Meet our seventh annual 20 Under 20 honorees. We asked public and privates schools along with universities and service organizations to nominate students who have gone above and beyond to give back to the community.

We think you will agree this is a diverse, exceptional list of students, who have traveled to distant countries, founded nonprofit organizations and given hundreds of hours of their personal time. The students range in age from 9 to 19. We had nearly 70 nominees, so narrowing down the winners was tough. So much so, that for the first time we also selected five finalists.

In the following pages, you’ll meet two brothers who started a foundation to collect laptops, books and other supplies for fellow students in third world countries; a young woman who single-handedly raised $20,000 for juvenile diabetes research; an elementary school student who started picking up discarded pencils and created a movement across Atlanta Public Schools to help needy children here and abroad; and a young woman whose love of acting led her to create a theatre program for middle school students who weren’t getting enough arts education. Those are just some 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.

Thank you to the businesses and schools whose advertising support makes this section possible.

– Collin Kelley, Editor


Leela Johnson and Maria Crosswell

20 Under 20  

Lela Johnson, 18
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
Along with Maria Crosswell, Lela co-founded the Change a Life Club to support the children of Sandy Springs Mission, a non-profit, after-school academic enrichment program founded in 1999. The goal of the Sandy Springs Mission is to help students (who do not speak English as a primary language) to graduate and pursue higher education. The club mentors at-risk students, hosting events, organizing assistance from other groups, delivering snacks, and raising funds. Club members can mentor, help host events and parties, deliver snacks, and contribute to donation drives. “I am honored to have pursued their every need for the better parts of my junior and senior years,” Johnson says. “Needless to say, each of these inspiring, inquisitive young students shaped my life more than I ever could have anticipated, and for that I am forever grateful.”

Maria Crosswell, 18
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
In addition to co-founding the Change a Life Club with fellow honoree Lela Johnson, Maria has been a junior board member on for Andee’s Army, a group that organizes walk/runs every year to raise money for Andee Poulos, a former Holy Innocents’ student with a non-traumatic brain injury, as well as other children with this injury. Maria has helped raise more than $4,000 in three years. Maria also volunteers at the Agape Community Center, a safe, after-school program for at-risk student and Georgia Homeless Pets. She traveled to Peru last summer to volunteer in a children’s hospital for destitute children experiencing serious medical disabilities. “As I walked into the [Sandy Springs] Mission, a handful of first-grade girls ran up and welcomed me with a huge embrace,” Maria said about the beginnings of the Change a Life Club. “It was in that moment and immediate connection that sparked a light in me and I knew that I had to be a part of this special place.”

Edward and Xavier Holliday

Edward and Xavier Holliday, 16 and 15
The Westminster Schools
The brothers founded an educational nonprofit organization called Brothers 4 Literacy & Life in memory of their great grandmother, who died of breast cancer in 2012 and also loved to serve her community. The organization’s mission is to equip underserved young people around the globe with reading, learning and life resources that will ensure them success for years to come. Last March, the brothers visited Manchester, Jamaica and brought donations of laptops, used books, clothes, shoes, school supplies and monetary resources to help fulfill a “needs list” for the local elementary school, Robin’s Hall. Edward recalled meeting the students at Robin’s Hall: “At first it was a little awkward, but moments later they started giving us hugs, smiles and high fives and it felt like we were surrounded by family.” Xavier said: “My brother and I were able to help make a difference in the lives of a few hundred children that we will never forget all while carrying on my grandmother’s legacy.” Brothers 4 Literacy & Life also plans to reach our to several other schools in Ghana, Argentina and Guatemala. 

