In the current political climate in the U.S., teens have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with, and that they are pretty amazing. Each year the Jackson Free Press honors some of the local teens doing amazing things in the Jackson metro area.
Recently, Forest Hill High School's National Honor Society hosted a STEM Fair at Bates Elementary School (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The point of the event, says NHS member Albert Jackson, was to get kids involved in the subjects at a young age so that when they go into middle and high school, they will have a better background.
"They can know that it's not all just difficult, that it's actually fun and exciting," Jackson says.
The 17-year-old Jackson native strives to keep a 4.0 grade-point average, but he is also involved in numerous clubs, including NHS, ACT Club, band, choir and more. He is also the vice president of the school's chapter of Mu Alpha Theta, an Academic and Performing Arts Complex student, and was named Student of the Month in September 2016. He is currently third seat in the clarinet section on the All-City Honor Band.
Jackson plans to go to Hinds Community College in Utica, and then to a four-year college. He wants to study chemistry and music education.
"I've always loved science," he says. "It's always been my favorite subject, and I've always had a passion for music."
Jackson likes that science has the same precision as mathematics, but it's not as math-heavy as trigonometry or algebra. For his career path, he plans on teaching chemistry and music.
Besides listening to music, his hobbies include knitting and crocheting. —Amber Helsel
Even at 17 years old, Evelyn Henderson is passionate about showing people the importance of getting regular physical exams.
"It's important because you need to know how your body is, and if a problem happened with you recently ... you can stop it if you're getting a (regular) checkup," she says.
Henderson wrote about the subject for Callaway High School's 2019 Healthcare Awareness Essay Contest, and her work garnered her first place. "I couldn't believe it," she says.
She plans to go to Holmes Community College and then the University of Mississippi Medical Center to study nursing. Her grand goal is to become a pediatrician, but in working up to that point, she plans to become a nurse and then a nurse practitioner.
"I love people, and I love helping people," she says.
Her favorite subjects in school are math and science.
"Math, it picks with my brain," she says. "It's just so fun to figure out things and learn new things in math, and with science, (there's) always a step being added, and it has some type of mathematics in it, especially chemistry."
Henderson is also involved in organizations such as Jobs for Mississippi Graduates, which prepares at-risk or disadvantaged students for postsecondary education or work, a member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Callaway, and she is a student ambassador for Jackson Public Schools. —Amber Helsel
For Ishan Bhatt, debate is akin to an academic game.
"It's just a really fun game based on research, speaking abilities, strategic thinking, all of that stuff," Bhatt says. "People really underestimate how much prior preparation goes into this activity, and that process is something that's just really intellectually stimulating and really invigorating, and I really like it."
Bhatt, who is a senior at St. Andrew's Episcopal School, is among 12 students from across the nation who will be on the USA Debate team. The St. Andrew's senior has been a member of the school's debate team for nearly four years and has competed in several competitions. He was the winner of the "Lincoln-Douglas debate" (a type of one-on-one debate) at the 2018 National Speech and Debate Association's national tournament.
In preparing, he can either focus on research and speaking skills, or content and presentation, he says. He enjoys both styles, and values the technical skills he gains from the first style as well as the persuasive skills from the second one.
As part of the USA debate team, Bhatt is now engaged in a style of debate called World Schools, in which topics change for every round, and each team of three has to research in advance Although he prefers styles where the topic doesn't change, he still finds this format enjoyable and says he loves debating with the team.
"It's a great experience because even though we're sort of all across the country, you really feel like a team," he says.
Bhatt, 18, is also a member of St. Andrew's Quiz Bowl team and enjoys watching shows like "Dr. Who" and "Stranger Things," and reading science fiction and fantasy books in his spare time.
He is currently considering attending Harvard University to major in either political science or public policy. —James Bell
In his junior year at Murrah High School, Kilando Chambers had to do a project on a work of historical fiction. After looking at his own bookshelf, he realized most of his collection is in that genre.
"I love to read books that can take me to another time period, and another place, and another location," he says. "I might feel like going to 17th-century France or going to Israel or someplace like that, and I love to understand what was going on in that time period that influenced the writer to write what he or she or they are saying at the moment."
His love for historical fiction was a huge influence in his decision to major in history or literature when he goes to Harvard University in the fall.
Chambers, 17, is currently part of Base Pair, a biomedical research partnership between Murrah and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in which he studies how doctors could use virus-like particles to treat cancers, especially brain cancer. He is also part of the marching band at Murrah, and has been in the jazz and symphonic bands.
Chambers scored a 35 on his ACT, and says the secret to his success was focusing on areas that he struggles in. He knew from an ACT bootcamp course that while he does not have problems with math, he did struggle with the last few questions in that section.
"I knew that I needed to focus on that, and I knew that I didn't need to focus on English as much as the other subjects," he says.
His advice for other students is to commit to studying.
In his free time, he likes to read and watch Netflix. He also does a lot of babysitting. "I do so much in school that by the time I come home, there's not very much left to do," he says. —Amber Helsel
Writing is everything for Jackson Academy junior Wisdom Ware, She always excelled at writing stories in elementary school, then discovered spoken word in middle school.
"She fell in love with that art form," her mother, Tonya Ware, says.
Wisdom Ware won a Gold Key in the Mississippi Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards contest winner for her poem "When Cancer Wins," which she wrote in honor of her aunt Lydia Dailey, who lost her battle with breast cancer June 19, 2018.
"This piece was a way for me to process the grief," Ware says.
She also won a Silver Key for "When I Thought Black Wasn't Beautiful," a narrative poem Ware wrote about her school experiences when she was younger. "I was one of the few black students at my school, so I had some insecurities about my kinky hair and skin tone because it was different from the rest of the students."
Ware began attending Jackson Academy in seventh grade.
Ware, 16, is involved in school and around Jackson as a writer. This is her second year taking a creative writing class at Jackson Academy. She is the captain of the poetry writing club at her school, and the school's Images Creative Magazine has published her poems "Blue," "Shoe Laces" and "Remember The Roses." Ware has been a member of Youth Leadership Greater Jackson, a local nonprofit organization, for a year and is in the current class of leaders.
After graduation, Ware wants to pursue a degree in film with a minor in creative writing. Eventually, she wants to become a screenwriter, poet and director. —Armani T. Fryer
When students in the CSPAN StudentCam competition had to answer the question, "What does it mean to be American?," Luke North, a 17-year-old junior at Madison Central High School, focused on the Civil Rights Movement. He and partner Jillian Russell created a short documentary called "America Through the Lens of Civil Rights."
Their work got an honorable mention in February.
North and Russell did the competition as an assignment for his Advanced Placement English class. Their documentary focused on living and growing up in Mississippi, and the state's tumultuous history of race relations.
"Mississippi more than any other state has a racially charged history, and people think about that negative history first when they think about our state," North says. "However, I think we can and have changed, and people are working hard to do it. Our answer for what it means to be American was that spirit of standing up for your rights and practicing civil disobedience from the Civil Rights Movement."
North's favorite interview for the documentary, he says, was with Laurin Stennis, the granddaughter of the late Sen. John C. Stennis and creator of the Stennis Flag, a proposed alternative to Mississippi's current state flag.
"We used her as an example of the passion to fight for what you believe in," North says. "She advocates for changing the state flag in a non-aggressive manner without bashing on those who support the current one, and I think that's a teachable act that embodies what it means to be American."
North is a member of the Madison Central debate team and Student Government Club, and a member of local civil rights group Advocates for Change. —Dustin Cardon