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Alumni Spotlight: John Graves

21CL Alumnus John Graves is a graduate of Sonoraville High School (2018) and of the Georgia Institute of Technology (2022); he currently works as an Associate Consultant for Bain & Company. Throughout high school, John attended many of our student programs, was a 21CL Youth Ambassador and was one of our 2018 Georgia Youth Leadership Award winners. In his post, John shares how 21CL inspired him to accelerate his personal growth and find environments that encourage innovative thought among young people, and more!

Paint a brief picture about yourself and what you are doing now.

My name is John Graves and I graduated from Sonoraville High School in 2018. I spent the next 4 years getting my Bachelor of Science in Economics Degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. After graduating in May of 2022, I started working as an Associate Consultant for Bain & Company in their Atlanta office. In my free time I enjoy all things outdoors including running, cycling, backpacking, and helping out on my family’s farm.

When were you in high school and which 21CL programs did you participate in?

I attended Sonoraville High School in Gordon County from 2014-2018. I participated in the Summer Youth Leadership Institute (SYLI@Goizueta) program at Emory University in 2015. I also was fortunate to serve on the 21st Century Leaders Youth Ambassador team from 2015-2016 and attend some fall / winter leadership summits. To end high school, I was honored to be a recipient of 21CL’s Georgia Youth Leadership Award in 2018.

How has your career unfolded and how did participating in 21CL help prepare you for your next steps going to college, taking on a new leadership role in community/college and after?

My full-time career is still just beginning, but my career preparation began quite a long time ago. My involvement in 21st Century Leaders during high school helped fuel my interest in exploring innovation through entrepreneurial leadership. As I built a business-focused leadership and communication toolkit throughout the program, I was exposed to the stories and ideas of Atlanta business leaders, 21CL alumni, and my peers. Seeing the true breadth of opportunity that young people have to innovate excited me as I heard stories of the successful students that had come before me. This immersive week inspired me to accelerate my personal growth in these areas by finding an environment that encouraged innovative thought amongst young people. That is how I ended up at Georgia Tech, and ultimately why I am at Bain & Company today.

What’s your memorable or ‘aha’ moment during your time at 21CL? (Particular program, meeting a professional and diverse peer, speaking in public for the first time, etc.?)

Attending the SYLI Summer Institute was an ‘aha’ moment for me in several big ways. First, as a high school freshman going into my sophomore year, I was able to learn about the college admissions process, how to challenge myself academically, and where to set my sights from my older, more prepared, student peers. Second, I was exposed to powerful stories of successful student-led nonprofits in Georgia that eventually inspired me to start a non-profit initiative in my hometown. Finally, and most importantly, I learned how impactful it is to surround yourself with people with unique interests, experiences, and goals to challenge your own. That summer at SYLI exposed me to all of these things and truly provided the direction behind much of my high school experience.

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? If so, how? And have you recently learned something else about leadership? Please share!

I hope the groups that I have led over the years would agree with this, but I like to think 21st Century Leaders helped me become a more effective leader by emphasizing the importance of listening to others. In situations of leadership today, I enjoy the exercise of asking members of a group for their first take on how to deal with a problem or situation before I assert my own proposed path forward.

What advice would you give to a current or future student?

My advice to current and future students is simple. Enjoy friendships with people that have different backgrounds. There is so much to learn by surrounding yourself with diverse perspectives. Friends I made in 21CL programs all those years ago have had an enormous impact on my academic/career path.

How would you describe 21CL in three words?

Hard to do but I think I would use the three words, “our collective future,” because each of the students in programs I personally attended, and all of the program alumni, are on their way to change our generation’s shared future.