From creating their own nonprofits to giving hundreds of hours of their time to volunteer with local charities and service organizations, the students we’ve selected for our sixth annual 20 Under 20 feature are sure to inspire you.
Amber Abernathy, 18
A senior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, Amber created the nonprofit Kicking Away Violence after the shooting death of a family member. The program focuses on educating middle school students about violence. The daughter of Anthony and Donnay Abernathy, Amber also volunteers with Girl Talk, which also honored her with the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy’s Choose to Matter Award. “One of my most memorable moments was volunteering at the Special Olympics in Florida with Julie Foudy,” Amber says. I had such an amazing time getting to hang out with the Special Olympians and seeing how overjoyed they were to go out and play their sport.” Amber, who will be majoring in international business at Brandeis University as a Posse Scholar in 2014, said giving back to the community is a way to bring the world closer together and hear different perspectives and stories. “Giving back is a way to truly make an impact in someone’s life so that, hopefully, they can experience the best out of their lives to help change the world themselves.”
Anna Kate Jones, 19
Anna Kate has been active with charitable organizations in the community since she was a student at The Lovett School. Now a freshman at the University of Georgia, she continues to support Children’s Health Care of Atlanta, City of Refuge, Northside Shepard Center, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Agape, Shop with a Bulldawg Organization and National Charity League. During the summer of 2012, Anna Kate created and led a summer camp, Girl Talk, for middle school girls at the City of Refuge. “I created Girl Talk so middle school girls could come and talk about their challenges, to share their ideas of what being beautiful on the inside meant,” she said. As part of her work the National Charity League, a mother-daughter service organization, she was recognized for her 650 hours of her time. The sister of fellow 20 Under 20 honoree Campbell Jones, Anna Kate plans to major in early childhood education. “When I volunteer to help others, those in need learn that a helping hand is available and I learn that my community is full of new friends who can teach me many life lessons.”
Campbell Jones, 17
Crossroads Community Ministries, Atlanta Union Mission, Trinity House and the Northside United Methodist Church Metro Atlanta Project are just some of the organizations where The Lovett School junior has volunteered his time. The son of Lewis and Mary Jones and brother of fellow honoree Anna Kate, Campbell said his most memorable moment as a volunteer was the first time he brought book bags to Crossroads Community Ministries. “The look on the faces of the employees and clients at Crossroads was unforgettable. I could not believe what a difference something like a book bag makes in the lives of so many people,” he recalls. “The gratefulness I felt in response to my volunteer efforts really encouraged me to continue to make community service a regular part of my high school experience.” Campbell says, “Making a difference and learning from that difference is really the most important part of service to me.” He plans to major in business administration and attend law school.
Justin Cucchi, 15
A 10th grader at Grady High School, Justin was one of two American students chosen last summer to participate in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Ocean for Life (OFL) program at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in California. “Each OFL participant was teamed up with a younger kid. We went to a beach and did a trash cleanup,” Justin said. “I was able to share my experiences and teach my buddy what I was learning about ocean conservation and how everyone can do their part to protect the ocean and the animals that live in it.” Justin, the son of Paige and Sean Cucchi, is also part of the Zoo Atlanta Volunteen Program, Trees Atlanta and Intown Collaborative Ministries’ Food Pantry. “Giving back to the community is important to me because it makes me feel good when I do something to help someone or something. For example, when I do a river or stream cleanup, I know that I am doing my part to protect the environment.” He wants to attend the University of California and pursue a degree in marine biology.
Ansley Reese, 13
This year’s youngest 20 Under 20 honoree has a vitae of service work of someone twice her age. An 8th grader at St. Martin’s Episcopal School, Ansley recently led a trip to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, where the St. Martin’s Honor Society students packed food boxes for local food pantries. She is also vice president of St. Martin’s SOLVE Club, which is a school organization that performs various service projects. Most recently, they collected supplies for the DeKalb Animal Shelter. Outside of school, Ansley and her mother are involved with the National Charity League and Ansley is also in Girl Scouts. The daughter of Clay and Susan Reese, Ansley said one of her most memorable moments as a volunteer was working with the poor at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church. “One Sunday afternoon when I was serving a familiar group of little kids, one of the children asked, ‘We aren’t giving you anything that we have so why do you give us your own food? Don’t you want to save it for yourself?’ I told him that I wanted to help him and his other friends grow bigger and stronger so that they can one day serve others.”
