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Alumni Spotlight: Noelle Jones

For our 35th anniversary, we’ll be sharing the stories of 35 alumni showcasing the leaders they are today and how 21st Century Leaders inspired and impacted their journey. Alumni will represent the 3.5 decades since our founding in 1989 – the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s. Take a read and be inspired!

35th Anniversary Alumni Spotlight

2000’s Decade
: Noelle Jones
H.S. Grad Year: Class of 2009
High School: Midtown High School (formerly Grady HS)
College: Howard University / Georgetown University
Current Role: CEO/Founder, We Thrive Media 

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?

To no surprise, my career is in a leadership position, as the CEO of the marketing & communications agency I founded, We Thrive Media.

We are a marketing and communications agency that delivers THRIVING campaigns.

Led by millennials, powered by Gen Z, inclusive of all. We are the wave of a new generation of marketing. Rooted in Atlanta. Branches in NY, LA, and DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia).  We thrive with a deep focus on IMPACT, ARTS, AND CULTURE. CHANGE happens where these worlds CONVERGE with COMMUNITY, unlocking deeper human connections that translate authentically to diverse audiences online and in real life.

21CL introduced me to leadership characteristics, qualities, and opportunities as a student leader. The organization also ingrained in me the importance of surrounding myself with those who also possess similar traits, which ultimately really helped me to continue to grow and excel beyond high school and college.

People say, “Your Network is your Net Worth,” or “Life Moves at The Speed of Relationships” and it couldn’t be more true. I thank 21CL for that and lifelong friendships.

Additionally, staying on campus at Emory in our Summer Leadership Institute also served as a great entryway into college life. It taught us the importance of independence, responsibility, discipline, and also balancing that with fun and camaraderie. I could never emphasize enough how important it is to preview college life before college — 21CL gave me and my friends that opportunity.

21CL empowered us with the tools, to go and build for the good — build relationships and organizations in college and build the futures we wanted to see for ourselves.

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.)

21CL forced me out of my comfort zone, in the summer programs where we were required to meet and engage with students from other schools.

Later in life as I matriculated through college, but especially in the workforce, I came to reconnect with old 21CL classmates whom I met at summer institutes. Networking was never something I was comfortable with, and even still it’s a skill that has to continue to be massaged. But 21CL was my first entryway into utilizing and understanding the importance of those skills and building relationships with new people, authentically.

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? If so, how?

Some might assume that leadership training organizations would create a spirit of competitiveness, but instead, 21CL taught me to be CARING AND DARING — which describes my leadership style.


    • CARING: Nurture relationships, be and act as a servant leader first.

    • DARING: Big ideas are always welcome. Dare to dream, dare to be different. Speak up, speak with confidence.

Why do you believe programs like 21CL are important? And what advice would you give to a current or future student?

This organization is invaluable to the future of this state and our nation. Leadership is all around us and we experience the fruits of it in every sector of our lives. Cultivating the skills and characteristics of a leader starts early; leaders can be born but also built — 21CL does just that.

Leadership is intentional. I didn’t fall into leadership. I forged a path into leadership, from joining programs like 21CL at a young age. I always wanted to serve people and drive who and how I touched people.

My advice to current and future students:


    1. Learn before leading. How can you lead without serving and without learning under great and not-so-great leaders? How can you fly a plane if you didn’t first learn how to do so? I still learn under leaders and have mentors who counsel me. Get intentional and specific about mentorship. Mentors in different areas are both helpful and important. In high school, as you can intern for the summer, shadow business leaders to get a head start on your career and explore your interests.

    1. Leadership is impactful. My new thing is being focused on Impact over Output. We can become so focused on getting it done fast and while speed does matter (time is of the essence) the value of what we do matters more. Consider going deep vs. wide. Through your leadership opportunities and touch points, what do you want your impact to be? If you join or engage in organizations like 21CL, how can you really give and get the most of our it? Be dedicated in your pursuits, be engaged, and be active. Consider all that you do, how do you want to be remembered? ✨

Share the Inspirations!