20 Under 20: Kids Who Inspire

January 2011 CoverMeet our third annual 20 Under 20 honorees. Once again, we asked schools and service organizations to submit nominees for students who have gone above and beyond to give back to the community. We think you’ll agree that this group of kids and teens is worthy of our list. With so much negativity in the world, these young people are the polar opposite – full of positive energy and drive to make their community a better place.

This year’s honorees found inspiration and courage while giving their time. You’ll meet a young man who lost his father to Lou Gehrig’s disease and has since raised more than $10,000 to find a cure. You’ll meet a young woman who convinced her parents to sell their home and move into smaller quarters to help the hungry. And you’ll meet an Emory student who is on his way to completing 600 hours of helping children with their education while completing his own. These are just three of the uplifting stories, and we encourage you to read all 20 short profiles and see how you’re never too young to give back to the community.

Atlanta INtown will be holding a reception at The Weber School for the 20 Under 20 honorees this month. In our February edition we’ll have photos from this event. If you would like to become a sponsor or nominate a student for 2012, email wendy@atlantaintownpaper. com. Thank you to the businesses and schools whose advertising support makes this section possible.

– Collin Kelley, Editor


2010 20 Under 20 Honorees

Shekar DukkipatiSaihari Shekar Dukkipati, 19
Emory University
Shekar, the son of Sairam and Padmaja Dukkipati, serves on the staff for Volunteer Emory, the campus-wide service organization. As a staff member, he leads a biweekly service trip to the Atlanta Community Food Bank with other students where who volunteer in the Product Rescue Center. Shekar is also an organizer of Emory Care Day, where students, faculty, staff, alumni and their families all serve in local and international community projects. He’s also led a successful canned food drive for veterans and mentored elementary school students, refugees, and children in special education classes. “I am most proud of the fact that my work in serving the community also allows me to expand and energize people, both at Emory and elsewhere, to go out and serve as well,” he said. “I feel as though it is a duty and a challenge to find a way to give back to this great city.” For more information about Volunteer Emory, visit volunteer.emory.edu.

Zane HellmanZane Hellmann, 16
The Weber School
With parents from Canada and Holland, Zane has been brought up with an eye for things international, so it’s no surprise his interests are varied. He participated in the Morehouse Leadership Program and is now using his love of music – he’s an accomplished jazz pianist – to help found a nonprofit website called v-Tunesters.org where students can easily sign up to volunteer to play music at local senior living facilities. “The happiness the music I played brought to the elderly was something I wanted to share with other students,” Zane said. “You don’t have to be an amazing performer, because the seniors appreciate the music no matter your skill level.” Zane is also a member of Peace by Piece, an interfaith initiative at Weber, which provides a forum for dialogue among Jewish students at Weber, Christian students at Marist and Muslim students at the Muhammed School.

Kaki BennettCatherine “Kaki” Weston Bennett, 18
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
The daughter of Catherine and David Bennett, Kaki is the founder of the Holy Innocents’ walk team for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) annual Walk to Cure Diabetes. She also serves as the chair of the JDRF Teen Board, which supports teenagers with diabetes, and serves on the organization’s Governmental Relations Committee, which is responsible for ensuring legislative awareness for diabetes-related issues. “I am most proud of the fact that my school team has raised over $144,000 to support diabetes research since the team’s inception in 2005,” she said. “As a person living with diabetes, it is important to me to work to improve my own life and the lives of other persons living with diabetes.”  To find out more information about JDRF, visit www.jdrf.org. To make a donation to her school team, visit http://walk.jdrf.org.

Carlton ClackCarlton Steven Clack, 17
The Westminster Schools
Carlton is very active at his church, Peachtree United Methodist, where he has been on mission trips abroad, worked on Habitat for Humanity builds and volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club. The son of Leigh and Danny Clack, Carlton was on a mission trip to Nicaragua when he noticed there was a great need for shoes for adults and children in the country. Upon his return, he created SecondChanceShoes.org, which has already donated more than 700 pairs of shoes to the needy in Nicaragua. He is trying to collect 10,000 pairs of shoes by May 1 as well as monetary donations to help ship the footwear. “It means a lot to me,” Carlton said of Second Chance Shoes. “I felt motivated and have been able to accomplish a lot.”

