Concern about apathy among their peers led several Northwest Rankin High School students to start Students With A Goal, or SWAG, to support each other as they serve the community.
Terry Hunt, the group's faculty coordinator, says SWAG got started after several students attended a summit at the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.
"They came back with the idea about changing the school climate, which they saw as being apathetic," Hunt says. The group's goals are very broad and flexible, so the projects change depending on what community service project the students want to accomplish.
"It's just, 'Oh, you have a goal? Tell us what it is, and we'll help you achieve it,'" Hunt says. "... It's giving enough support that when people have a passion for something, they can come and get the help they need."
Through SWAG, students have hosted bake sales, sold T-shirts and sunglasses and hosted events to raise money for projects. They have planted a garden at the school, raised money for the Community Animal Rescue Association and raised funds to give custodians a Christmas gift. They recently received a grant from Jackson 2000 to put a watering system in their garden.
Last week, SWAG arranged for four Freedom Riders to come speak at Northwest Rankin. The students have been studying the Freedom Rides and the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi this year.
"I've been living here my whole life, and I never heard a lot of this stuff," says Tasi Jones, a junior at the school and a member of SWAG. "It feels really great to know stuff that's shaped Mississippi and how far we've come."
After hearing some of the Freedom Riders speak at an event last summer to mark the 50th anniversary of the rides, the students from SWAG decided to invite them to Northwest Rankin. They stayed after school to study the Freedom Rides and put together a display about what they learned in the foyer of the school's Performing Arts Building, complete with stories and photos of the people who spoke at the school.
Krysta Zuvic, a senior at Northwest Rankin and a member of SWAG, says meeting the Freedom Riders in person makes the Civil Rights Movement seem more real than simply reading about it in a textbook.
"What's crazy is that you read about it in a book (and think), 'Oh, that's past, that's history.' ... That wasn't that long ago," she says.
Bob Zellner, one of the Freedom Riders, encouraged the students to make a difference in their own communities.
"It's always small minorities, like you guys, who take the lead," he says.
Ole Miss Community Service Leaders
Ole Miss admissions counselor Jason Welch's voice glowed as he spoke about the 24 students from 21 Jackson metropolitan area high schools that make up the first class of Ole Miss Community Service Leaders. The program sought interested seniors dedicated to service even if they were not interested in attending the University of Mississippi.
"I work with hundreds of students all year, but the selflessness of this group has been inspiring and refreshing," he says. "These students are the leaders in their high schools. ... They're involved in everything—the brightest kids in their schools—yet, they still find time to give back."
The Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children's Child Life Department and its activity rooms on each floor provided an avenue for the students' accomplishments. The Ole Miss Community Service Leaders program involved the seniors in service campaigns at their home schools, collecting comforting giveaways for patients staying in the hospital and for outpatients. Program participants collected more than 3,000 coloring books and more than 3,500 Hot Wheels toys for sick kids at Batson this year. The students also collected more than $2,500 in funds for the hospital's child life department.
On April 14, 126 students came together at the Jackson Convention Complex for the Ole Miss Community Service Day in Jackson. Led by Ole Miss Community Service Leaders, the students worked at eight stations, creating items ranging from friendship bracelets and tie-dyed pillowcases to tissue-paper flowers and parents' activity packets. They ended up with items galore, which will brighten the lives of children at Blair E. Batson for days to come. You can see for yourself how the day went on the program's Facebook fan page.
It won't be long before Alonte Davis-Anderson is strengthening our community—in fact, he already is. Davis-Anderson has been involved with the United Way of the Capital Area's Youth Dropout Prevention Council for nearly two years. Being on the council has given Davis-Anderson, an 11th grader at Wingfield High School in Jackson, the opportunity to work with other youth from around the metro area and to come up with ideas and solutions for ending the dropout crisis in Jackson Public Schools.
Through the council, he has spoken with state legislators, city and school district officials and put forward a student's voice at the decision-making table. He has also helped guide workshops and forums for students and adults. Davis-Anderson recently got back from a trip to Washington, D.C., where he represented the Youth Dropout Prevention Council from Mississippi at a nationwide Graduation Summit attended by, among others, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Davis-Anderson is not scared to ask the questions and provide clear insight as to what is going on in our schools. At a recent event he stood up and questioned a panel of education "experts" and elected officials.
