I have found something I love doing that doesn’t benefit me solely,” Eve said. “It especially means to me that I’m sharing the good parts of my life to those who may not have those good parts, and I in turn get to share what is good in their life.”
How you can give back: Find out more and make a donation to One Love Generation at onelovegeneration.org.
Emma van Beuningen, 17
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
Last summer, Emma traveled to Kenya to work in an orphanage, where she ran a soccer camp and a vacation Bible school for 70 orphans in a small village. She also helped interview students for The Watoto Trust Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps sponsor talented kids from poor backgrounds. Emma, the daughter of Harry and Sally van Beuningen, is also a student representative on the Horizons Atlanta Board of Trustees. “I am most proud of my work at the orphanage,” Emma said. “When doing this work, I stepped out of my comfort zone and put myself into a completely new environment. During the six weeks I was there, I grew to love the kids, and I feel that I really changed their lives.
How you can give back: Make a donation to The Watoto Trust Foundation at watototrust.org.
Gabrielle Moore, 17
Gabrielle, the daughter of Dr. Yolanda Spiva and Wendell Spiva, created the nonprofit Bears for Babies, which gives stuffed bears to young children who have lost a parent or are the children of first responders (police, firefighter, EMT) and military personnel. During the holiday season, bears are given to children in the hospital or need encouragement. “I am proud that I am able to help brighten another child’s life in a way that I longed for when I was younger,” Gabrielle said. “To me, giving back to my community is simply helping to make it better and contributing positive energy. Giving back to the community does not require a particular amount, but rather a genuine effort.
How you can give back: Make a donation to Bears for Babies at bearsforbabies.org or email email@example.com for how you can help.
Jamal Thomas, 19
Jamal gives back by volunteering at various mentoring programs around Intown, giving more 300 hours during his freshman year. He mentors in elementary schools with the Adams Scholars Program at Morehouse College, at the Atlanta Juvenile Court, as well as with Morehouse Mentoring Program. He also helps the homeless by volunteering at local shelters and hosted an event called It’s On the House, where more than 300 homeless came to have a meal. “Being in elementary schools has really allowed me to work first hand with the youth,” Jamal said. “It has been a blessing to see smiles on the students’ faces as well as the grades on the students papers affirming my presence in the classroom.” The son of Karen Thomas, Jamal said working with homeless and hearing their stories has “encouraged me to reevaluate my life’s purpose and the things I value. Striving to do something positive for someone everyday supports giving back to community.
How you can give back: Donate to local homeless organizations. Email Jamal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joely DeSimone, 19
The Paideia School/Amherst College
Joely volunteers at The Global Village School in Decatur, an inspirational independent high school for refugee teenage girls from around the world. Last summer, she organized the school’s library of donated books by subject and reading level, making it easier for the girls to find books that match their interests and abilities. She also visited students’ homes and read to them before the school year began and tutored three students from Burma who were just learning English. While at college in Massachusetts this fall, she has continued her service by mentoring disadvantaged girls at a local middle school. “The GVS girls are very bright and diligent,” Joely said. “Within just a few weeks, I could already see progress, not only in their reading skills but also in their self-confidence.” The daughter of Liz and Sam DeSimone, Joely said she has made “it a priority to contribute to my community, to make a difference.”
How you can give back: Make a donation to The Global Village School at theglobalvillageschool.org.
Grace Reeder Meade, 18
The Lovett School
Grace is a leader on the Lovett Student Service Board, an elected group of students who plan and organize service events and fundraisers for the entire Upper School. She co-chaired the board’s largest fundraising event last year, Parent’s Night Out, which raised thousands of dollars for nonprofits supported by the student body. Grace, the daughter of Tommy and Cindy Meade, also serves on the Atlanta Mission Junior Board, an organization that aims to reduce homeless in the city. Through her church, First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, she has gone on mission trips to Mexico, New Orleans, West Virginia, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. “Throughout my life, I have been taught the importance of giving back but, through serving others, I have developed a strong passion for service,” Grace said.
How you can give back: Make a donation to the Atlanta Mission at atlantamission.org.
