21st Century Leaders Partners with City of Atlanta on Youth Climate Action Fund

FROM THE CITY OF ATLANTA

 

Mayor Andre Dickens Announces Atlanta’s Youth Climate Action Fund to Activate Young People in Driving Climate Solutions

Post Date:07/11/2024 10:45 AM

Mayor’s Office of Communications

Mayor Andre Dickens Announces Atlanta’s Youth Climate Action Fund
to Activate Young People in Driving Climate Solutions

ATLANTA—With 84 percent of youth around the world reporting that they are worried climate change threatens people and the planet, Mayor Andre Dickens announced the application window is open to apply for Atlanta’s new Youth Climate Action Fund. Launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Youth Climate Action Fund will provide technical assistance and funding for 100 mayors to activate tens of thousands of young people ages of 15 – 24 years to design, produce and govern urgent climate solutions in their cities. Atlanta joins the Fund alongside 100 cities from around the world, which together spans 38 countries across six continents, representing over 62 million residents.

“With the launch of Atlanta’s Youth Climate Action Fund, we can empower our city’s young innovators to develop youth-led climate solutions designed for the future,” said Mayor Andre Dickens. “Our Administration has made priorities both of investing in our youth and addressing the climate crisis on the local level. Thanks to Bloomberg Philanthropies and additional partners, this is an opportunity to foster the next generation of climate leaders while advancing our efforts to build a more sustainable and resilient Atlanta.”

As part of this program, the City of Atlanta received $50,000 to provide microgrants and convening opportunities in support of youth-led climate initiatives. The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and Resilience is partnering with 21st Century Leaders, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that has been delivering youth leadership development programming in Georgia for 35 years, to serve as the fiscal sponsor to award microgrants from $1,000 to $5,000. From mobilizing tree-planting or public education campaigns to launching recycling or waste reduction initiatives, efforts stemming from the Youth Climate Action Fund will help advance Atlanta’s sustainability goals.

Young residents ages 15 – 24 years are encouraged to visit Atlanta’s Youth Climate Action Fund webpage to learn more about the Youth Climate Action Fund, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, and how to submit ideas for the opportunity to receive funding. Applications close Friday, July 25, 2024.

“There’s no age requirement for leadership and we love that the Mayor’s office is investing in the city with this same mindset.” said Kate Hewitt, Executive Director of 21st Century Leaders. “When youth are provided access and opportunity, incredible things happen. We’re proud to partner with the City of Atlanta’s Youth Climate Action Fund where, together, we will advance young leaders to create real change for their local communities and beyond.”

The program will be delivered by United Cities and Local Governments in partnership with the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation at Johns Hopkins University. C40 Cities and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy will collaborate as learning partners. Cities that respond to the urgency of the moment and commit the initial $50,000 within six months will receive an additional $100,000 to support more youth-driven projects over the course of one year.

Young residents ages 15 – 24 are encouraged to visit Atlanta’s Youth Climate Action Fund webpage to learn more and submit ideas for the opportunity.

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For more information about the City of Atlanta, please visit www.atlantaga.gov or watch City Channel 26. Follow the City of Atlanta on Facebook and Twitter @CityofAtlanta

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21ST CENTURY LEADERS CELEBRATES 35 YEARS OF EMPOWERING STUDENTS WITH A $1 MILLION SUSTAINABILITY FUND CAMPAIGN

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21ST CENTURY LEADERS CELEBRATE 35 YEARS OF EMPOWERING STUDENTS WITH A $1 MILLION SUSTAINABILITY FUND CAMPAIGN

Atlanta, GA (June 4, 2024)—21st Century Leaders, Georgia’s premier youth leadership development program, announced its Empowering Our Future: Sustainability Campaign, which aims to raise $1 million to endow its transformative leadership programs with long-term sustainability and impact. This campaign, coinciding with the organization’s 35th anniversary, will not only provide scalable and accessible programs for all high school students across Georgia but also change the trajectory of their lives, empowering them to become the leaders of tomorrow. 

As we celebrate this milestone year for the organization and how we’re impacting today’s youth, we’re also thinking about the next 35 years and how we will inspire and support those students,” says DeRetta Rhodes, Ph.D., Chairperson, 21CL Board of Directors and EVP Chief Culture Officer, Atlanta Braves. “Ensuring our future schools, communities, and places of work are filled with diverse, empathetic, and talented leaders is a cause we should all want to support.”