Marshall Ohlhausen, 17
In 2013, Marshall founded Shoot to Cure, a clay shooting tournament that in its first year raised over $14,000 in net proceeds for the benefit of the Press On Fund to CURE Childhood Cancer. The son of Katherine and Eric Ohlhausen, Marshall is a senior and captain of Woodward Academy’s lacrosse and clay target shooting teams. Marshall’s efforts were supported by co-chairs Tristan Cooke and John Comer, who are also on the Woodward shooting team. He received the Kate’s Club’s Community Champion Award in 2011, along with his parents and his sister Wallis, in recognition of their support of the organization’s work with children bereaving the loss of a family member. “During Shoot to Cure I had the opportunity to see what all of the work was for. We were lucky to be joined by a young cancer survivor who shot for one of the teams despite being in a wheel chair. Meeting and watching him participate in Shoot to Cure made our event seem so worthwhile.”
Cole Sullivan, 17
A senior at Paideia School, Cole is already getting his feet wet volunteering with two organizations that might eventually turn into careers. The son of Andy Sullivan and Elaine Stock, Cole is an intern for State Rep. Pat Gardner and a staff writer and member of the board of directors of VOX Teen Communications. “One of the most valuable experiences that I have had in high school has been my internship with Pat Gardner,” Cole says. “Local politics really are about helping people and I was pleasantly surprised to find that most everyone at the State Capitol was truly dedicated to doing what they felt was best for their constituents. Working with VOX, the teen newspaper, Cole says he has been able to meet other teens and tell their stories. “I guess you could say that my activities in the community have been focused on having a voice,” he says.
Nathan Sokolic, 18
During his sophomore year, Nathan facilitated a partnership between his school, Pace Academy, and The Albert T. Mills Enrichment Center, an inner-city ministry that serves pre-schoolers from Atlanta’s toughest neighborhoods. That same year, he coordinated Pace’s most successful Thanksgiving drive to date. As a junior, Nathan launched a clothing drive for CHRIS Kids, an organization that offers an array of individualized programs and family services. He has been a service leader for Habitat for Humanity since his junior year, and leads the student body in service hours with more than 1,000 hours, most of which have been spent working with underprivileged children. “It is important to me because I have been tremendously blessed in my life,” Nathan says. “I have been provided with a loving mother, a home to live in and a fantastic school to attend. But not everyone has the opportunities that I have had and I feel that it is my responsibility to give back to those who have been less fortunate that I have.”
Maggie Wellborn, 18
In 2011, Maggie founded For Glove of the Game, an organization dedicated to equipping and training softball players from socioeconomically challenged high schools. “Using generous donations and the money that I earn giving private softball lessons, For Glove of the Game gives gloves, batting gloves, bat bags, batting helmets, bats, and other pieces of equipment to deserving players,” Maggie says. “We also run clinics for these teams, teaching basic stills such as hitting and throwing. For Glove of the Game has partnered with several local high school softball teams over the past three years, and we hope to continue equipping and holding clinics for these and other teams in the future.” A senior at The Westminster Schools, Maggie is the daughter of Pete and Susan Wellborn. “I have been so blessed over the years, so For Glove of the Game is a way for me to spread the opportunities that I have had with other deserving girls who love to compete but have never had a fair chance.”
Eli Mercer, 17
A junior at The Lovett School, Eli works with Teens Against Prejudice (TAP) and Student Diversity Leadership Conference. Eli said he became a peer facilitator for the SDLC after a friend of his was being bullied for being gay. “He was on the verge of committing suicide for being bullied, but was saved by a call from one of the conference leaders. He began to cry. This story inspired me to be an advocate for and help others who feel different no matter what their situation may be.” The son of Claire and Todd Mercer, Eli said he wants to eradicate prejudices and advocate for acceptance. “I feel like it is my responsibility to be that guy who is able to take a stand for others who are being discriminated against, and say that it is wrong. It is a basic human right to feel accepted, and it is important to me that people feel so.”
Olivia Koscik, 16
Grace Broadbent, 17
Students at Woodward Academy, Olivia and Grace started a chapter of Blessings in a Backpack at the school along with Olivia’s sisters, Isabelle and Ansley. As a team they worked to pack 30 bags with food every week for needy students at Mt. Olive Elementary School. “When we were able to involve our school it was amazing to see all of the people who came to help us pack the bags,” Olivia says. “Giving back to the community is important to me because I am able to help those who are in need and hopefully inspire others to do the same.” Grace agrees. “I feel it is important to take care of those who I consider my neighbors, and Blessings in a Backpack provided me with this opportunity. Knowing that there are so many children who do not have enough to eat on the weekends that are so close by, I felt compelled to help in any way I could.” Grace, the daughter of Steve and Mary Broadbent, is a senior and Olivia, the daughter of Joe and Ella Koscik, is a junior.