Ashley DaltonAshley Summers Dalton, 17
The Lovett School
Ashley founded the Sustainable Farming and Agriculture Program Ecuador after spending time in the country in 2009 as part of a CARE International trip. She felt unsatisfied by the visit and wanted to do more, so the set about creating a more hands-on service project. Last summer she and three other Lovett students traveled back to Ecuador with a chaperone where they spent weeks helping build a community garden in Pucara and teaching the natives how provide a means of income without losing any land or culture. She also helped build a greenhouse at Siempre Verde, Lovett’s 825-acre cloud forest in Eucador. The daughter of Drs. Booker and Gail Dalton, Ashley said “giving is essential to understanding the abundance of life.”

Hallie AlpernHallie Alpern, 16
The Weber School
The daughter of Amy and Woody Alpern, Hallie created a chapter of Girl Talk at Weber. The national nonprofit mentoring program engages high school girls to mentor girls in middle school. There are now 40 girls involved in the program at Weber. Hallie is also involved in The Friendship Circle, a program which benefits the mentally disabled. She is also a lead dancer for an Israeli cultural dance group called Nitzanim, which performs at senior centers, preschools and festivals. Other activities include raising money to end hunger at GlobalFast.org, raising money for earthquake victims in Haiti and volunteering at Open Hand Atlanta, women’s shelters and homeless shelters. She’s actively fundraising for United Hatzalah of Israel, a nonprofit, volunteer organization that responds to medical emergencies in Israel. “I am always doing community service whenever an opportunity is available to me,” Hallie said. “When I know that I have made a difference in even one person’s life, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.” For more information about Girl Talk, visit www.desiretoinspire.org. For more about United Hatzalah, visit www.unitedhatzalah.org.

David HeyerDavid Heyer, 17
The Lovett School
A varsity tennis player, David founded the Summer Tennis Camp at Lovett for students from Agape Community Center. Twenty students from Agape’s Go Girl Go program took part in last year’s camp. The son of Meg and Steve Heyer, David said he wanted to “provide an active and meaningful summer experience to children and continue to do something I love.” David said he hopes the camp will continued by future Lovett tennis players. “None of the girls had ever been on a tennis court,” Davis said. “Through our racquet drive, we were able to provide each girl with a racquet for the camp. It felt good to introduce the girls to a new sport and they showed real enthusiasm for it. It made me feel happy to see the girls smile every day and I realized that even small things can make a difference in our community.

Rebecca McMahonRebecca S. McMahon, 18
Paideia School
Last summer, Rebecca volunteered at The Global Village School, a school for teenage girls misplaced from their homelands due to wars and other hardships. “It was the perfect place for me because I was able to help the girls with their English, as well as assist with various office projects before their school started,” Rebecca said. One of her main projects was setting up a library based on reading level for the students and teachers. The daughter of Teri and Kevin McMahon, Rebecca is volunteering at the school again this winter and encouraged several classmates to join her. “It means a lot to be able to give back to the community, especially by doing something I enjoy like mentoring younger girls,” she said. “It’s a good feeling knowing you helped out and made a difference.” For more information about The Global Village School visit www.globalvillage.typepad.com.

Ali KnightAlison “Ali” Kight, 16
Woodward Academy
The daughter of Pete and Terri Kight, Ali has volunteered with many service organizations, but the Boys and Girls Club is her true passion. She attended an awards banquet for the organization and was so inspired by the children’s stories, she was moved to get more deeply involved. She joined the Jessie Draper Boys and Girls Club board and became the liaison with Woodward Academy. She helped steer the club’s fundraising efforts and co-created the Field Day event for students. After the Jessie Draper board dissolved into the larger general board, Ali decided to select five representatives from other Atlanta private and public schools that would help provide events, activities and education for the Boys and Girls Club. “I have been blessed with a wonderful family and the capability to attend a great school like Woodward, but the opportunity to give back to others is the real blessing. For more information about volunteering with Ali, email BGCVolunteer@gmail.com for more information.

O'Neal WanlissO’Neal Wanliss, 18
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
O’Neal might be best known for his prowess as a star track and field athlete, but he’s also committed to the environment. The son of Ena and Dean Wanliss, O’Neal helped launch the Green Team, a student-lead environmental group, and established Holy Innocents’ school-wide recycling program. As part of the program, he worked to get recycling bins distributed around the school and obtained a permanent dumpster for the school. “I am extremely proud of being a catalyst in evolving Holy Innocents’ into a more eco-friendly school environment,” he said. “I strongly believe it is important to give back to the community for it plays a strong role in who you are. For me it means being actively engaged and helping to identify the problem and to come up with innovative ways to solve the problem.” O’Neal is in the process of launching an initiative as part of his Global Citizenship senior year capstone project, Spikes for Tykes. This project will focus on raising running spikes for underprivileged children in the Caribbean. “During the Spring track and field season I will have a Spike Drive where I will be collecting new or gently used running spikes,” O’Neal said.

