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Amazing Teens 2019

Ishan Bhatt

Ishan Bhatt Photo by Acacia Clark.

In the current political climate in the U.S., teens have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with, and that they are pretty amazing. Each year the Jackson Free Press honors some of the local teens doing amazing things in the Jackson metro area.

Albert Jackson

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Albert Jackson

Recently, Forest Hill High School's National Honor Society hosted a STEM Fair at Bates Elementary School (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The point of the event, says NHS member Albert Jackson, was to get kids involved in the subjects at a young age so that when they go into middle and high school, they will have a better background.

"They can know that it's not all just difficult, that it's actually fun and exciting," Jackson says.

The 17-year-old Jackson native strives to keep a 4.0 grade-point average, but he is also involved in numerous clubs, including NHS, ACT Club, band, choir and more. He is also the vice president of the school's chapter of Mu Alpha Theta, an Academic and Performing Arts Complex student, and was named Student of the Month in September 2016. He is currently third seat in the clarinet section on the All-City Honor Band.

Jackson plans to go to Hinds Community College in Utica, and then to a four-year college. He wants to study chemistry and music education.

"I've always loved science," he says. "It's always been my favorite subject, and I've always had a passion for music."

Jackson likes that science has the same precision as mathematics, but it's not as math-heavy as trigonometry or algebra. For his career path, he plans on teaching chemistry and music.

Besides listening to music, his hobbies include knitting and crocheting. —Amber Helsel

Evelyn Henderson

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Evelyn Henderson

Even at 17 years old, Evelyn Henderson is passionate about showing people the importance of getting regular physical exams.

"It's important because you need to know how your body is, and if a problem happened with you recently ... you can stop it if you're getting a (regular) checkup," she says.

Henderson wrote about the subject for Callaway High School's 2019 Healthcare Awareness Essay Contest, and her work garnered her first place. "I couldn't believe it," she says.

She plans to go to Holmes Community College and then the University of Mississippi Medical Center to study nursing. Her grand goal is to become a pediatrician, but in working up to that point, she plans to become a nurse and then a nurse practitioner.

"I love people, and I love helping people," she says.

Her favorite subjects in school are math and science.

"Math, it picks with my brain," she says. "It's just so fun to figure out things and learn new things in math, and with science, (there's) always a step being added, and it has some type of mathematics in it, especially chemistry."

Henderson is also involved in organizations such as Jobs for Mississippi Graduates, which prepares at-risk or disadvantaged students for postsecondary education or work, a member of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Callaway, and she is a student ambassador for Jackson Public Schools. —Amber Helsel

Ishan Bhatt

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Ishan Bhatt

For Ishan Bhatt, debate is akin to an academic game.

"It's just a really fun game based on research, speaking abilities, strategic thinking, all of that stuff," Bhatt says. "People really underestimate how much prior preparation goes into this activity, and that process is something that's just really intellectually stimulating and really invigorating, and I really like it."

Bhatt, who is a senior at St. Andrew's Episcopal School, is among 12 students from across the nation who will be on the USA Debate team. The St. Andrew's senior has been a member of the school's debate team for nearly four years and has competed in several competitions. He was the winner of the "Lincoln-Douglas debate" (a type of one-on-one debate) at the 2018 National Speech and Debate Association's national tournament.

In preparing, he can either focus on research and speaking skills, or content and presentation, he says. He enjoys both styles, and values the technical skills he gains from the first style as well as the persuasive skills from the second one.

As part of the USA debate team, Bhatt is now engaged in a style of debate called World Schools, in which topics change for every round, and each team of three has to research in advance Although he prefers styles where the topic doesn't change, he still finds this format enjoyable and says he loves debating with the team.

"It's a great experience because even though we're sort of all across the country, you really feel like a team," he says.

Bhatt, 18, is also a member of St. Andrew's Quiz Bowl team and enjoys watching shows like "Dr. Who" and "Stranger Things," and reading science fiction and fantasy books in his spare time.