India Schley-Ritchie, 18
In 2012, India and her friend Anne Marie Whitacre banded together to revamp the Atlanta Girl’s School Service Club and diversify the project, including working with The Agape Center, Furkids and creating the Martin Luther King Service weekend. The group’s core organization has been MedShare, which collects medical supplies from doctors, hospitals and companies to ship to developing nations. India says a fond memory is putting the lock on a container of supplies to Guatemala. “It was a very gratifying moment for everyone involved and thinking about how many people would benefit from our year of service reinforced our commitment to service,” India says. The daughter of Jeffrey and Georgia Schley-Ritchie, India says she plans to continue her work with service organizations at university and remain active in campus and community based service.
Julianne Lang, 17
Cecilia Bouska, 18
Seniors at the Galloway School, Julianne and Cecilia conceived and chaired two community breast cancer walks raising $6,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The daughter of Anne-Marie and Eric Lang, Julianne says her aunt, a breast cancer survivor, was her inspiration for planning the walks. “I will never forget her face as she was the first to pass the finish line,” Julianne says about her aunt. Julianne is also a member of the Atlanta Teens Laugh Comedy Project, an all female improv troupe that performs at Ronald McDonald House. Cecilia, the daughter of Jardon Bouska and Kelly Norris, also volunteers with La Amistad, a Peachtree Presbyterian Church program to help Spanish-speaking children with schoolwork, and LPI Study Abroad, where she volunteered in the kindergarten program last summer. “I feel like life should not be measured by what you have done to further yourself or how far you have gotten, but instead life should be measured by the number of people you touch,” Cecilia says.
Peter Myer, 18
A senior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, Peter holds an annual coat and blanket drive for Atlanta’s Homeless Haven, the Open Door Community. He’s also tutored Spanish-speaking students at La Amistad and goes to New Orleans every Easter to work with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Last summer, Peter received a scholarship to study Mandarin for six weeks from the U.S. State Department and volunteered at a nursing home in Jiaxing, China. “I played a song on the ukulele and a friend and I sang for an elderly Chinese woman, and she cried. She thought it was so beautiful. That touched me and we were both in tears.” The son of John Myer and Debby McCarty, Peter plans to study medicine.
Clay Milling, 16
An aspiring filmmaker, Holy Innocents’ junior Clay Milling donated his time last summer to make promotional videos for the Andrew P. Stewart Center for Children in Reynoldstown. The 96-year-old, nonprofit provides a safe, enriching place for under-resourced children to go to after school and in summer. The son of Clay and Jayne Ann Milling, Clay was also a team captain for the center’s golf tournament, and helped to raise more than $3,000. Clay has now been approached by other nonprofits for video help, and he is hoping to create videos to help get their stories out into the Atlanta community. He is also continuing to work with the Stewart Center by starting a teen board that will gather ideas from students closer to the age of the children that the center serves. “It means a lot to me that my work is contributing to such a good cause, the fact that they’re using it to raise money for such great kids,” Milling says. “Since I’ve seen the attitude of those kids who don’t have much, it’s made me appreciate all that I do have – it’s made me appreciate life more.”
Clara Easterlin, 18
The National Charity League, City of Refuge, Buckhead Church Ministries, Atlanta Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and Ronald McDonald House are just some of the organizations where Lovett School senior Clara has volunteered. The daughter of Nan and Ed Easterlin, Clara also serves on the Student Service Board at Lovett, and helped organize the school’s first Relay for Life. She’s also bee on five mission trips to Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. “Giving back to the community teaches lessons that are hard to grasp any other way,” Clara says. “It has shaped me into the person I am today. Giving back is what led me to become humble and to not take simple gifts in life for granted. She plans to major in pre-med or biology in college with hopes of attending medical school in the future.
A junior at the Westminster Schools, Collins volunteered last summer to travel to Guatemala to help build homes for the nonprofit From Houses to Homes. In order to raise money for the trip, Collins manufactured and sold products that he personally made using his blacksmith skills, including fireplace pokers, shovels and stands. He sold all of his handcrafted tools in only a day, raising over $1,000 for the poor in Guatemala. The son of Forrest and Mary Kelly Speed, Collins said he was touched by being able to deliver the key to a finished home to a family. “Opportunities to give back in such a huge way allow me to love, help, and most importantly, get to know my neighbor more than I could have otherwise, and that is why these chances are important to me,” Collins says.
Katharine Walls, 18
The Paideia School senior is part of the Volunteen Program at Zoo Atlanta, where she has put in over 900 service hours since joining as a freshman. She’s also on the robotics team at Fernbank Science Center and volunteers at Science Night Out, a program in which high school students lead elementary students through fun, hands-on science activities. She’s also interned with the Wylde Center community garden in Decatur. “I owe a large part of who I am now to the community in which I grew up,” Katharine says. “I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to me, so I think it’s important to make a positive impact in whatever way I can.” The daughter of Elizabeth Kurylo and Jim Walls, Katharine says she plans a double major in biology and sociology and also wants to join the Peace Corps after getting her undergraduate degree.