Kathryn CrewdsonKathryn Crewdson, 17
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
The daughter of Robert and Tami Crewdson, Kathryn is I a teacher, an intern and a board member for English for Successful Living, which provides low-cost English classes to individuals who are having trouble learning the language. She’s also the philanthropy chair for the drama club, which raises money for BroadwayCares/Equity Fights AIDS, she helps raise funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund and the Starfish Project, which builds schools in Haiti. Kathryn said she is most proud of her work with English for Successful Living. “Teaching classes was out of my comfort zone, but now I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I love my students,” she said. “They are they most hardworking people I know, and it’s a privilege to teach them.” For more information about the program, visit www.eslgeorgia.net.

Haley McKeeHaley McKee, 13
The Galloway School
In 2009, Haley organized the Galloway Animal Alliance, which now has 30 members working to raise money and awareness about animal abuse, neglect and overpopulation. Over the course of Haley’s 6th grade school year, she and her peers a morning carpool donut sale and worke with pre-k Galloway classes in an effort to educate young children about being kind to animals. “I am so blessed to have experienced the amazing feeling of volunteering and helping those around you – be it animals or people,” Haley said. “I want to expose as many people as possible to the problems our world faces so that individuals will feel a need and desire to get up and do something about them. The Animal Alliance helped me start doing this.” The daughter of Allison and David McKee, Haley encourages readers to use resources like petfinder.com, humanesociety.org and angelrescue.org to find out how you can help animals in need.

Sophia HuttonSophia Hutton, 17
Atlanta Girls’ School
Sophia volunteers the Center for the Visually Impaired helping young people learn how to cope with their ocular disabilities. She serves as a sighted guide and helps in classes that focus on social skills, cane and mobility orientation, and basic activities of daily life that teach things such as how to use public transportation and tie shoes. “The students inspire me to daily to be fearless and not let the doubt of others deter me from anything I dare to endeavor,” Sophia said. Because of her work with CVI, Sophia, who lives with her grandparents Nancelou and Peter Radulovic, has decided to make special education her career and plans to work with teens suffering from physical and cognitive disabilities. To find out more about CVI, visit www.cviga.org.

Eduardo GarciaEduardo Garcia, 19
Emory University
Eduardo has volunteered more than 300 hours as a student leader in Jumpstart, an organization that works with young, underprivileged children to help them succeed in kindergarten. He’s also well on his way to giving another 300 hours to AmeriCorps, mentoring and coaching fellow students at Emory on how to work with children in need. The son of Valentin and Maria Garcia, Eduardo said the instant gratification of working with kids in the Jumpstart program encourages him to continue. “As the kids’ learning increases, I am constantly reminded that I have helped them get there and the growth is visible,” Eduardo said. Giving back to the community is about being selfless and devoting my time to help others so that I can share the resources that I have been given.” To learn more about Jumpstart and ways to help out, log on to www.jstart.org and become an educational partner.

Sam HalpernSam Halpern, 10
The Children’s School
Three years ago, Sam lost his father to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. With the help of his mom, Betsy, Sam channeled his grief into working with the Muscular Dystrophy Association to raise money to find a cure for ALS. For the last four years, he has been team captain for the MDA’s Walk of Hope and presented checks for the money he raised during the local segments of the Jerry Lewis Telethon. He’s raised more than $10,000 so far. Last May, Sam was invited to the governor’s office when Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation declaring May as ALS month in Georgia. He also volunteers with his class at the Atlanta Community Food Bank and participates in various community service events through The Children’s School. “This is my way of honoring my dad and making a positive impact in the community,” Sam said. “Through my work I have become friendly with several people who have ALS, and I want to try to help them, too.” To learn more about ALS and the MDA, visit www.als-mda.org. To donate to Sam’s ALS fundraising campaign, make checks payable to MDA-ALS and mail them to Sam Halper, 2187 Northlake Parkway, #116, Tucker, GA 30084.