He is currently considering attending Harvard University to major in either political science or public policy. —James Bell

Kilando Chambers

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Kilando Chambers

In his junior year at Murrah High School, Kilando Chambers had to do a project on a work of historical fiction. After looking at his own bookshelf, he realized most of his collection is in that genre.

"I love to read books that can take me to another time period, and another place, and another location," he says. "I might feel like going to 17th-century France or going to Israel or someplace like that, and I love to understand what was going on in that time period that influenced the writer to write what he or she or they are saying at the moment."

His love for historical fiction was a huge influence in his decision to major in history or literature when he goes to Harvard University in the fall.

Chambers, 17, is currently part of Base Pair, a biomedical research partnership between Murrah and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in which he studies how doctors could use virus-like particles to treat cancers, especially brain cancer. He is also part of the marching band at Murrah, and has been in the jazz and symphonic bands.

Chambers scored a 35 on his ACT, and says the secret to his success was focusing on areas that he struggles in. He knew from an ACT bootcamp course that while he does not have problems with math, he did struggle with the last few questions in that section.

"I knew that I needed to focus on that, and I knew that I didn't need to focus on English as much as the other subjects," he says.

His advice for other students is to commit to studying.

In his free time, he likes to read and watch Netflix. He also does a lot of babysitting. "I do so much in school that by the time I come home, there's not very much left to do," he says. —Amber Helsel

Wisdom Ware

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Wisdom Ware

Writing is everything for Jackson Academy junior Wisdom Ware, She always excelled at writing stories in elementary school, then discovered spoken word in middle school.

"She fell in love with that art form," her mother, Tonya Ware, says.

Wisdom Ware won a Gold Key in the Mississippi Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards contest winner for her poem "When Cancer Wins," which she wrote in honor of her aunt Lydia Dailey, who lost her battle with breast cancer June 19, 2018.

"This piece was a way for me to process the grief," Ware says.

She also won a Silver Key for "When I Thought Black Wasn't Beautiful," a narrative poem Ware wrote about her school experiences when she was younger. "I was one of the few black students at my school, so I had some insecurities about my kinky hair and skin tone because it was different from the rest of the students."

Ware began attending Jackson Academy in seventh grade.

Ware, 16, is involved in school and around Jackson as a writer. This is her second year taking a creative writing class at Jackson Academy. She is the captain of the poetry writing club at her school, and the school's Images Creative Magazine has published her poems "Blue," "Shoe Laces" and "Remember The Roses." Ware has been a member of Youth Leadership Greater Jackson, a local nonprofit organization, for a year and is in the current class of leaders.

After graduation, Ware wants to pursue a degree in film with a minor in creative writing. Eventually, she wants to become a screenwriter, poet and director. —Armani T. Fryer

Luke North

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Luke North

When students in the CSPAN StudentCam competition had to answer the question, "What does it mean to be American?," Luke North, a 17-year-old junior at Madison Central High School, focused on the Civil Rights Movement. He and partner Jillian Russell created a short documentary called "America Through the Lens of Civil Rights."

Their work got an honorable mention in February.

North and Russell did the competition as an assignment for his Advanced Placement English class. Their documentary focused on living and growing up in Mississippi, and the state's tumultuous history of race relations.

"Mississippi more than any other state has a racially charged history, and people think about that negative history first when they think about our state," North says. "However, I think we can and have changed, and people are working hard to do it. Our answer for what it means to be American was that spirit of standing up for your rights and practicing civil disobedience from the Civil Rights Movement."

North's favorite interview for the documentary, he says, was with Laurin Stennis, the granddaughter of the late Sen. John C. Stennis and creator of the Stennis Flag, a proposed alternative to Mississippi's current state flag.

"We used her as an example of the passion to fight for what you believe in," North says. "She advocates for changing the state flag in a non-aggressive manner without bashing on those who support the current one, and I think that's a teachable act that embodies what it means to be American."

North is a member of the Madison Central debate team and Student Government Club, and a member of local civil rights group Advocates for Change. —Dustin Cardon

Morgan Bailey

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Morgan Bailey

Morgan Bailey has been around health care for most of her life. Her parents, Charley Bailey and Leila Bailey, are nurses. "I loved asking my mom and dad what they (saw) during their day," she says.

