Amazing Teens 2017 | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Amazing Teens 2017

Torenzo Richardson

Torenzo Richardson Photo by Imani Khayyam.

A major part of our mission at the Jackson Free Press is to celebrate youth in the Jackson metro area. These 13 teens plus this week's Jacksonian are part of how we achieve that. No matter what they do, whether it's art or agriculture or sports or activism, they are part of a generation to watch closely.

Alauran Allen


Alauran Allen

At age 15, Alauran Allen is one of the students who won a Gold Key in this year's Scholastic Arts Awards of Mississippi Regional Competition. Her art piece for the contest, "Two-faced," was a linoleum block print of two friends, one of whom has zebra print on her face, and the other with a giraffe print. A braid connects them.

The Murrah High School freshman says she's been drawing since she could hold a pencil. "I really just like to express myself through art and through different mediums and styles," she says.

Her favorite mediums are colored pencils and watercolors.

"(Watercolors) are hard when you first start, but if you keep practicing, it becomes easier, and it becomes a stress reliever," Allen says of her art.

Though she does like to do fan art such as for different anime and K-Pop (Korean pop) bands, people are her favorite subject. "I like to draw people so that they can see how they look in my art style, and to practice (drawing them)," Allen says. "People are always interesting to me."

Allen, who is in Power Academic and Performing Arts Complex at Murrah, says her favorite subjects in school, besides the arts, are geometry and Latin. She also plays piano, is on the school's speech and debate team, and is in Murrah's Art Club. She has volunteered for TNT Ministries, which is a team of people who go out and give food and clothes to the city's homeless community. She also volunteers at Mississippi Action for Progress, a community-based child development and family-services program for mostly preschool children of low-income families. Her mom, Angel Allen, works there as an early head start generalist.

Alauran Allen hasn't decided on a career path yet, but says she once wanted to be an architect and interior designer. Now, she's look at doing something that involves her making art.

"If none of that works out, I want to learn a lot of languages," Allen says.

—Amber Helsel

Tanya Shenoy


Tanya Shenoy Photo courtesy Lokesh Shenoy

At a young age, Clinton resident Tanya Shenoy is already a scholar, dancer, multilingual and a humanitarian.

Shenoy has danced for more than 11 years. "Dance has been a big part of my life," she says.

Shenoy's skills expand the conventional dance styles of America. She is a trained performer of "Kuchipudi," which is a classic Indian dance that is believed to have originated around the 10th century.

She was also the captain of her dance team in the 2016-2017 school year.

In past summers, the St. Andrew's Episcopal School senior has volunteered to work with kids at the Mississippi Children's Museum's summer camps.

"I love working with children," she says. "I think it's just funny how kids have a kind of humor that they are always so appreciative of life. "

Shenoy's passion for children extends internationally through her efforts in raising money for Rotary Varsheila Child Development Academy, which is a nonprofit school for orphaned children in Puttur, India.

She is also a recipient of the Distinguished Young Women pageant's Brainstorm Creative Group Overall Talent Award. The contest tests applicants on academics, fitness, their talents, writing and communication.

Shenoy, 18, can speak Spanish and Konkani and is learning Mandarin and Hindi.

As a career, she wants to pursue a medicine track, eventually becoming a pediatrician. She will attend the University of Alabama-Birmingham in fall 2017.

—Veer Singh

Jeremy Donahue


Photo courtesy Jeremy Donahue

Forest Hill High School senior Jeremy Donahue won a Gold Key in this year's Scholastic Arts Awards in its Mississippi Regional Competition for his piece, "Man Eater."

The work features an African American woman in a field of poisonous plants, wildlife and some flowers. Donahue also won the competition's American Visions award and a gold medal in the national competition.

"I remember looking at lot of (portrait artist) Kehinde Wiley's stuff, and it was really, really good," Donahue says. "After I saw that, I knew I had to enter something."

For the winning piece, Donahue says he played off the style of Wiley, who paints portraits of black men around the world against colorful backgrounds, but Donahue made "Man Eater" his own. He also does face painting and is about to start doing custom shoes.

Besides art, Donahue, 18, is involved in Forest Hill's Drama Club, choir and its chapter of the National Art Honor Society. He says his second favorite subject in school, besides art, is English.

Last summer, Donahue helped out at Stewpot Community Service's summer camp, where he worked with kindergartners. He is considering volunteering again this summer.

He has received an art scholarship to Hinds Community College, which he will attend in fall 2017. He will study art there but also plans on studying architecture and engineering at a four-year college.