Bailey Lyles

Bailey Lyles, 19
University of Georgia
In the eighth grade, Bailey learned about Wellspring Living in Atlanta and the organization’s work with survivors of child sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Four years later, when Bailey was in the Program for Global Citizenship at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School she launched a Global capstone project called “Moving with Angels,” designed to help heal these victims’ minds, bodies and souls. Bailey is now renovating an abandoned building in Downtown Atlanta to provide activities such as dance and yoga therapy for Wellspring Living’s clients. Since beginning her project, Bailey has raised significant funds and awareness, spoken to groups and individual donors to raise awareness about this problem, and helped design and renovate the space that will soon house activities for a special group of women and girls. “One of my most memorable moments of giving back to the community would be when I created a dance/exercise studio for the women and girls on site at Wellspring Living,” Bailey said. “These girls have been victims of sexual abuse and sex trafficking and the dance/exercise studio gives them a place to have an outlet for self expression as well as improve their physical health.”

Anna Kampfe

Anna Kampfe, 18
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
Not every student can say they raised $20,000 in one year for a charitable project, but Anna can. She was a key factor in helping Holy Innocents’ become the top fund-raising school in America for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Fall Walk for six straight years. A Type 1 diabetic herself, Anna says, “I volunteer and fundraise because I believe that a single dollar could lead to curing millions of children who cannot eat without having to be their own doctors.” She says she was overwhelmed by the generosity of her fellow students this past year. “It let me know that I am not alone, and that people understand that a cure can happen.” Anna is also an artist and recently had one of her pieces selected for exhibition at the High Museum of Art.

Salome Araya

Salome Araya, 17
Grady High School
Salome have been actively involved in 21st Century Leaders, a nonprofit organization that advocates volunteerism and helps students create their own leadership projects. She has volunteered with children through the Atlanta Arts Festival; is heavily involved in Atlanta MedShare, and is the community service chair for Skills USA. Salome recalls her first time volunteering as a freshman: “Christmas break had just begun and the church was serving homeless women and children breakfast as my sister and I were working with children in the arts section. It was a room I was fortunate enough to experience how close the community was brought together. It was a room filled with such positive energy and allowed me to understand the good volunteerism could bring in my community.”

Caroline Carr Grant

Caroline Carr Grant, 16
The Lovett School
Caroline Carr has served 100 hours over the last 3 years at the Agape Youth & Family Center. As part of a volunteer summer internship with Agape, she was given the task of creating a six-week summer reading program for 30 rising first and second grade children. She was asked to develop curriculum, collect books, organize volunteers, and facilitate the reading program during the summer. She organized a book drive and collected 700 books for Agape to use for the summer reading program and to be added to the Agape library for years to come. “When we started the program, I realized that many of these children were struggling to recite the alphabet, recognize letters, and read basic words, yet they were enthusiastic and happy to try,” Caroline Carr remembers. “I was inspired to create a reading program that would continue throughout the school year, so these hardworking kids could continue to develop their reading skills as well as build their self-confidence as readers and as students.”

Vanessa Rodriguez-Badillo

Vanessa Rodriguez-Badillo, 17
Carver School of the Arts
Vanessa already has her future mapped out: she plans to become a physician specializing in oncology. The medical field inspired her to volunteer at Family Health Enterprise, using her bilingual skills to interpret, communicate, and help serve pediatricians during procedures. Vanessa is currently the President of Carver School of the Arts and will be valedictorian of the class of 2015. As class president, she began holding meetings with the student population and inquiring about their needs and desires for academic success. Using that data, Vanessa developed a free ACT prep program. “I felt a sense of satisfaction and victory when the program began to exhibit success,” Vanessa says. “This experience has enabled me to develop a deeper understanding of the importance to give back to others.”

Quanterya Hoard

Quanterya Y. Hoard, 17
West End Academy
As president of the Future Business Leaders of America Organization (FBLA) for 2014-2015, Quanterya has made a significant impact through her leadership and commitment in planning and recruitment of members to the organization. She implemented first community service learning project for the FBLA, “Get Covered America,” which was in conjunction with the Morehouse School of Medicine Health Fair. Her efforts provided the opportunity for health fair attendees to be educated in making choices for the Affordable Care Act. “These memorable experiences have contributed to my growth, not only as a student, but as an individual whose responsibilities lies within the community,” Quanterya says.