Benjamin Schornstein Williams, 18
The Paideia School
Last year, Ben ran a book drive with the Rural Library Project at Paideia, which collected 2,500 books. He then delivered the books to the rural town of Culloden, GA, which has limited access to books. “As a city-dweller, I had always taken my access to numerous libraries and bookstores for granted,” Ben said. “Visiting Culloden and interacting with the community made me realize how big an impact a new library would have on this isolated town.” Ben, the son of Ellen and David Williams, also took his love for music and formed a jazz band to perform at senior homes, addiction clinics, and veteran centers with the DeKalb Community Service Board. “For me, giving back to my community involves both service and awareness,” he said. “Giving back to the community doesn’t necessarily have to be a sacrifice or a difficult, completely selfless task. To me, giving back means that I am enjoying myself by making an impact that benefits others.”
How you can give back: Make a donation to the Rural Library Project at rurallibraryproject.org.
Kyle Singh Dhillon, 17
The Westminster Schools
Kyle is actively involved with Atlanta-based nonprofit SAFE Water Now and raised money (from friends, family and selling cookies among other endeavors) to organize a trip to Tanzania where he spent three weeks sculpting ceramic water filters, building shelves for the filters to dry on, building a new brick kiln and distributing filters to locals schools. He kept a daily blog (tanzaniaproject2011.wordpress.com) of his experience, which he shared with SAFE Water Now’s founder and four other volunteers who made the trip with him. “Although it felt short for us, we spent every minute of every day in Tanzania learning about the culture and water solutions, meeting new people, trying delicious new food, and most importantly, working hard,” Kyle said. He is the song of Dale and Marianne Dhillon.
How you can give back: Make a donation to SAFE Water Now at safewaternow.org.
Matthew Tate Dickson, 17
Matt volunteers with Decatur Season of Giving, delivering gifts to low income children and seniors citizens. He’s also involved in the AJC Decatur Book Festival, Decatur Arts Festival, Decatur Season of Giving and the Oakhurst Community Garden Project, working as an assistant to the city’s volunteer coordinator. At Horizons, he worked as a tutor for the lower grades and helped with early reading programs. Along with his parents, Jim and Vandy Vail-Dickson, Matt organized a holiday meal delivery to seniors, too. “It is wonderful to see the reactions from our senior neighbors and great to know how a small effort like that makes such an impact, Matt said. “I don’t have the power or resources to make a huge impact, but if I can help to make a local program successful, or help a younger student learn to read, or put a smile on someone’s face I feel empowered.”
How you can give back: Make a donation to Decatur Season of Giving (decaturga.com) or Oakhurst Community Garden Project (oakhurstgarden.org).
Carly Marie Pope, 17
The Paideia School
Carly held a toiletry drive to benefit the non-profit Stand Up for Kids, a shelter that provides a safe place for homeless teenagers in the Atlanta area. “They told me that all these teens really want is to feel normal and fit in, so providing them with things like shampoo, toothbrushes and deodorant is important,” Carly said. “I collected enough toiletries to make over 600 kits for the center to distribute, and I’m still receiving donations.” Her efforts were recognized by the Girl Scouts, which gave her the organization’s highest honor, the Gold Award. I’m proud of the response I got from the community and what we managed to achieve together,” she said. “It encourages me to know that people in this city are genuinely kind.” She is the daughter of Bailey and Celia Pope.
How you can give back: Make a donation to Stand Up for Kids at standupforkids.org.
Ryan Mackenzie Proctor, 17
Holy Spirit Preparatory School
The son of Jeffrey and Vivian Proctor, Ryan has had an interest in Classical antiquity and languages since the sixth grade. When he was a sophomore, he took that passion and created an after-school program for fifth and sixth graders called the Classics Club. Every week, he teaches 35 students the languages of Latin and Ancient Greek as well as Greco-Roman culture, history and mythology. The teaching experience led him to author and publish an Ancient Greek textbook for younger students called Khairete O Mathetai: An Introduction to Ancient Greek. Ryan was one of the founding members and the first president of his local Squires of Columbus chapter. In that capacity, he started an annual coat drive for underprivileged Hispanic immigrants, led a group to recycle used hotel soap for people in developing nations, and organized other service projects. He also raised money for tornado relief in Alabama by teaching a summer weeklong crash course in Latin. “When I change how a young person approaches the world for the better, all my work becomes instantly worthwhile,” Ryan said.
How you can give back: Make a donation to Knights of Columbus at kofc.org.