In 1989, a group of Georgia-based executives observed a growing and critical need to prepare their employees for leadership and promote collaboration across class and racial barriers. To address this, they founded 21st Century Leaders, aiming to build the next generation of leaders by providing young people with training, guidance, and encouragement to enter college and the workforce with highly developed leadership skills.

For over three and half decades, 21st Century Leaders has empowered and inspired over 18,000 high school students to reach their full potential,” said Kate Hewitt, Executive Director, 21st Century Leaders. “This campaign will ensure we continue to provide accessible programming for all while strategically scaling our leadership development programs for more youth across Georgia to meet the demand of our growing student body.”

The $1 million Sustainability Fund will directly support the annual expansion and enhancement of 21st Century Leaders’ programs. These include:

  • Fully Funding a Summer Leadership Institute: Providing a transformative week-long residential experience for 75-100 students, free of charge.
  • Enrolling an Additional 500 Students in Leadership Connect: Expanding access to this cutting-edge, gamified online platform that equips students with essential leadership skills, badging, and certifications.
  • Launching 10 New School and Community-Based Clubs: Reaching 30% more students with peer-to-peer learning and leadership development opportunities across the state.

Investing in the Future Leaders of Georgia

21st Century Leaders is committed to fostering the next generation of Georgia’s leaders. The ​​Empowering Our Future: Sustainability campaign will ensure long-term stability by investing in staff, programs, and partnerships. It also awards scholarships to graduating seniors. This campaign provides an opportunity for individuals, corporations, and foundations to invest in the future of our state.

How to Get Involved

To learn more about the 21st Century Leaders Sustainability Fund and how individuals, corporations, and foundations can contribute to empowering Georgia’s future leaders, please visit www.21stcenturyleaders.org/endowment or contact Kate Hewitt, Executive Director at kate@21stcenturyleaders.org. 

About 21st Century Leaders

21st Century Leaders is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect, transform, and inspire high school students from across the state of Georgia to leverage and promote diversity and inclusion, explore career opportunities, and become leaders across their schools, communities, and, ultimately, the workforce. Through innovative programs and experiences, we cultivate the skills and knowledge necessary for students to thrive in a globalized world. Visit www.21stcenturyleaders.org to learn more about our transformational programs for high school students across Georgia. 

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21st Century Leaders Announces 2023-2024 Youth Ambassadors

Group photo of the 2023-2024 Youth Ambassadors

21st Century Leaders Celebrates Relaunch of Youth Ambassadors Program

September 25, 2023 (Atlanta, GA)  – Congratulations to our 2023-2024 Youth Ambassadors! These 30 diverse students are committed to representing the interests and voices of the 1,600+ Georgia high school students of 21st Century Leaders (21CL) who participate in our programs each year. After keeping the Youth Ambassador program in hibernation for two years, 21CL is excited to relaunch this leadership opportunity for our students with refreshed design and purpose.

The Youth Ambassadors met together for their first meeting of the 2023-2024 term on Saturday, September 23, 2023 at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough; they were encouraged by guest speaker Kat Taylor (Director, Diversity & Inclusion at Nelson Mullins; Owner, HOTCOFFEE; 21st Century Leaders Board of Directors), exchanged perspectives, set a vision for their shared intention, built elevator pitches, and identified “legacy” as a guiding principal for themselves.

21CL’s Youth Ambassadors are responsible for representing the values and purpose of 21st Century Leaders in their schools, communities, and at 21CL events. During their term of service, they will work together to create meaningful opportunities to engage more (and new) 21st Century Leaders across Georgia.

The Youth Ambassadors serve as 21CL advocates to empower and inspire other high school students to lead. They represent the distinct ideas, opinions, attitudes, knowledge, and actions of exemplary leaders as a collective body. The Youth Ambassadors will inform and participate in special projects and contribute to live program events, under the guidance of 21CL’s Junior Board of Directors and staff.