Donahue offer advice for any student who wants to get into art but might be unsure.

"Go for it. Practice makes perfect," he advises.

—Amber Helsel

Nancy Usey


Photo courtesy Nancy Usey

Nancy Usey, a Ridgeland resident and a senior at Jackson Academy, turned to the performing arts at her school as a way to expand her horizons. She recently performed as a featured tap dancer in a school production of "42nd Street" and is a member the school's show choir.

"I've been on the school volleyball team for as long as I've been here, but I decided that I wanted to do something outside my comfort zone," Usey says.

"I have lots of friends who are involved in theater, and show choir seemed like a great way to get more heavily involved in the arts. I've been doing six competitions a year since I joined."

Usey, 18, will attend Mississippi State University after her graduation this year. She plans to major in chemical engineering. "I've always loved math and science and especially chemistry; it's just always made sense to me like nothing else," Usey says. "There are a lot of those competitions in those subjects here at JA, and I feel that there's a strong demand for engineers here in Mississippi."

Usey also participates in a joint reading program called Teen Sunsetters with Jackson Academy and the nearby Spann Elementary School. For the program, JA students go to Spann each week and read to second- and third-grade children there.

"Each of us is partnered with one specific child, and we read to the same child every week with the goal of building a relationship that's beneficial to both sides," Usey says. "I got involved with the reading program this year as soon as I had a free period available for it. I love kids since I babysit a lot and have younger siblings, and I think it's important that we teach the younger generation to get excited about reading."

—Dustin Cardon

Dymonte Bouldin


Dymonte Bouldin

Nineteen-year-old Callaway High School senior Dymonte Bouldin is one of 10 Jackson teens who participated in Nissan's recent Resume Challenge, which the company hosts each year for African American high-school juniors and seniors from six U.S. cities, including Jackson.

Through Bouldin's participation, he got to travel to Franklin, Tenn., to tour the Nissan headquarters and meet with company executives.

For the program, he participated in a two-day developmental workshop and received career advice from Nissan employees. After the workshop, participating students submitted their resumes and cover letters. Students whose resumes stood out travelled to Franklin.

At the beginning of his high-school career, Bouldin says he decided to just focus on academics, so he made the tough decision to quit athletics (he was in football, track and basketball) and prioritize academics. "I knew that I didn't want to play sports professionally, so I focused on my schoolwork and used my skills to excel in the classroom," he says.

Bouldin decided to enter the resume challenge this year. After the company selected him, he says he used the opportunity to meet and network with new people and build his professional contacts.

Recently, he decided to study nursing. "I have always had a passion for helping people," he says, adding that he saw how important nurses are at Nissan's headquarters.

Bouldin likes to tutor students at North Jackson Elementary School, is the National Honor Society secretary and is involved with the Student Government Association.

In his spare time, Bouldin likes watching and playing sports, and spending time with friends.

He wants to attend the University of Southern Mississippi.

—Christina Spann

Torenzo Richardson


Torenzo Richardson

Jim Hill High School senior Torenzo Richardson is determined to bring his academic and professional skills to Mississippi State University this upcoming school year.

At Jim Hill, Richardson is currently president of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society. He maintains a 4.3 GPA.

He also currently serves as a counselor at the Boys & Girls Club, where he mentors young people between the ages of 10 and 12.

Prior to working at the Boys & Girls Club, Richardson was honored as State Youth of the Year, in which he spoke publicly to youth, conducted various interviews and was even awarded scholarships to MSU.

In his free time, Richardson remains committed to others.

"I study a lot, I do different community-service activities, (and I like to) be with family a lot," he says. "I'm very family-oriented."

Recently, Richardson was nominated to participate in the Nissan Resume Challenge, after his psychology teacher, Dr. Larry Thurman, who was aware of his accolades and leadership, nominated him for the competition.

Along with other Jackson Public Schools students, Richardson was one of two students who represented Jim Hill High School at the Nissan Resume Challenge, which was in Franklin, Tenn. They competed against students from states such as Chicago and Atlanta. Mississippi came out on top, winning Best Resume, Best Interviews and Best Dressed for the United States.

"When we went there (Franklin, Tenn.), we had to do different interview processes on the spot to get points for our state ... and whoever had the best resume," Richardson says.

At MSU, he will study mass communication with a concentration in broadcast journalism. He plans to use his public-speaking ability as a sports analyst at ESPN when he graduates college.