Parker Whitlow

Parker Whitlow, 18
North Atlanta High School
If you’re a theatergoer, you might have seen Parker on stage at Fabrefaction in shows like Legally Blonde and Hairspray. In addition to acting, she has dedicated the past three years to the theatre program she created at Sutton Middle School where she had been a student. The program was a sophomore year requirement, but it changed the students’ lives so immensely that she knew she had to continue. This program gives middle school students opportunities that they would not have otherwise, and has also allowed high school students to learn from leadership positions. She has spent over 700 hours on these shows over the last three years, and the program will continue even as she moves on to college. “I knew how much the arts could impact students, so I made it my mission to go back and start a theatre program for Sutton students so they could have the opportunities that I couldn’t have,” Parker says. “I am proud to say that it has changed my life and I am now pursing studying directing in college next year.”

Connor Cassidy

Connor Cassidy, 18
Ben Franklin Academy
Connor attends school in the morning and then heads to a lab at Georgia Tech work in the afternoons as an unpaid internship at the Global Center for Medical Innovations (GCMI).  There he works with researchers designing medical devices that will enable surgeons to perform operations on babies and older patients in areas of the body that surgeons haven’t been able to reach before. Connor has helped the engineers design and manufacture these devices using 3-D printers. He also teaches sailing and water safety to younger children at Lake Lanier one day a week and on weekends.  Connor is also a member of Georgia Trailriders, an organization of Jeep owners with a mission to help others in need. During last year’s snow and ice storms, he helped pull out dozens of trapped vehicles, offered rides home and helped people jumpstart their cars. “I will always remember how great it felt to aid others in a time of need,” Connors says.

Allison Hunter

Allison Hunter, 10
Gideons Elementary
Allison’s family owns a restaurant, so that has already given her leg up in learning about business and marketing. While most students Allison’s age are consumed with social media, Allison was thinking of ways to that technology could help prepare students for the new Georgia Milestones test. Allison encouraged administrators and teachers to allow students more time on educational technology devices, including keyboarding, and use of educational apps to help prepare for the new test. She is also applying for grants to help the school obtain books, pencils, notebooks and other school supplies for students who can’t afford them. Allison has also been helping to raise money to keep the Bethlehem Senior Center open, since her grandmother goes there regularly, including making jewelry. “Our senior citizens deserve our attention and you would be surprised at how doing little things mean so much to them,” Allison says. “Just taking a little time to listen to them can make a big difference in their day.”

Amoriah Shaw

Amoriah Shaw, 18
Druid Hills High School
Amoriah began giving back at the age of 5 when she donated her hair to Locks of Love for her friend diagnosed with leukemia. She has gone on to found Druid Hills High School chapter of MDJunior, a medical mentorship and service outreach program. She also went on a medical mission trip to Honduras with MDJunior leaders from around the country. Amoriah also served as a production assistant for Spectrum, an organization that provides support, education and resources to children and adults with autism. “I met so many families with incredible stories of their struggle to maintain a healthy life and was inspired by the amount of determination they possessed,” Amoriah says of her trip to Honduras with MDJunior. “I learned so many valuable life lessons through this process, ones that I hope to carry with me throughout my life.”

Rachel Hamilton

Rachel Hamilton, 18
Ben Franklin Academy
Rachel has been actively volunteering in the community for years, including Girl Talk, MZ Stageworks, Marcus Jewish Community Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Warren T. Jackson Primary School. Girl Talk, a nonprofit where high school girls mentor middle school girls to help build self-esteem, communication skills, and recognize the value of community service, has been part of Rachel’s life for more than four years. She has served on their National Teen Advisory Board for 9th-12th grades and has been a volunteer counselor for their summer camps and many of their community outreach programs. She channeled her passion for musical theater into creating the “Mommy & Me Princess Tea” fundraiser for Girl Talk. Rachel arranged the entire show from casting and musical arrangement to soliciting donations and arranging sponsorships. The first event raised more $10,000 and she’s actively planning a second one. While the fundraiser was memorable, the cast visit to Egleston Children’s Hospitals to perform and meet the sick kids was a standout moment. “Being able to bring magic and joy to these kids who were struggling with so much made all of the effort and energy we had put into that day even more rewarding,” she says.