Our 2023-2024 Youth Ambassadors are:

  • Raveena Alli, Atlanta Girls’ School, Class of 2024
  • Rishi Byakod, South Forsyth High School, Class of 2025
  • Alonnah Copeland, Blackstone Academy, Class of 2025
  • Oluwatishe Deju, Homeschool, Class of 2026
  • Prateek Doddla, Chattahoochee High School, Class of 2025
  • Leah Duffey, Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy High School, Class of 2025
  • Emmanuela Ejoga, North Cobb High School, Class of 2024
  • Brooklyn Fields, Jefferson High School, Class of 2026
  • Joshua Girgis, Montessori School of Rome, Class of 2024
  • Brianna Hare, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, Class of 2024
  • Cindy Hernandez, North Clayton High School, Class of 2025
  • Christian Hooks, Grayson High School, Class of 2024
  • Erin Howard, Charles R. Drew Charter School, Class of 2024
  • Wolfe Hudepohl, Lovett School, Class of 2025
  • Morgan Ingram, GMC Prep High School, Class of 2024
  • Nishanth Kavuri, Lakeside High School (Evans), Class of 2024
  • Joy Lin, Ware County High School, Class of 2025
  • Emoni Love, Wheeler High School, Class of 2024
  • Siri Manekar, Northview High School, Class of 2025
  • Maya Matthews, Westlake High School, Class of 2024
  • Olaoluwa Oguneye, Decatur High School, 2024
  • Vidhi Raiyani, Putnam County High School, Class of 2026
  • Kennedy Reid, Savannah Arts Academy, Class of 2024
  • Abigail Rong, Denmark High School, Class of 2025
  • Aadi Shah, Innovation Academy High School, Class of 2026
  • Rhea Shah, Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, Class of 2025
  • Thalia Smith, Midtown High School, Class of 2025
  • Ishita Sukul, Johns Creek High School, Class of 2024
  • Aarushi Verma, Lambert High School, Class of 2024
  • Katherine “Ivy” Yang, Alpharetta High School, Class of 2024

21CL Youth Ambassador Mission: The Youth Ambassadors’ mission is to serve as student ambassadors for 21st Century Leaders by upholding the organization’s mission and vision through servant-leadership while creating meaningful opportunities for Georgia’s next generation of youth leaders. The Youth Ambassadors strive to bring awareness to 21CL through a united voice, community service and outreach while enhancing our leadership and interpersonal skills. Our goal is to establish a strong foundation that cultivates future generations of leaders who can further expand our accomplishments.

Learn more about 21st Century Leaders at https://www.21stcenturyleaders.org/

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For media inquiries, please contact:
Nicole Meadows
Director of Programs & Communications, 21st Century Leaders
nicole@21stcenturyleaders.org | 404.373.7441

Alumni Spotlight: Alisa Garcia

Alisa Garcia is a graduate of Cherokee High School (2022) and currently a sophomore at Chattahoochee Technical College and soon transitioning to Georgia College to study Public Health. She is a servant leader who has attended many of our student programs, and recently served as a Summer Leadership Team member for two of our Summer Leadership Institutes– Earthcare and the Healthcare & IT Institute, helping to mentor and inspire our current students. “As an alumna of the program, I am grateful to be able to return as a SLT member and give back. Being involved opens many doors during and after high school, giving one the opportunity to grow, make long-lasting friendships, and network with like-minded individuals who you may encounter in future endeavors.” ~Alisa Garcia

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

I am Alisa Garcia, a current sophomore at Chattahoochee Technical College. Soon, I will be at Georgia College studying Public Health to become a Public Health Analyst. Recently, I participated in a one-day virtual summit with local health officials connecting over our passion to help change our communities. During my free time, I enjoy running, trying new places, being with family, and listening to Bad Bunny!

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

I attended Cherokee High School from 2018 to 2022. The summer after my freshman year, I participated in the Earthcare Institute. After an immersive week of workshops and networking, my eagerness to grow as a leader deepened. In 2020, I virtually participated in the inaugural year of Healthcare & IT Institute, where I networked with healthcare professionals. The following summer, I completed my 21CL high school journey with SYLI Program.

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?

Although my professional career is yet to unfold, 21CL strengthened my skill set which prepared me for college. Learning to enhance my public speaking skills has helped form connections in a public setting, and being exposed to a diverse cohort of students taught me inclusivity. Being part of 21CL transformed me into a confident leader, especially within my community, which pushed me to start my non-profit organization, The Glandorf Project. This position allows me to embody leadership qualities such as decision-making, empathy, and relationship building; qualities that were instilled in me from 21st Century Leaders.

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.)

