Morgan Brewton-Johnson, Pace Academy

No one is a stranger to Morgan Brewton-Johnson.

She is involved in practically every service, extracurricular and academic pursuit at her school and goes out of her way to help others, whether they’re among Atlanta’s homeless, her peers at school, or strangers.

Every other Sunday, Morgan cooks dinner and eats with the residents of Trinity Knight Table Service, a Pace program to provide dinners for a homeless shelter operated by a church in downtown Atlanta.

There, she has listened to stories that have opened her eyes to the reality of poverty in her life and her community. After hearing one and articulate man describe how he fell into the downward spiral of cocaine addiction, she realized that “a lot of times, in Buckhead, we expect that things like that don’t happen to people here, but it definitely can and I think that’s a really important message.”

Morgan said she wants to do what she can to make sure people’s basic needs are met. “It’s a shame that we can sit here in this lovely place,” she said, “with cars worth more than some countries will ever see. … I feel like we’re so privileged that there’s no reason that basic needs like health and water shouldn’t be available everywhere.”

Morgan has extended this understanding to school, where she is a member of the Student Advisory Board, which organizes events to raise student awareness about mental health and other issues.

She has pursed other leadership opportunities as well, such as membership in the yearbook staff, the Pace Academy Student Support program, the varsity basketball cheerleading team, and a position as a counselor at Pace Camp during the summer.

She also works constantly to get to the heart of a subject in order to relate textbook material to her own life.

“To Morgan, the subject matter of history and political science is not just words, names, or terms. She understands the real people behind the social movements, street protests, political party formation, or impact of economic austerity measures, for example,” says Morgan’s advanced placement comparative politics teacher.

“If asked to summarize why Morgan is such a strong student, my answer is simple: She reads. She is always reading—a wide variety of subject matter, international authors, fiction and non-fiction, reality and fantasy. She shares her knowledge and enthusiasm and enlivens discussions with examples from her reading. Above all, she exemplifies the word ‘student.’”

Despite her heavy extracurricular and academic schedule, Morgan manages to pursue personal projects and experiences that have opened her heart even more to the people around her.

A photographer, Morgan is currently working on a project in which she takes a portrait of a person and overlays a handwritten note by her subject of what is important to him or her.

Her project began after a conversation with a man she once worked with at a fast-food restaurant. “He had this amazing story, and it seemed like he really wanted to be heard,” she said. “I was glad that I’d asked.

“From that point on, I want to make sure I ask people because everybody has something they’re really passionate about and I want to make sure that I don’t miss that when I’m interacting with people.”

What’s Next:

Morgan hopes to attend Brown University and pursue a philanthropic career, with a focus such as global health that will enable her to directly aid people around the globe.