Gibby Heiser

Gibby Heiser, 10
Morningside Elementary School
Gibby is the founder of The Pencil Orphanage, which “rescues” pencils destined for the trash, sorts and packages them, then distributes them to children in need. Founded last March at Morningside Elementary, Gibby started collecting pencils off the floor of the school with the help of other students, custodians and staff. More than 2,700 pencils have been collected, packaged and sent to locations as far afield as Kenya, South Africa, India and Malawi as well as to schools in Georgia. The Pencil Orphanage has grown to include a board of 13 elementary and middle school girls from seven schools who have spent over 90 combined volunteer hours packaging pencils. The board is working to place Pencil Orphanages in elementary schools across Atlanta. “I remember when I had my first Pencil Orphanage board meeting,” Gibby recalls. “It was wonderful seeing my determined friends work so hard as they packaged pencils. They really are what made my vision possible. It feels good to know that we’re making a difference.”

Amadou Bah

Amadou Bah, 18
B.E.S.T. Academy High School
Amadou is a Project Engage Research Scholar at Georgia Tech, where he has conducted research on tissue regeneration and vascular remodeling for cardiovascular disease therapies. He has also contributed to increase voting in low socioeconomic communities, where people were initially uncomfortable or unaware of voting or its importance. He has volunteered at Grady Hospital for different shifts of medicine from Ob/GYN, internal medicine, orthopedics, and the emergency room. He has participated in feeding the homeless through the Hosea Williams Feed the Homeless Program. On service trips to Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala, he has offered tutoring, motivational speaking and helping to clean up villages. Amadou is currently helping develop a curriculum to help minority students perform better on the ACT standardized test.

Shayann Hendricks

Shayann Hendricks, 16
Atlanta International School
Shayann is a leader of Atlanta International School Against Human Trafficking. She was trained as a student ambassador with YouthSpark, the nonprofit that works to end child sex trafficking, and leads sessions to train others on the issues. Shayann also organized trips to the state capitol last year, lobbying for bills to pass to help trafficking victims. This past summer, she traveled to Colombia to volunteer with Colombianitos, an organization that keeps kids off the streets and in after-school tutoring and playing soccer, in a town outside of Bogota. Shayann also volunteers for Street Grace, which provides bags of food to kids who are at risk for trafficking. She has vivid memories of her first meeting with YouthSpark: “I was amazed by the level to which people were willing to commit their involvement once they understood the issue, and became aware of the problem.”

Morgan Baker

Morgan Baker, 17
Pace Academy
During her freshman year, Morgan began volunteering with My Sister’s House, the Atlanta Mission’s women’s and children’s shelter. During her time there, Morgan noticed that the shelter was always in need of toiletries to satisfy the basic needs of its 250 residents. In November 2013, she organized a toiletry drive and created a webpage to raise additional funds. Through online, phone and face-to-face solicitations, Morgan raised more than $1,400. She also contacted a variety of national personal product manufacturers, local youth soccer clubs, dentists and orthodontists. As a result of the drive, Morgan donated more than 5,000 personal items to shelter. But Morgan wasn’t done. She also noticed a need amongst the homeless children she encountered for shoes that fit. So, in March 2014, Morgan founded the Atlanta Shoe Bank. She created a website and process for shelters to request shoes for their children. She began the collection process by contacting local athletic shoes stores and now has more than $18,000 in inventory. She also volunteers with Second Helping, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes surplus food that would otherwise have been thrown away. Morgan recalls spending weeks trying to get her first donations for the Atlanta Shoe Bank: “I finally got in touch with Sports Authority, which gave me 100 free pairs of brand new Nikes. After receiving this generous donation, I gave these shoes to the boys and girls of the Covenant house, a local foster home in Atlanta.”