There definitely have been many ‘aha’ moments throughout my time at 21CL. The shift from being in-person in my first camp to online for the rest was a huge ‘aha’ moment itself. Although, the most memorable one was my second day at Earthcare; this being my first time away from home, and meeting and spending so much time with new peers was hard adjusting, however, while we played camp games, I was able to form new friendships and the “homesick” feeling went away. Afterwards while we sat in the dining hall and talked, there was a sense of relief because I was not the only one missing home. There was a moment of realization that everyone had mixed emotions, yet we were connected through our passion to grow and become successful leaders. Once the welcoming feeling brought on by my peers and camp facilitators sunk in, by the last day I did not want to leave camp. The day was eye-opening and taught me to take advantage of the numerous opportunities this camp would bring, especially since it was a privilege to be one of 90 students chosen.

Did 21CL assist you in developing a leadership style that makes you an effective leader? if so, how? And if you’ve recently learned something else about leadership please share!

Through 21CL I was able to find the most fitting leadership style, servant leadership. This summer, I had the privilege to be part of 21CL’s Summer Leadership Team for two camps – Earthcare and Healthcare & IT. With both camps having a diverse group of students, it was moving hearing the impact I was able to make through my leadership style at both camps. As someone who puts others ahead and serves with humility, it was touching hearing how I naturally embodied the servant leadership characteristics throughout the week from my R+ memos. Throughout the camp, I strived to have an impact on the students and my listening and empathy skills definitely helped achieve that goal. From reading how I “made our group like family” to inspiring students to open up, it was a full circle moment of my roots with 21CL, since this program helped me become more confident with my leadership abilities.

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

My advice to any student would be to challenge yourself and truly take in every second with 21CL. As I sat in my school library in 2019, I was hesitant on submitting my application out of fear of not being accepted. However, it was the best decision to apply since I was able to grow and learn through my involvement. In my community, I was rarely exposed to diverse groups of students. By challenging myself to partake in 21CL programs, I was able to perceive things through a different lens and became open-minded. It is essential to take in every moment and greatly appreciate being part of such a program. Although you may believe your time with 21CL is over, it truly is not. As an alumna of the program, I am grateful to be able to return as a SLT and give back. Being involved opens many doors during and after high school, giving one the opportunity to grow, make long-lasting friendships, and network with like-minded individuals who you may encounter in future endeavors.

How would you describe 21CL in three words?

There truly are not enough words to describe 21CL since the program is THAT great! Yet, I will say these: Transformative, Inspiring, and Fun.

Alumni Spotlight: Sharlesha Bennett Kofa

Sharlesha Bennett Kofa is a graduate of Midtown High School (2009) and currently a third year Bachelor of Science Degree student at Clayton State University. She is a homeschooling mother of three beautiful children and works for Newton and Rockdale Counties, working on family and youth programs.  Sharlesha is passionate about community service and volunteering, and she was one of our alumni volunteers at 21st Century Leaders’ 2022 Leaderboard at The River Club Charity Golf Event!

“There is a saying that goes like, “You’re only as strong as your Network” and 21st Century Leaders taught me how to navigate professional environments and build those strong and lasting networks.” ~Sharlesha Bennett Kofa

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

Currently, I am a third year Bachelor of Science Degree student at Clayton State University majoring in psychology and human services. Last fall I started working as an Intern for Newton County Family Connections in Covington, Georgia; I also work closely with the Newton/Rockdale County Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Newton County Substance Abuse Coalition. One of the most exciting things I am doing at the moment is assisting Newton County’s Youth Action Team on an annual Kick-The-Habit Prevention Event. It’s through my internship advisor that I was able to make great connections that have led me to several community outreach volunteer opportunities.

Outside of school and volunteering, I am very passionate about total mind and body wellness. I enjoy working out and reading lots of motivational uplifting books.

How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?

I am naturally a very shy person but experiences gained from participating in 21st Century Leaders during my high school years helped me gain the confidence needed to step out of my comfort zone and put my best foot forward. At the time, I didn’t realize the kind of impact it would make on me but I can confidently say that I entered the “real” world knowing how to dress properly and conduct myself in professional settings. There is a saying that goes like, “You’re only as strong as your Network” and 21st Century Leaders taught me how to navigate professional environments and build those strong and lasting networks.