"Why did we put so much money into building new athletic field-houses in JPS, when, (1) most of us aren't athletes, and (2) many of us, including myself, don't have textbooks to take home for all our classes?" He asked them.
By being who he is, Davis-Anderson is changing the way we see our youth in Jackson and transforming the negative portrayals of our youth, especially black males, that are all too ubiquitous in the media.
Davis-Anderson is a future architect or engineer. He is looking at Howard University, Mississippi State, the University of Mississippi or Jackson State University for college.
It's easy to forget that Adria Walker is 14 years old. She says she already "claims" 15, though, with a birthday in July. As a promising young journalist in the Jackson Free Press intern program, Walker never hesitates to jump on an assignment.
The Murrah High School 9th grader says that her career options are either to be a journalist, an English professor or a book reviewer. "Anything with literature," she says.
The Literati Club is her favorite school activity this year. Club members read a book each month and then get together to discuss it. This month, it's "The Line," by Terri Hall. "It's a dystopian novel," Walker says. "It's a serious book." She's a big "Star Wars" fan; her favorite character is Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader. She stopped eating beef and pork, she says, after reading "Animal Farm" by George Orwell, and talks to her friends seriously about animal abuse and animal rights.
Earlier this year, Walker was a page at the Capitol for state Sen. Hillman Frazier, which she wrote about for the JFP (see page 13). She's also a talented musician, with about a year's experience playing the cello. "Before that, I played the violin for seven or eight years," she says, adding that she also played the saxophone "a little bit."
Walker is eager to get on with things. She's not eligible to take advanced placement classes as a freshman, she says, but she's planning on it for her sophomore year and beyond. This year, in addition to the Literati Club, she's in the International Club and the Latin Club. "Next year, I'll be on the newspaper staff," she says with a grin. "It's fun interviewing people."
Her college plans include Columbia University, she says, mainly because it's in New York City. What doesn't she enjoy about school? "Geometry," she says, without a moment's hesitation. "I'm not really a math person."
Bailey Brilley loves to talk. Whether he's chatting about speech and debate, street art, community service, or church, the lively 15-year-old demonstrates heaps of eloquent passion about his life and interests. "If anything, I talk too much, " Brilley says. "I haven't shut up since I learned to (talk)."
Since his early childhood, Brilley has loved networking. He's the true archetype of a "people person." His natural charisma and eager demeanor draw people in and inspire them to share Brilley's passion for life. "I just like to get people interested in what I'm interested in," he says.
Born and raised in Jackson, Brilley has had many opportunities to use his oratory skills. He is a member of Youth Leadership Jackson, a community-wide program designed to expose young leaders to the inner workings of the city. He also serves on the Mayor's Youth Council, where he is a liaison between the city's youth and executive staff.
In addition, Brilley is an avid participant in the speech and debate program at St. Joseph Catholic School, where he is a sophomore. "I have a weird relationship with speech (and debate)," he says. "I have this sick love for getting up at six o'clock in the morning and mouthing off to people for hours." Brilley's favorite event is Youth Legislature, where he has been named Most Outstanding Statesman.
Brilley also has a strong Catholic foundation, which is responsible for his interest in community service. He attended World Youth Day in Madrid, has taken a service trip to Belize and represented his diocese at the National Catholic Forensics League in Baltimore.
"I love to meet new people and see where they fit in the world," he says.
Though many think he's well-suited to the path of politics, Brilley hopes to one day attend The Cooper Union in New York City, where he would study engineering, art or architecture. Until then, he will continue to be a young leader in his community, always with something to say.
Eve Rodenmeyer is a 16-year-old travel enthusiast. This 11th-grade Malone Scholar at St. Andrew's Episcopal School has traveled all over the world in the name of diversity. From San Francisco to Ghana and Scotland, Rodenmeyer is constantly adding new places to her list.
A school grant helped fund Rodenmeyer's recent trip to Ghana.
"Ghana is my favorite of all the places I've ever been," Rodenmeyer says. "It was so new, different and interesting. I got to meet some of their finest students. We spoke to some of the them and bought them books."
Rodenmeyer's interest in traveling isn't about vacationing. It goes hand-in-hand with her love for diversity and cultural awareness.
"I want to encourage people to get over any ignorance about diversity," Rodenmeyer says. "Increasing awareness of diversity is so important in going forward in the future. It will help things run smoother."