—William Kelly III

Tiffany Bryant


Tiffany Bryant

As the cadet battalion commander, Tiffany Bryant is the highest-ranking student in Lanier High School's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, where she encourages other students and is charged with making sure her staff stays on task and.

Bryant has a grade-point average of 3.6, which is the highest in her battalion and second-highest overall in her class of 153.

The junior says she wasn't always interested in JROTC. Before joining in ninth grade, she thought the program was only about getting into the Army.

"Once I got into the program, I realized they're just helping us prepare to be better citizens at the high school," she says. "And that was something that stuck with me, so I started joining the program, and I saw how many doors it opened up and how many opportunities it had for me."

Those opportunities include a national writing competition for the U.S. Army JROTC, which she recently won with her essay on the prompt "Service to Others." In the essay, she mentions a JROTC lesson, "Appreciating Diversity with Winning Colors," which was about her learning and exercising empathy and leadership.

Bryant, 17, says that after graduating from Lanier, she hopes to attend either Duke University or Alcorn State University, where she will study to become a psychologist.

—Micah Smith and Jessica Smith

Jerelyn McIntyre


Photo courtesy Jerelyn McIntyre

Provine High School junior Jerelyn McIntyre, who was in the 2016-2017 class of Youth Leadership Jackson, says she liked being part of the program because it taught her lessons she might not have otherwise learned.

"They taught us teamwork, they taught us leadership, they taught us about how diverse we are, and not just by our skin color," she says. "They taught us a whole lot that you just wouldn't get taught in school."

As part of the program, people such as city-council members, entrepreneurs and more talked to them about aspects of leadership. They also visited places such as the Hinds County Courthouse, where they talked to judges and learned about the different court systems.

"People seem to think that there's not much to do here, but they came and told us about all the different things that we just don't see or pay attention to that we should really look into," she says.

McIntyre, 16, is a cheerleader, a member of the National Honor Society and is currently ranked No. 1 in the high school's junior class academically. Her favorite subject in school is math.

"I love math," she says. "It's always been my best subject. After that, probably science, but math is my favorite subject."

She plans on being an OB-GYN when she grows up.

"I always wanted to do something that deals with children, like babies. I thought about being a pediatric nurse, but I don't know, I just thought (OB-GYN) would be a fun job," she says.

—Amber Helsel

Levi Chinchen


Levi Chinchen Photo courtesy Annabelle Chinchen

While sports such as soccer, football and track serve as a talent and hobby for Madison Ridgeland Academy junior Levi Chinchen, ministry is his passion.

Chinchen, who grew up in Malawi, Africa, says he wants to help give underprivileged kids the same opportunities he has had, and he also wants to give students a chance to give back.

"Kids here, I want to give them the chance that I had overseas," he says. This summer, he's leading a team of seven MRA students on a mission trip to Malawi.

Chinchen has been in the U.S. since 2014. His parents, Paul and Laura Chinchen, work for African Bible Colleges, which establishes and operates Bible colleges in Africa. His father runs the ABC office in Clinton, and his mom recruits teachers for the organization.

Chinchen's sister, Ashley, began Project Juembo, which provides backpacks full of educational materials for the village schools in Malawi, about six years ago. Chinchen, who has been the leader and organizer of the project for the last two years, says students have donated close to 2,000 backpacks to it.

At MRA, Chinchen is a member of the school's Student Leadership Institute, which has done mission work at churches in places such as San Francisco.

Chinchen, 18, says he plans to apply to military academies such as the Naval Academy or Air Force Academy.

"I think it's a great honor, and it's a blessing to be a part of that," he says.

—Jessica Smith and Amber Helsel

Nelson Buckley


Nelson Buckley

Wingfield High School junior Nelson Buckley is not only a football and basketball player at the school. He is also an aspiring farmer thanks to head football coach Jeff Gibson, who is head of the school's Agriculture Academy, which works with Foot Print Farms.

"I never knew I was capable of doing anything dealing with agriculture," Buckley says. "Now, because of Coach, I do not see anything but that, and it really excites me to see where I can go with all I've learned 
so far."

As a freshman, Gibson says Buckley was not a model student, but agriculture helped him become one. As a freshman, Buckley learned basic gardening tips and tools, and over the years, he has progressed into creating his own business, Slow Farm Devine Acre Farms, with future plans to collaborate with local businesses.

"Gardening actually feels good," he says. "I hope to come up with ways to get all my peers into this. We could probably grow gardens all over."