Which programs did you participate in? How did the skills/tools/perspectives you acquired from 21CL prepare you for your next steps, going into college, taking on new leadership roles in your community, college and after?

I participated in the Winter Leadership Weekend, now known as Goizueta Youth Leadership Summit, in 2008 and 2009. I also participated in the 21CLub at my school. Another important skill that I acquired and took with me to college and that has also been very beneficial is to be proactive and to take the initiative. Sometimes being the first person in a group setting to speak up and introducing yourself can make all the difference.

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.?)

I will never forget standing in front of a full room together with my group members and having to speak in public for the very first time. In one of those public speaking sessions, we had learned to try to minimize the number of times we say “umm,” so when we got on the podium I kept repeating in my head over and over again, “Do not say ‘Umm’,” and by the time it was my turn to speak I had almost forgotten what I was supposed to say; but I was still able to pull it together and my group did an amazing presentation.

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!

Yes! I learned about community service and acquired great skills necessary for effective leadership, indeed “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!”

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21st Century Leaders Announces Winners of 2023 Georgia Youth Leadership Awards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Top 21 High School Students of 21st Century Leaders Selected for Outstanding Leadership

(February 13, 2023) Atlanta, GA – 21st Century Leaders, a Georgia-based non-profit youth leadership and talent development program for high school students from diverse backgrounds across the state, announces the top 21 youth leaders selected for its annual signature event, Georgia Youth Leadership Awards, presented by Warner Bros. Discovery, to be held on Saturday, March 25, 20232 at the Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta, Ga. 

21st Century Leaders (21CL), in partnership with the event’s corporate sponsors and partners, brings together business and civic leaders to raise support for 21st Century Leaders’ year-round leadership programs while also recognizing 21 of their outstanding high school students throughout Georgia who have made a significant impact on their schools, communities and beyond.

21CL serves over 1,600 students annually and this year’s 21 awardees – all in high school and all members of 21st Century Leaders – include non-profit founders, entrepreneurs, content creators, advocates, and volunteers who truly represent the diversity of Georgia with students from DeKalb to Emanuel to Columbia counties. The nominated students exhibit 21CL’s leadership qualities of being service-oriented, forward thinking, resourceful, passionate and of leveraging diversity. The 21 awardees were carefully chosen by a 16-member selection committee of Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 Under 40 members, 21CL Board of Directors, 21CL corporate volunteers and community leaders, and 21CL alumni and student peers. The full selection committee is listed below and on 21CL’s website.

21st Century Leaders is proud to announce the following 21 outstanding youth leaders for the 2023 Georgia Youth Leadership Awards:

  1. Pranita Akella, Lakeside High School (Evans, GA)
  2. Raveena Alli, Atlanta Girls’ School
  3. Sterling Cho, The Walker School
  4. Yireh Fonesca-Gopar, Forest Park High School
  5. Julius Hunnter Goins, Druid Hills High School
  6. Shreyas Gupta, Wheeler High School
  7. Benjamin Harper, Charles R. Drew Charter School
  8. Lilian Huynh, Jonesboro High School
  9. Akhil Kalva, Chattahoochee High School
  10. Payton Key, Cambridge High School
  11. Annie Lin, North Atlanta High School
  12. Tanvi Mehta, Lambert High School
  13. Ify Obianwu, Pebblebrook High School
  14. Eva Rahman, Wesleyan School
  15. Reece Robinson, Westlake High School
  16. Salter Sliger, Midtown High School 
  17. Zoie Stevenson, North Atlanta High School
  18. Troy Steward, East Coweta High School
  19. Gabrielle Walthour, DeKalb Early College Academy
  20. Quintus Williams, Swainsboro High School
  21. Samuel Woldegiorgis, Decatur High School

Through corporate sponsors’ support, each youth leader will be presented with a $500 grant, with one student awarded the Warner Bros. Discovery Student Leadership Award – the event’s top award which includes a $1,000 grant from the presenting sponsor, Warner Bros. Discovery. Students are also paired with coaches who mentor the students throughout the event season. Our Georgia Youth Leadership Award Coaches are recognized and accomplished community leaders and/or members of Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 Under 40 alumni, maintaining a partnership established with the group in 2008 when 21st Century Leaders first launched this event. The student  winners and coaches met at a private Meet + Greet luncheon on Saturday, February 11, 2023 at Emory’s Goizueta Business School, a sponsor and supporter.