When she isn't traveling the world, Rodenmeyer spends most of her time studying and participating in extracurricular activities at school.
"School takes up a lot of my time," Rodenmeyer says. "St. Andrew's is very rigorous."
The oldest of three, Rodenmeyer works hard to be a role model for her younger siblings. She strives to live up to the high expectations set by her parents, school and her local community. Although studying and maintaining good grades is her top priority, she still finds balance between academics and her social life. She is a member of the student admissions team, the bowling team and cross-country team. She is also a member of Youth Leadership Jackson.
After graduating, Rodenmeyer plans to study literature. She has not decided on which college she prefers, but is interested in the University of California at Berkeley.
Being bullied in school—and a few adults who helped her get through it—inspired Jamie Ferguson to reach out to younger girls going through the often-difficult middle-school years.
During her reign as Miss Clinton this year, Ferguson, 18, is promoting an anti-bullying platform that she calls "You Are Loved."
"In junior high I was bullied, and I think everyone goes through some form of that, whether it's someone else bullying you or whether it's putting yourself down," she says.
Ferguson says one of her teachers as well as a family friend, Hugh Turner, inspired her to get involved in anti-bullying efforts. Turner, who passed away last year, gave out buttons that said, "I am loved," which gave Ferguson the idea for naming her campaign.
Turner also gave Ferguson some of her first opportunities to sing at different places. She plans to attend Mississippi College next year and major in vocal performance or music education.
Ferguson, who is an only child, lives in Clinton with her parents and is a senior at Clinton High School. "I've lived here my whole life—same room and everything," she says.
She also has a longtime connection to Wells United Methodist Church in Jackson. Her father has attended Wells for about 25 years, her parents were married in the church and Ferguson has gone there her entire life.
Through her church and in her spare time, Ferguson has been able to promote her You Are Loved campaign at the Methodist Children's Home, day cares and schools in the Clinton area. She also started a chapter of Girl Talk, a national nonprofit organization that gets high school girls to mentor junior high girls in hopes of promoting leadership and positive self-images.
Ferguson will go to the Miss Mississippi pageant in June.
Jonathan Moore, 18, is an achiever. I would wager to say that he is an over-achiever. This young man's accomplishments could fill a three-page resume, and he is only a senior in high school. I would love to own a company and hire this young man as a junior executive in training.
His mother, Dr. Delilah Moore, is excited and proud that her son is getting so many opportunities to present himself to the public. She is a parent who has invested in her child, and she is enjoying the dividends.
Jonathan Moore, a member of the America's Promise Alliance board of trustees, is a senior at Mohr's Academy. According to an article from the Americas Promise Group, Moore has been active in the United Way Drop Out Prevention Council. He presented data at a panel discussion on local dropout statistics including the reasons why students drop out of school. He also interviewed youth, organized panels and led discussions to determine the types of interventions that would lead to solutions. In addition, Moore is a Red Cross certified lifeguard and recently interned for eight weeks as a volunteer patient assistant at River Oaks Hospital.
In school, Moore has held several youth leadership positions, including being president of his senior class. Moore tutored middle-school students at the Teen Study Center at the Charles Tillman public library, which named him peer counselor of the year, and was a Math Literacy worker for the Young People's Project.
"I use a hands-on approach when I mentor a student," Moore says.
In March, Moore spoke at this year's America's Promise Alliance Grad Nation Conference in Washington, D.C., and he helped plan the youth track for the conference.
—Alonzo Lewis II
Her teacher, Adam Frazier, describes Kristen Dupard as having a sharp wit and great sense of humor. Dupard is a young woman with an impressive list of accolades and big plans for the future.
Dupard, 18, was born in New Orleans, La., but relocated to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2006. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Junior Diplomats of Ridgeland, Ridgeland High School Ambassadors, Global Debate and the National Forensics League.
As a Junior Diplomat, she volunteers regularly. "I think it's important to volunteer in your community because it shows that you're not just using all of the accolades that come with living in a great community, but you are actually a part of the team that makes it and keeps it great," she says. She is also on the basketball team and serves as the equipment manager for the football team at her school.