So far, Buckley has managed to grow crops such as watermelon, squash, okra and greens. Gibson says Buckley has learned how to use the fields of mathematics and chemistry with his farming and is fully invested in it. Buckley is also a sergeant-at-arms in the local 4-H Club.

Buckley says wildlife biologists Dena Dickerson and Jan Hoover, along with "Keep Jackson Beautiful" Executive Director Alicia Crudup are his 

He has decided to study agriculture at Hinds Community College and Alcorn State University.

—Jessica Smith

Zion Blount


Photo courtesy Zion Blunt

Forest Hill High School junior Zion Blount believes it is important to give youth a voice through programs such as the Jackson Public Schools Academy Ambassadors program, which allows JPS students to advocate for their schools. She has been part of the program for the last two years.

She says that the ambassadors recently did a listening session with students so they could voice their concerns and talk about what would improve JPS. She says that they'll take that information and help solve problems such as finding a superintendent.

"Kids are expected to be seen but not heard," she says. "... They're really underestimated, but giving kids a voice, me being a kid, or the youth, giving youth the voice and really showing them how to use it can help them as they get older."

Through the program, Blount also got to travel to Washington, D.C., with seven other ambassadors to talk to Mississippi senators such as Thad Cochran.

Blount, 17, is also involved in the Career Development Center at JPS, where she takes an animation and simulation class. Through CDC, she is part of the Technology Student Association, which is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching students about technology. Blount was in the group that won Best in State in Verizon's recent app challenge. Her group created a concept for an app called Be the Plug that would connect local youth to possible jobs or volunteer hours.

Blount's hobbies include drawing, reading, crocheting, and she is trying to get into knitting.

She is unsure about exactly what she wants to do in the future, but knows that she wants to be an entrepreneur in some form or fashion.

"Working for myself, or being able to take charge and lead is something that I would like to do," Blount says.

—Amber Helsel

Wesley Williams


Photo courtesy Wesley Lou Horrell

Jackson Preparatory School senior Wesley Williams dabbles in a variety of interests, and his love of the outdoors shows up in several of them.

At one point, the Pearl resident wanted to play long-snapper at the University of Southern Mississippi. However, he tore his ACL in his junior season, ending his dream of playing college football.

"I was working at D-1 Sports Training in Madison to prepare for college football over the past two years," Williams says. "After I tore my knee up, my quickness hasn't returned, so I won't be able to play college football."

As a junior, Williams was a member of the school's Model Train Club and the Coding Club. He also helped form a fly-fishing team that year. This year, he led the charge to start a bass-fishing team, which competed in two tournaments and placed eighth in one.

Williams has been part of the school's Shooting Club, has done community service for Mission First, which is an organization that helps people with needs such as medical and dental care and after-school programming, and We Will Go Ministries, which is a nonprofit that helps community members with needs such as clothes and food. He also played baseball in fifth and sixth grades and took part in the schools' show choir. Williams says he loves to work on cars.

Williams also likes gardening. He has planted tomatoes, squash, Jalapenos, egg plant, watermelon and cantaloupe.

"... The first year produced a little bit for me, but I went back this year to (tilled) up a larger section of land." Williams says that this year, he planted zipper peas, bush beans, sunflowers, pumpkins, okra and more.

Williams is going to University of Southern Mississippi in the fall to study architectural engineering. His says his interest in this subject started when he began taking a woodshop class.

—Bryan Flynn

Shannon Sims


Photo courtesy Shannon Sims

Velma Jackson High School senior Shannon Sims, who is a native of Canton, is proving to the world that it is possible to do it all.

"I powerlift, play softball, train with the football and baseball teams," she says. " ... I'm passionate about powerlifting."

The 18-year-old is not only involved in sports, but she embraces her creative side as photographer for the Student Government Association and helped the Homecoming and Prom Committees with hand-making decorations.

She is in the Beta Club and a member of the 20+ ACT club. As a member of the school's Math Club, she competed in the Jackson State University-hosted Bridge Competition, which is a health and science competition.

In addition, she is a part of the Students with Academic Goals Club, which hosts field trips for the top 10 academic students from each grade to explore career opportunities.

Sims says she is thankful for the supportive environment of her school. "I started (powerlifting) because the coach (Casey Meeks) asked me. ... (Velma Jackson) gives us everything we need, we just have to use it," she says.

Sims is planning to go to Mississippi State University. She is interested in training with the athletic department and majoring in architecture. On her current success and future plans, she says, "I take it one day at a time."

—Brynn Corbello

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