This year’s event is being led by Co-Chairs and 21CL Board of Directors members Okema Jackson, previously of Warner Bros. Discovery, and Mari Sifo of Host Hotels and Resorts. For more information about the Georgia Youth Leadership Awards or to purchase a ticket to the event, please visit www.21stcenturyleaders.org. All proceeds from the event will support 21CL’s ongoing efforts to provide youth leadership and talent development programs for high school students across Georgia at little to no cost to students.

Georgia Youth Leadership Awards Coaches: 

The Georgia Youth Leadership Award coaches for the 2023 student winners are Maranie Brown, BlackRock; Greg Clay, Partnership for Southern Equity, 21CL Alumnus*; Whitney Deal Marshall, Whitney Marshall Coaching*; Chandra Farley, City of Atlanta, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and Resilience; David Felfoldi, SHERPA Global*; Marty Fleischmann, All Electric Racing Organization (AERO), 21CL Board of Directors*; Matt Johnson, KPMG, 21CL Advisory Council*; Dr. Jyoti Sharma, Piedmont, 21CL Alumna; Dr. Alicia Shelly, Wellstar; Mari Sifo, Host Hotels and Resorts, 21CL Board of Directors; Tamika Stokes Goins, CareHalo*; Antrell Tyson, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services*; Ryan Woods, Beck Architecture*; DeAndre Wynn, T.A.N. Tech Solutions; Anqi Zou, Truist

*Coaches who also served on the Selection Committee

Georgia Youth Leadership Awards Selection Committee
All nominations were reviewed by our 16-member GYLA Selection Committee, comprised of Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 under 40 members, 21CL Board of Directors, 21CL corporate volunteers, and 21CL alumni and student peers. Committee members included the coaches indicated above, along with LaSandra Boykin, Wellstar; Jeanette McWilliams, IdeasUnited; Trenton Spindler, GreenPrint, A PDI Company; Chi Nguyen, retired, 21CL Board of Directors; Chris Reynolds, RiskBridge Advisors, 21CL Board of Directors; Ila Prabhuram and J’Avani Stinson, 21CL members and 2022 GYLA Student Recipients.

About 21st Century Leaders
Since 1989, 21st Century Leaders has served more than 16,000 diverse high school students from over 250 Georgia high schools. 21st Century Leaders’ mission is to connect, transform, and inspire high school students from diverse backgrounds across the state of Georgia to leverage diversity, explore career opportunities, and become leaders in their school, community, and ultimately the workforce. 

21st Century Leaders is currently accepting student applications (until March 1st and March 15th) into their leadership and development program and for their summer leadership institutes for the 2023 summer. The summer leadership institutes are residential one-week programs hosted on a college campus with our corporate partners and business professionals. 21CL accepts rising sophomores, juniors and seniors. For more information about 21st Century Leaders, visit www.21stcenturyleaders.org/student-programs.

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For media inquiries, please contact:
Nicole Meadows
Director of Programs & Communications, 21st Century Leaders
nicole@21stcenturyleaders.org | 404.373.7441

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Alumni Spotlight: Timothy Parham

Timothy Parham is our alumni spotlight today! Tim is a graduate of Central High School (2004) and of Reinhardt University (2010). He first joined 21st Century Leaders in 2001 as a rising sophomore in high school and has been serving with 21st Century Leaders since 2006, first on the Summer Leadership Team and then later as a Summer Institute Director since 2018. As of September 2022, he is a full time 21CL staff member, serving as the Director of Programs and Operations! “21CL solidified my passion for helping others and gave me the foundational skills of youth development.” – Tim Parham

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now.

I recently started working with 21st Century Leaders as the Director of Programs and Operations. I began my journey with the organization as a rising high school sophomore in 2001 and to have the opportunity to oversee its programs 20 years later is an honor. I am still soaking it all in!

I am also the founder of The MAP Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to equip young men ages 12-22 with a support system to achieve their goals and become self-sufficient adults. I started The MAP Foundation because I know how it feels to want to achieve a goal but need guidance and genuine support. I love the fact that I can utilize my skills and resources to support the next generation.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, performing on the stage, and traveling.

Which programs did you participate in? How did the skills/tools/perspectives you acquired from 21CL prepare you for your next steps, going into college, taking on new leadership roles in your community, college and after?