Diamond LusterDiamond Luster, 17
The Lovett School
The summer after her freshmen year, Diamond traveled to Ghana with AFS Intercultural Programs, one of the world’s largest community-based volunteer organizations. She volunteered at two different orphanages, teaching sanitation habits at one and literacy skills and writing at the other. Diamond was one of 12 high school students from Atlanta chosen for the Discover Program, a joint collaboration between Emory School of Medicine and Grady Hospital. This seven-week program for aspiring doctors allowed Diamond to do shifts at the Grady emergency room and rotations between different areas of medicine. She’s also tutored students at the Agape Community Center, worked with the homeless and teaches Sunday School. The daughter of Merry Herron and George Luster, Diamond said “Giving back to the community means doing what you would want others to do for you if you were in a bad situation. People make community service so complicated, but helping people is as simple as smiling at a person and asking how their day is going.” Diamond suggests the Agape Community Center as a great place to start giving back. www.agapecc.org.

Hannah SalwenHannah Salwen, 18
Atlanta Girls’ School
Hannah convinced her parents, Joan and Kevin Salwen, to make an “ultimate” selfless decision by selling the family home, moving into one half its size and donating half of the sale price to The Hunger Project.  Hannah and her father co-authored the book The Power of Half on how teenagers have the power to make global changes. They now travel around the country speaking to schools, churches and community groups to encourage others to give back. Hannah has also been working in Ghana helping to build a new kindergarten and recently returned from Australia, where she represented America at a congress of international girls’ schools sharing her leadership skills and passion. She was recognized in the New York Times and by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for her charitable spirit.  “Giving back to your community means finding something that you have more than enough of and putting it to good use in the world,” Hannah said. “If you spend six hours a week online, maybe you cut that down to three and spend your extra three hours visiting sick kids at a cancer clinic. Find your passions, figure out your “half”, and start a community project.” To learn more about her family’s work, visit www.thepowerofhalf.com.

Margaret SillimanMargaret Silliman, 11,
The Westminster Schools
The daughter of Todd and Wendy Silliman created the Basic Bags project, collecting travel size unused toiletry items into kits to distribute to the homeless in Atlanta. In the last two-and-a-half years, she has distributed more than 4,500 kits. “It’s a great feeling to know I am handing a person something he can really use,” Margaret said. “I am also proud of the fact that many businesses and people have been so generous donating items to Basic Bags.” Margaret was recognized by the Kohl’s Kids Care program for her efforts with a $1,000 scholarship. “The most important thing in life is helping and caring about others,” she said. “We have so much that it is easy to get distracted from the less fortunate’s needs. We can all make that up by helping others.” To make a donation to Margaret’s Basic Bags project, send an email to BasicBags@bellsouth.net.

Henley KiblerClifford “Henley” Kibler, 18
Woodward Academy
Henley is a youth elder at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta and has completed an astonishing 15 mission trips around America and the world. The son of Sal and Brad Kibler, Henley has a passion for construction, so his mission trips have involved building and rebuilding. He’s been to the Gulf Coast four times to help in rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina, including demo work at the infamous Lindy Boggs Medical Center in Mid-City New Orleans where patients and medical staff were trapped in the flood. Last summer he went to the tiny island of Roatan in Honduras to help build homes for need families. “I believe that our work at First Presbyterian represents Christian beliefs in action,” Henley said. “We can worship, study and discuss, but a group activity of service not only helps others, it helps us grow spiritually.” Henley said service has never been a choice he had to make, but it part of the culture at Woodward, his church and in his own family. “I know how to hang siding, replace roofs, and do painting. I can do wicked things with a power saw!” For more information, visit www.firstpresatl.org.

Ravon WilliamsRavon Symone Williams, 18
Spelman College
Ravon is involved with AmeriCorps’ Jumpstart teaching literacy and social skills to children in pre-K. “I try my best to give the Jumpstart children the support and encouragement that is so strongly needed in the community,” Ravon said. The daughter of Deanna Newton and Gerald Williams, Ravon is a child development major, so she plans to dedicate her lift to education. Born in an impoverished area of Pontiac, Michigan, Ravon said her upbringing gave a great deal of knowledge about choices. “Some people choose to drop out of school, and some decide to make changes for themselves and the community,” she said. “I am humbly grateful for the opportunity to touch the lives of children who are just like me with an eagerness and excitement to learn. For more about the Jumpstart program, visit www.readfortherecord.org.

6 Comments
  1. Inspiring article. I have forwarded to friends with kids or who work with kids. Leaning how to give – at an early age – these are fine examples.

  2. haha George. i agree. would like to see some public school children up here too. they’re pretty great

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