Imani Smith

Imani Smith, 9
J.W. Dobbs Elementary School
Imani bonded with Dobbs Principal Charnita West over the death of their mothers from breast cancer. Her brother was also diagnosed with leukemia, but is now in remission. Imani had already raised money for the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk in Centennial Park and said she wanted to do more for women with breast cancer. West asked Imani to be the student ambassador for the health committee for Relay for Life at the school. She is already working fellow students to raise funds for the 2015 Relay for Life efforts. Imani also carries an American Cancer Society money collection can everywhere she goes. She also wants to help the homeless and has volunteered with her great-aunt to give out food. “If I had a lot of money I would give the homeless people a place to stay and food and help them fix their lives,” Imani says.

Alexis Wilkinson

Alexis Wilkinson, 17
Holy Spirit Preparatory School
Alexis created her own handmade jewelry business to help sponsor underprivileged children at Camp Friendship, a social skills camp for children with special needs, where she volunteers in the summer. She is also the only student on the governing board of Smyrna First United Methodist Church, where she mentors girls and assists the youth choir director. Alexis says one of her most memorable experiences was at Camp Friendship, when she mentored a young girl who had such extreme anxiety that she normally cannot speak. “One day, she and I were sitting at the art table and I asked her if she wanted to learn how to make a lanyard.  She nodded, and so we began. As we worked, I started telling her about myself and asking her questions about herself. Soon, I learned she loved science, had a sister, and loved her puppy. In that hour, she talked more than I had witnessed that week.  Getting to know her and seeing her come out of her shell was an incredible experience I will never forget.”

Kaija Pack

Kaija M. Pack
Mays High School
Kaija has turned her birthday into an opportunity to give back to others by creating the “Feed the Need” project. She recruited over 25 volunteers and they headed to Downtown Atlanta and provided over 400 meals and gave away clothing to those in need. In lieu of receiving birthday gifts, Kaija requests that everyone bring food for “Feed the Need” celebration. She and the volunteers set up a grill for hot food, a snack stand and drink station. Kaija plans take “Fee the Need” to other communities in Georgia and other cities across the country, including Detroit and Washington D.C.


Samantha Humphrey, 13
Woodward Academy
Samantha has served as an active volunteer and fundraiser for Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta. A volunteer since the age of 8, Samantha has raised more than $10,000 during that time. She was recently named the 2014 Teen Volunteer of the Year by the Greater Atlanta Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Jacauri Jones, 13
Crawford Long Middle School
Jacauri participates in the annual “Pennies for Patients” fundraiser to raise monies for the Lymphoma and Cancer Society, local feed the homelss campaigns and clothing drives with the Salvation Army. He also works in the school garden and was honored by the Captain Planet Food Corp. He’s also worked on a number of anti-bullying campaigns.

Taylin-Destiny Morris, 16
Woodward Academy
Taylin volunteers for Hosea Feed the Hungry, The Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta and the Atlanta Humane Society. Taylin also is the spokesperson for the 300m Girls Rise Up Project that addresses child trafficking and kidnapping.

Sarah Caswell, 17
The Westminster Schools
Sarah works with the National Charity League, where she has poured hundreds of hours into the Agape Center, small dog rescue, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Shepherd Center, to name a few. She is also an active member in an organization that raises awareness in teenage drivers called Steersmart.

Tess Clemens, 14
The Galloway School
Tess organized a Middle Learning student club called “Lift Her Up” at Galloway last year, which raised money to help a woman in Uganda attend college. She and the group also brought a screening of the documentary Girl Rising to Galloway. Tess spoke to each level of the school about the importance of women’s education around the world and put on several fundraisers to support her group’s goals.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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