I started my journey with 21st Century Leaders in 2001 and during that time it was different from what it has grown to be now. Mr. Bob Watson, the founding Executive Director, had an active role and I always loved listening to his leadership speeches.  He had the confidence in public speaking that I wanted to have. He also always made every student feel special. I learned a critical lesson from those times: the art of building relationships. I’ve used that skill in every new opportunity I’ve been given.

How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?

21CL solidified my passion for helping others and gave me the foundational skills of youth development. What I learned as a student and while working as a class facilitator during the Summer Leadership Institutes led me to work with YELLS, Inc. for seven years, in all its three programs-Mentoring, Community Action Café, and the Afterschool Program. After, I worked with Communities in Schools of Georgia, where I had a caseload of more than 100 students. This is when I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of data and how it can be used to accelerate student growth.

I believe that the skills I have accumulated along the way have prepared me for my current leadership role serving as the Director of Programs and Operations at 21st Century Leaders.

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

I have lots of 21CL memorable moments! The first was as a student attending one of the programs and realizing that leadership has many definitions.  My opportunity to lead came when asked to publicly speak and at the time, standing in front of a group of people and speaking had always been a challenge for me. After that I got the opportunity to work with the summer staff for the first time. Over the years, I’ve figured out that it’s when you are vulnerable that you are your most authentic self and that’s what people remember.

Another ‘aha’ moment I had was when I realized that networking really works.  I will never forget Jeremy Foreman, one of the 21CL summer staff during my high school years. He had the kind of energy that was contagious. He was just a joy to be around and our relationship grew when I came back as a summer staff.  When I got to the point in college where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a career. I reached out to a lot of people for support and guidance. He was the only one that responded and he introduced me to a person that changed my life. Her name is Dr. Tamara Harper. The networking skills that I learned from 21CL gave me the opportunity to travel the world singing with the Atlanta Opera.

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!

Yes! Over the years I have gained so many jewels that I use daily. I learned that using the 3 C’s of communication, cooperation, and compassion is not just a leadership tactic that 21CL exposes but it should be a lifestyle. Out of the three, the one that I use the most is compassion. I love to motivate people to be the best version of themselves.

In addition, being a part of 21CL always reminds me that great leaders are always great followers of other great leaders. I have had so many leaders I looked up to that paved the way for me to be the Director of Programs for 21CL and I am determined to use all skills that I have learned over the years and impact the world.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Mercy Ogutu

21CL Alumna  Mercy Ogutu is a graduate of Druid Hills High School  (2019) and currently a Senior at Trinity Washington University (2023) double majoring in Political Science and International Affairs. She holds many leadership positions in her college, community and at the national level advocating for policy change in higher education, healthcare and more. During high school she attended our Summer Youth Leadership Institute (SYLI @Goizueta), which sparked her passion for public speaking. Mercy grew up not seeing representation and her goal is to always create and advocate for the environment where everyone feels welcomed, heard, and inspired to lead change

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now.

I’m Mercy Ogutu, a Senior at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC, double majoring in Political Science and International Affairs with a minor in Africana Studies. Born in Kenya and raised in Atlanta, Ga, I am a student-leader on campus, in the community, and across the nation. I hold several leadership positions; currently I am the Executive Secretary of the DC College Democrats, Communications Director of the Black Student Alliance, Chairwoman of the Trinity Washington Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and a Tennis Representative on the NCAA Division III National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). On Division III National SAAC, I am in my second term as the Chairwoman on the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group and I am a student-athlete representative on the NCAA Minorities Opportunities and Interests Committee, Interpretations and Legislative Committee, and the Mental Health Advisory Group. I have created and led student-based initiatives focused on professional development, mental health awareness, civic engagement, and increasing diversity and inclusion in athletic, academic, and professional spaces.

On Thursday, January 20th, 2022 at the NCAA 2022 Convention alongside with my fellow panelists, I gave a discussion on the importance of mental health awareness, and of education and recommended practices to support the well-being of student-athletes. This May, I interned for Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff in the United States Senate and in the spring of 2020, I interned for the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, in the House of Representatives. On campus, I am working with my fellow peers to help students navigate career goals, learn networking skills, and to lead change. 

Which programs did you participate in? How did the skills/tools/perspectives you acquired from 21CL prepare you for your next steps, going into college, taking on new leadership roles in your community, college and after?

