Alumni Spotlight: Gareth Thompson

Gareth Thompson is a graduate of Wheeler High School (2019) and of the University of Georgia (2023); this fall he will start working as a Contract Compliance Associate at KPMG. Throughout high school, Gareth attended many of our student programs, was a 21CL Youth Ambassador and recently served as a Summer Leadership Team member and alumni roundtable speaker, helping to mentor and inspire our current students.

I really encourage students to be all-in when attending these programs. You get out what you put in! Your spot in 21CL is a spot that hundreds of other students are vying for – why waste it? It is such a good opportunity to meet with professionals and start growing your professional network – something that is even more difficult to do on your own.” ~Gareth Thompson

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

I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Georgia in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics and Risk Management & Insurance, along with an emphasis in consulting. I was involved in several organizations during my collegiate career – notably the Asian American Student Association (AASA), and the professional business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi of which I was Ethics Chair. Throughout college I interned at State Farm Mutual Insurance for two summers, one as an Auto Claims Intern and the second as a Special Investigative Unit Intern. This fall I plan to work full time as a Contract Compliance Associate with KPMG in the Atlanta office. As I await professional life, I enjoy travelling with friends, playing sports, playing music, and making art.

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

I attended Wheeler High School from 2015 to 2019. I attended three summer leadership institutes: EarthCare at Berry College in 2016, SYLI at Emory University in 2017, and Turner Youth Voices Media Institute at Georgia Tech in 2018. I was a 2018-2019 21CL Youth Ambassador and attended Fall and Winter Leadership Summits in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Since high school, I recently returned to 21CL as a Summer Leadership Team member for EarthCare 2023.

What was your memorable or ‘aha’ moment during your time at 21CL?

It’s so hard to pick just one memorable moment! I would have to say that the first night of EarthCare my roommates and I all went into one room and just started talking for hours, playing music, and becoming close friends. I was skeptical about joining camp at first – it was my first time away from home at an overnight camp but knowing that people were with me sharing the same experiences made it a lot more welcoming and bearable. If they could do it, so could I! Knowing that everyone involved, from the campers to the staff, were 100% all in on making the program the best it could really be encouraged me to give it my all and eventually return for years to come.

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

I am not the loudest speaker in the room, and sometimes it’s difficult for me to have my voice heard, especially among large groups. Working on the 21CL projects helped me speak up, and even encourage others to do the same. Being around so many different people with different experiences meant that everyone had a unique perspective to the tasks we were trying to solve. I learned to understand that, not to devalue my own contributions, and look for ways I could get others involved, even if I wasn’t the loudest. Starting off small in 21CL has helped me hone these collaborative skills into other projects that I’ve had to do in college and throughout various internship experiences.

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

I really encourage students to be all-in when attending these programs. You get out what you put in! Your spot in 21CL is a spot that hundreds of other students are vying for – why waste it? It is such a good opportunity to meet with professionals and start growing your professional network – something that is even more difficult to do on your own. The skills you learn are transferable skills that will make you head and shoulders above your peers as you venture into college and professional life. But don’t only focus on the professional! The personal relationships you form will last you a long time. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other campers or even the staff. Who knows? A relationship in camp might turn into a job opportunity down the line.

How would you describe 21CL in three words?

Powerful. Fun. Foundational.

21CL Appoints New Chair of its Board of Directors


21st Century Leaders Appoints New Chair of its Board of Directors

(October 7, 2019) Atlanta, GA – 21st Century Leaders announces the appointment of Matt Johnson as chair of its board of directors. Johnson succeeds Kevin Sessions, who has been serving as chair of the board since October 2013. The appointment was effective October 1, 2019, as the start of the organization’s fiscal year. Sessions will remain engaged in a leadership role with 21st Century Leaders (21CL) as a member of its Advisory Council.

Sessions said, “It’s been an honor to serve as board chair over the last six years, and I’m confident in our future and in Matt’s leadership as we continue to grow and develop our young leaders across the state and continue to deliver high-impact leadership training. I have no doubt that Matt’s long-standing commitment to 21st Century Leaders, coupled with his passion and recognized leadership in his industry, will help realize 21st Century Leaders’ full potential as it moves into its fourth decade.”

Johnson joined the board in 2014, but has served as a volunteer with 21st Century Leaders for over a decade. He first got connected with 21st Century Leaders through its partnership with Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 Under 40 honorees. He currently serves as a partner at KPMG, one of the world’s leading professional services firms, as the US Technology Assurance Leader. Matt lives in Cobb County with his wife, Becky, and their two daughters (14 and 2) and two sons (12 and 9).  He enjoys spending time with his family and travelling. He is a private pilot and in addition to flying, other interests include caring for a variety of farm animals on their property, cooking and college football. He was born in India and has also lived in southeast Asia as well as traveled to more than 50 countries.

“Investing in people, and particularly young people, is one of the most worthwhile endeavors in life! We have an amazing board and fantastic staff, and I’m tremendously excited to help continue the mission of 21CL as the board chair,” Johnson said. “I thank Kevin for his leadership, example, and stewardship that has positioned the organization to have an impact like never before. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve, and be inspired by students, our donors and partners, and our team, as we continue to build tomorrow’s leaders, today!”

“Kevin has been instrumental to our success the past six years, particularly as we established the organization’s endowment under his leadership, and transitioned the retirement of our founding executive director. On behalf of the board, staff, and every student we serve, I want to thank Kevin for his dedication and contributions,” said 21CL’s Executive Director Kate Hewitt. “As we look to the future and expand our programs, we are fortunate to have Matt’s leadership as we accelerate our work to be the premier leadership organization in Georgia.”

21st Century Leaders is a youth leadership and talent development organization for Georgia high school students. 21CL provides year-round programming by collaborating with over 50 corporate and community partners. 21CL’s leadership training includes residential summer leadership institutes, school-year training, school-based clubs, and an online learning platform.

About 21st Century Leaders

Since inception in 1989, 21st Century Leaders has served more than 14,000 diverse high school students from over 250 Georgia high schools. 21st Century Leaders is a non-profit organization that connects, transforms, and inspires high school students across Georgia to leverage diversity, explore career opportunities, and become leaders in their school, community, and ultimately the workforce. For more information about 21st Century Leaders, visit

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For media inquiries and image requests, please contact:

Kate Hewitt

Executive Director