Dupard is also a gifted orator, earning Premier distinction for dramatic interpretation in the National Forensics League. She is also the two-time state champion for Poetry Out Loud, an annual contest that encourages high-school students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. As champion, Dupard received a stipend and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she will vie for the national title in May. For the competition, Dupard has chosen "Invitation to Love" by Paul Laurence Dunbar, "I'm A Fool to Love You" by Cornelius Eady and "What Work Is" by Philip Levine.
After she graduates this year from Ridgeland High School, Dupard plans to attend the University of Southern Mississippi and double major in nursing and broadcasting. She wishes to earn her doctorate in nursing and become a health correspondent for CNN or MSNBC.
Dupard credits her mother, Angela Dupard, as her "backbone," and strives to live by her mom's motto: "A dream not gone after is a dream wasted."
— ShaWanda Jacome
At 16, Josh McLemore is already preparing for a career in politics. A sophomore at Brandon High School, McLemore has an eclectic mix of academic and extracurricular interests. He has eschewed his middle-school practice of hanging out only with his group of close friends and now moves effortlessly between the various groups that comprise the high-school social hierarchy.
"I've matured and realized I wouldn't want someone leaving me out," McLemore says. "I'm at a place in high school where I'm friends with everyone."
Aspiring to be well rounded, McLemore does a little bit of everything. In March, McLemore attended a campaign rally for former Republican U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Brandon, but that isn't necessarily an indication of his political leanings. McLemore points out that he reads literature by and about figures from both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.
Because he'll be eligible to vote in a couple years, he wants to see whose views he likes the best, he says. When he runs for office, he wants to focus attention on young people and providing activities, community centers and live music venues for people his age.
As a member of the Brandon High School Thespian Society, McLemore played one of the privileged socs who tried to drown Ponyboy in a recent production of S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders," but it may be his participation in a rock band that best readies him for political rock stardom. McLemore's band, Right of Skylight, which he describes as modern rock akin to Blink 182 or All Time Low, plays gigs in Mississippi and neighboring states. McLemore writes the music and lyrics, plays guitar and does backup vocals for the group. He's applying for summer jobs and hopes to make a little money with the home studio he received as a birthday present last October.
With all that he has going on, finding time for his class work can be a challenge. His favorite classes include chemistry, mathematics and oral communication. Of the last one he says, "I love that class because I love to talk."
Krystal Jackson is not your average teenage girl trying to find herself—she knows exactly what her purpose is. An artist and singer, this 10th grade Murrah High School and Power APAC student, age 15, has her heart and mind set on becoming a well-known opera singer.
"In elementary school, I did a lot of arts and crafts, and I've been taking private vocal lessons since I was 6 years old. It has just always been my thing," Jackson says. "My talent is God-given."
Her ability in both music and art helps her find balance. "Art calms and centers me. Singing makes me feel so alive—I love it," she says. "If I lost my voice and couldn't sing, I'd just die."
A member of Central United Methodist Church, Jackson's faith motivates her to pursue her dreams. At her church, she is president of the Youth Council, a member of the Central Praise Team and a Morning Glory Singer. Her role as president of the Youth Council allows her to give the youth of her church a voice. "I wanted leadership at my church because I love my church, and it keeps me grounded," she says. "I try to be an advocate for the youth of the church."
Her talent was recently showcased at the Central United Methodist Church Mississippi Conference annual banquet. She felt a boost of confidence as she received recognition from those who matter most to her. "When I go to competitions, I always feel average because there are so many other kids with just as much talent," Jackson says. "Being highlighted at the banquet made me realize that I really do have a gift."
Krystal plans to continue studying music in college, and hopes to attend Julliard or the New England Conservatory of Music.
"A lot of people will misunderstand you, but we all deserve happiness," Jackson says. "Go for your passions because if you don't utilize your gifts, they can and will fade away."
Northwest Rankin High School senior Abbie Szabo, 18, knows how to set goals and make plans to accomplish them. Next on her list: to learn Mandarin Chinese this summer while on a six-week-long trip to China.
"You come back a new person—you can't hear the same way again," Szabo says about traveling abroad. "You think differently after an experience like this."
This fall, she heads to the University of Mississippi where she will major in international studies and Mandarin Chinese. In case that foreign language does not suit her particular skills, Szabo has a back-up language—Spanish. After her immersion in Mandarin Chinese this summer, she'll know for sure which way to go, she says. She also plans to study nursing. "I just want to help people," she says.