I participated in the Summer Youth Leadership Institute (SYLI @Goizueta) in 2018 and my favorite part was hearing the different stories of the 40Under40 panelists, unique journeys of finding their passion for their careers and the change they were making in their communities. During the 21CL summer institute, I learned to communicate effectively, use my voice for change, and organize ideas into solutions. I also got inspired to create change in my community, to help students navigate their career interests, acquire leadership skills, and to expand student-based initiatives.

How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?

21st Century Leaders helped me to see there is no age requirement to be the change you want to see in your community. After my summer at 21st Century Leaders’ summer leadership institute, I started my journey of working towards my goal of going to Washington, DC for school to one day become a policy advisor in higher education policies. I found my voice in wanting to advocate for change in higher education policies after my own struggles of understanding and navigating the cost of college as an immigrant student from a low-income community. 

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

It was at SYLI when I introduced one of the speakers for our workshop that I found my passion for public speaking! Since then, I have gotten to write the commencement speech for my 2019 high school graduation and share my research of educational policies at the House of Representatives, United States Senate, the White House, and at national conferences.

I believe that leadership comes from inspiration, being inspired and inspiring others to find their voice and see their true potential! I grew up not seeing representation and my goal is to always create and advocate for the environment where everyone feels welcomed, heard, and inspired to lead change. Everyone has a story and it’s through those stories we can connect, learn, and grow with each other. 

 21st Century Leaders helped me find my voice and meeting incredible student leaders from across Georgia gave me inspiration to continue making change, however big or small!

Alumni Spotlight: Matthew I. George

21CL Alumnus Matthew George is our alumni spotlight for April 2022. A graduate of Alpharetta High School (2019) and a third year student at Young Harris College  (2023), Matthew was one of our 2019 Georgia Youth Leadership Award winners and is currently interning for The Council of State Governments as a public policy analyst. In this post he shares about his great experience during 21CL days, the connections he made and how it all impacted him! 

Paint a brief picture of what you are doing now

Hello, I am Matthew and go by Teo! I am a third year student at Young Harris College and recently I embarked on a journey to Washington DC interning for The Council of State Governments as a Policy Analyst. I communicate public policy research and engage in ongoing policy projects focused on providing state leaders policy options and solutions via non-partisan research. Working with the national policy shop on federal grant projects with the Department of Defense, Department of Labor, and Department of Education.

How did participating in 21CL transform you and lead you to where you are now?

21st Century Leaders was a great way to make connections, both with fellow 21CL peers, mentors and the members of corporate organizations at each of the events I attended. This catalyzed the creation of a robust network of professionals that assisted me in many ways including advancing my portfolio and resume experience.

Which programs did you participate in? How did the skills/tools/perspectives you acquired from 21CL prepare you for your next steps, going into college, taking on new leadership roles in your community, college and after?

I participated in several 21CL programs throughout my high school years – summer, fall and winter leadership programs, all! In tandem with the previous question, it is all about the connections! One of the programs, the WarnerMedia Institute for Future Leaders, fostered an internship with Adult Swim the following summer. I’ve maintained these contacts and now applied to a new program with CNN in Washington DC!

During my senior year of high school, I ran for student body president and later applied as peer leadership for incoming freshman. In college, I actively participated in leadership positions within our Student Government Association and some of our local organizations on campus. Additionally, a fellow 21CL partner from the Turner program is also at Young Harris College!

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

There’s this one moment I distinctly remember walking out into the hallway at CNN and bumping into Carl Azuz. I froze in my tracks. After hearing him speak about his time at CNN, I realized broadcast news, writing, and/or analysis would be the way, consequently leading into a position with Adult Swim. EarthCare was my first 21CL program and I am not going to lie, I registered for it as a mistake (tehe). Nonetheless, it was SUCH a great experience, and I really enjoyed my time there! Additionally, I moved to the United States in 2016 and the experience helped with my transition, opening ideas of career pathways I had not considered in the past.

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!

Since 21CL days, I have been a shift supervisor at Starbucks in multiple locations, a Peer Leader, Orientation Leader, and involved in local politics – there has never been a consistent day with a steady workflow and I must say that the servant leadership skills developed and honed with 21CL have been crucial to every experience. 21CL is near and dear to my heart, and I loved the entire experience!