Amanda Harris, 18
The Westminster Schools
Amanda Harris loves to dance, so five years ago she channeled that passion into creating Wear then Share to help underprivileged kids through dance. The organization has two branches: a Dancewear Initiative, which collects and donates new to gently used dancewear, and a Dance Outreach Program, where Amanda teaches dance classes. To date, she has spent more than 750 hours developing and volunteering through Wear then Share. She also created a permanent dance outreach program at Westminster and heads up the fundraising and support activities for the school’s Spring Dance Concert. The daughter of Amy and Paul Harris, Amanda is also a member of Westminster’s Community Service Club – where she has participated in everything from painting ceiling tiles for The Children’s Hospital to furnishing homes for refugee families – and leader of the grant team of the Student Learning Leadership Council. “I believe as human beings, we have an obligation to take care of one another,” Amanda said. “I experience overwhelming joy when I give of myself to help someone in need.”
How you can give back: Find out how you can donate to Wear then Share at wearthenshare.com.
Robert Alexander Moore, 16
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
Robert is the founder and organizer of Kicks for Kids, which organizes Metro Atlanta shoe drives for underprivileged and wounded children. Last year, a drive Robert organized netted more than 500 pairs of shoes for children, teens and adults in war-torn Afghanistan. As an 8th grader, he also collected more than 300 pairs of shoes for the Compass School in Kikuyu, Kenya. Robert’s goal is to conduct a rolling shoe drive that continues through his senior year. He also donates his time and energy to metro homeless organizations St. Francis’ Table and Our Common Ground. He’s also an intern at Be The Match Foundation, where he assembles registry packets for potential bone marrow donors, conduct local, state and national telephone interviews with businesses and individuals to obtain volunteers and donors for the national bone marrow registry. “I am humbled to think that I may have played a part in helping to change the attitudes and opinions of people in other countries towards Americans through a simple act of kindness,” he said of his work with Kicks for Kids. “My innate compassion and desire to help others is a reflection of my gratitude for my many blessings.” He is the son of Johnetta Holcombe.
How you can give back: Visit the Facebook page for Kicks For Kids or call Robert at (678) 490-4830.
Cole and Peter Bryant, 18
The Westminster Schools
Twin brothers Cole and Peter created the Douglas Bryant Jr. Fund that supports Occupational Therapy and Scholarships at the Lionheart School for children with developmental disabilities in the autistic spectrum. To date, they’ve raised nearly $30,000 for the school, with an additional $11,000 that was matched by an anonymous Atlanta foundation. The fund is named after their brother, who has special needs. “When we visited the school last spring and got to see all the equipment that had purchased with the money we raised, it had an impact on both of us.” Peter said. “I was proud of that.” Cole added: “To me, giving back to the community means striving to be selfless, and using any blessings you have to help others.”
How you can give back: Visit the Lionheart School website at thelionheartschool.com and donate to the Douglas Bryant Jr. Fund.
Kate Athanassiades, 14
The Paideia School
A competitive swimmer, Kate was temporarily sidelined after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. However, that didn’t stop her from giving back to the community and specifically to CURE Childhood Cancer. This past summer, Kate organized a swim-a-thon at the Venetian Community Pool in Decatur. She was the top fundraiser with $2,700 in donations, but the event raised more than $9,000. She also became a volunteer coach for the Junior Sharks team, has volunteered with the Atlanta Track Club and at her church, Glenn Memorial United Methodist. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation her cancer is now in remission. “I always think about how many people helped me in my cancer experience, and I want to give back to the community that helped me,” Kate said. “Hopefully in the near future, no one would have to face cancer like I did.” She is the daughter of Beth and Dean Athanassiades.
How you can give back: Make a donation to CURE Childhood Cancer at curechildhoodcancer.org or Camp Sunshine at mycampsunshine.com.
Devon J. Jones, 18
North Atlanta High School
Devon, fourth from right, gives back by serving as a special needs mentor, spending times with students with their school work, cooking lessons, life skills advice and physical fitness games. She also volunteers as an assistant to the teachers in the classroom, organizing class work, planning birthday celebrations for the students, grading papers, and chaperoning field trips. She’s also volunteered regularly with the Special Olympics. “It warms my heart to know that despite all the other challenges they face in life, the students are always thankful for me coming to their classes and giving me the best hugs a person could ask for,” Devon said. “I can make a difference and that I do not have to be a celebrity or an adult to make a huge impact on someone else’s life.
How you can give back: Make a donation to the Special Olympics Georgia at specialolympicsga.org.