Szabo, active in the Beta Club, student government and cheerleading at Northwest Rankin, also spent time in the last two years as part of a student group, Students With a Goal. Founded to stop school apathy, SWAG started its first projects this school year. The student group raised money for the school's custodians first-ever Christmas bonus and planted a community garden. Szabo's skills as a project manager helped SWAG meet both goals.
Recently, SWAG invited four Freedom Riders, the first black teacher in Rankin County (who is now 87), students from Holmes County, former governor William Winter and other dignitaries to an on-campus forum. This event incorporated several aspects of SWAG's four core goals: environmental sustainability, civic awareness, cultural pluralism and justice in education.
"It is what you make it," Szabo says about life. "You're not going to get anything out of it if you don't put anything into it—life, SWAG, going to China. You won't feel rewarded unless you try."
Stephanie Barone moved from Argentina to Mississippi in 1998, when she was about four years old. She is the daughter of Maximiliana and Fernando Barone, and she is fluent in both Spanish and English.
Barone is an 18-year-old senior at Jackson Preparatory School. At school, she is a member of the Mu Alpha Theta club because of her good math scores, the drama club because she loves acting, the French club because she is learning how to speak french and the Spanish club because of her Spanish roots. She is also a member of the National Honor society and was inducted into Jackson Prep's chapter of the Cum Laude Society. The Mission of the Cum Laude Society, as stated on its website, is to recognize "academic achievement in secondary schools for the purpose of promoting excellence (Areté), justice (Diké) and honor (Timé)." Barone's being recognized on Jackson Prep's 2011-2012 faculty list portion of the school's honor roll, meaning that she had an average of 95 and above in all her course work.
Barone is active in community service, and she goes on mission trips and visits orphanages with her church, College Drive Seven Day Adventist Church in Pearl. She says she enjoys visiting the orphanages because she loves bringing a positive experience to children who are going through a negative time, and she loves showing them Jesus' love. She is also a junior ambassador for Madison the City Chamber of Commerce.
After graduating from high school, Barone plans to attend the University of Mississippi.
— Adria Walker
Matthew Spann speaks with the eloquence and confidence of an older man even though he's only 17. His bass-baritone voice is just one thing that sets him apart. This Jim Hill High School junior is involved in enough things to be considered established.
At school, Spann is the president of the choir and serves on the prom and homecoming committees. He is also part of Jim Hill's International Baccalaureate program. In student government this year, Spann is a class representative; last year he was the sophomore class president. He has been participating in student government since middle school.
Outside school, Spann works with Youth Leadership Jackson. Recently, the group went to Brown Elementary School to help rebuild the playground. Spann volunteered with the Mississippi Blues Marathon for the first time this year.
"It's what I love to do," Spann says about being involved in the community and in school. "I'm a hard worker. If anyone calls on my help, I love to say yes."
Singing at Jim Hill and at his church, Greater Pearlie Grove Missionary Baptist Church, is one of his favorite pastimes. Music is a big part of his life, and he hopes to attend Ole Miss to study music education and minor in either political science or business administration.
"I find music to be my calling. It's my passion. It's what I've grown up around," Spann says. Both of his parents, Janice Yvette Spann and Matthew Ray Spann, are involved in music and the church. Janice sings in the adult choir, and his father was a pastor at their old church and is a drummer.
"They are my biggest fans," Spann says about his parents. "They are my inspiration. They are always by my side."
Migraine headaches wouldn't leave Madison Burgess alone. They reached around her skull and stayed for hours, even days. She missed the first half of her sophomore year of high school because of repeated attacks. The migraines continued into her junior year, and she missed more classes.
Despite the debilitating condition, Burgess not only did her schoolwork, she made the honor roll in her advanced placement classes. She carved out time to volunteer. And along the way, she got the idea of becoming a medical doctor.
While school is her main priority, Burgess finds lots of time to help others. She founded Operation Prom Princess to help girls who couldn't afford gowns, and she helps with many other efforts, including Stewpot Community Service.
"We are blessed to bless others," Burgess says.
Now 17 and a senior at Madison Central High School, Burgess is making plans for college. She is leaning toward Mississippi College in Clinton. "It's closer to family," she says.
Burgess wants to major in chemistry as an undergraduate before tackling medical school. Ever since the first migraine attacks sent her to doctors and specialists, a woman neurologist who helped treat Burgess left a deep impression on the teen's psyche. Her career goal is to be a doctor—perhaps a pediatric neurologist.
Now, Burgess controls her migraine attacks with a strict sleep routine and a diet geared to her personal chemistry, which she must balance with school and volunteering.
"I didn't want to be that person who just gave up," Burgess says. "I didn't want to be the person who couldn't overcome obstacles." She took on extra work, stayed extra hours and worked harder. "I always wanted to keep trying."
Melvin Davis Jr.
Melvin Davis Jr. Recently took first place in the engineering division of the Hinds County district-wide science fair, winning a four-year scholarship to Jackson State University. This is the fourth year in a row that Davis, an 11th grader at Bailey Magnet High School, has placed in the top of the science fair's engineering division.
Davis' project this year was swarm robots—a collection of robots that work together to perform a task.
"The swarm robots can clean up spills or coordinate to go through a series of rooms," Davis says. "I built four of them; there is one stationary robot that surveys the area and coordinates the others."
Davis, 16, hopes the robots can one day be used for large-scale projects such as cleaning up oil spills, and compares the way the swarm robots collaborate to an ant colony. Davis spent three weeks building the robots after two months developing schematics and gathering materials. He used parts salvaged from old appliances and wheels from old toy cars.
The teen has been interested in robotics and machinery since early childhood. "The first time I watched 'Terminator' when I was 5, I became interested in robots," Davis says. "I built my first electric motor in 6th grade. I took apart old radios and Tvs, car starters and a cash register to build it. I got first place (in a science fair) for it."
He intends to apply to MIT and Stanford University (his first choice), with the JSU scholarship as a fallback plan, and major in electrical engineering and computer science. Davis also hopes to start his own robotics company one day.
Davis and his family moved to Jackson from Washington, D.C.—where Davis was born—four years ago. The Davis family owns Lumpkins BBQ in Jackson, and Davis enjoys helping his parents, Monique Davis and Melvin Davis Sr., at the restaurant. (His mother also joins the JFP sales staff this week.) He also helps out with community projects along with his four younger siblings—three brothers, Charles, Benjamin and Daniel, and his sister, Ava.
When high school junior Mark Scott joined the Distributive Education Clubs of America, which prepares high school and college students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management, he did so only because it was suggested to him by a teacher due to his low-key, serious nature. He never thought he'd have the opportunities that it has opened for him.
"I was really inspired by my parents who told me to work now and play later," Scott says about being involved in this business and marketing student organization. "That's what DECA is—it's very serious."
In February, Scott, 18, became president of the Mississippi chapter of DECA, and in April, he will carry the Mississippi state flag in the opening parade of states at the DECA International Career Development Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. This international event will feature more than 16,000 students from across the world. Scott's school, Callaway High School, will take six students to the competition.
In addition to his commitments to DECA and to his academics, Scott is also a cornerback for the Callaway Charger football team and works a weekend job. "I'm always working and always on the go," he says. Callaway principal Clyde Speaks says that Scott "epitomizes what we look for in a student athlete."
Scott has a strong interest in becoming a physical therapist after high school.
Despite Scott's humble attitude, Callaway DECA adviser Clayton Marble made no small deal of Scott being the organization's state president and the leadership he displays at school.
"Mark is the kind of student that makes you want to teach," Marble says. "He is very courteous and respectful and sets a great example for the entire student body."
Lanier High School senior and native Jacksonian Adriana Parker, 18, directs her life by this quote: "If you don't do your part, you can't complain."
Other than prepping for her senior and getting ready for college next fall, Parker spent much of her spring volunteering for numerous organizations. She is actively involved with Read Across America, Operation Shoestring, JROTC and the Mayor's Summer Youth Employment Program in Jackson. She has served three times on a panel for the United Way's Drop Out Prevention Council. While on the panels, Parker discussed the impact that state tests have on schools and the affect they have on students.
Parker tries her best to make a difference in the community where she lives, and it excites her to know that she has already succeeded. She feels that her peers, whether in school or in the community, "need an extra push from somebody their own age, because sometimes adults can't reach them."
The teen encourages all youth to help their local communities and each other and to realize that they, too, can make a difference—even if it is something small.
"Be the change you want to see in the world," Parker says, quoting Mahatma Gandhi.