When the Brandon High School junior had the opportunity to take health science classes, she jumped at the chance. Her participation in Brandon's Health Science Academy led her to join the school's Health Occupations Students' Association.

Bailey took top honors in the "Clinical Speciality" category at this year's HOSA state competition. Her event required researching and creating a portfolio of a chosen health profession, and performing a skill of the career on video. She chose the career that she hopes to one day pursue—occupational therapy.

"I've always had a heart for children with disabilities, and I've always been athletic and wanted to treat injuries," she says. "Occupational therapy is a career that I am able to combine all my 
passions into."

Her win marks the first time a student from Brandon has taken top honors in any category of the state competition. The 16-year-old is now preparing for the HOSA International Leadership Conference in June, where she will compete against attendees from across the globe.

In addition to HOSA, Bailey serves as the junior class vice president and is a member of the Key Club and on the yearbook staff and the Bowling team. During summers, she volunteers at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood. She plans to attend Hinds Community College and Mississippi State University, where she will major in kinesiology with a neuromechanics concentration. She hopes to then attend occupational therapy school. —Torsheta Jackson

Jermey Lynn

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Jermey Lynn

Lanier High School senior Jermey Lynn wants to help people, specifically younger people.

"[I]t will help build the next generation into a better generation (more) than helping old people try to become better when it's already a little too late," Lynn says.

He will attend Jackson State University in the fall to study social work, with the eventual goal of becoming a school guidance counselor.

That way, he would get to walk through situations with students, 
Lynn says.

"As you go to a school, you'll see more situations than you would in real life because you're physically with them as they're going through the situation," he says. "Instead of walking into a situation you don't know anything about, you get to see it."

The Jackson native is in the Lanier chapter of the National Honor Society, treasurer of the Student Government Association and a cadet captain on the Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps at the school. Lynn, 18, is also on JROTC's drill team and serves as the vice president of Jobs for Mississippi Graduates, a program that prepares disadvantaged students for post-secondary education or work.

"(JMG) will look good on my resume, and it'll help me get a better job by me already knowing interview skills and what not to do," he says. —Amber Helsel

Valery King

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Valery King

When organizers for the Nissan Resume Challenge asked Valery King why he believes Wingfield High School principal Roderick Smith chose him for the opportunity, he told them it was because he is a scholar and a leader who strives in every way to help himself and his community grow.

"I make every effort to advocate on behalf of students and teachers for better education," says King, who is a Youth Academy ambassador for Jackson Public Schools. "I've even gone to Washington, D.C., to talk speak directly with our state representatives on how to help improve JPS."

In September 2018, youth mentoring organization 100 Black Men of Jackson put out a call for JPS principals to select scholars from their schools to take part in the Nissan Resume Challenge in February 2019. After Smith selected King, he traveled to Nissan's headquarters in Franklin, Tenn., to represent his school.

In the challenge, students had to prepare a detailed resume of their accomplishments and participate in face-to-face interviews Nissan representatives from the Franklin plant.

King's other accomplishments include being president of the Wingfield Student Government Association, a member of the National Honor Society, and captain of both the Wingfield soccer and cross-country teams. .

He has been a member of the Wingfield JROTC since ninth grade and currently holds the rank of cadet command sergeant major, which is the highest non-commissioned officer rank in the Wingfield JROTC battalion. He recently finished his basic training to enter the U.S. Army Reserves and plans to receive his commission at Marion Military Institute in Alabama before transferring to Tennessee State University to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

"As a kid, I always admired soldiers and knew I wanted to be one," he says. —Dustin Cardon

Roshuna Burns

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Roshuna Burns

Roshuna Burns joined the Boys & Girls Club in 2015 when her mother, Pamela Burns, wanted to give her children something to do during the summer. Roshuna Burns has been active with the Boys & Girls Club for the last four years and has been employed as part of its Work and Development program for the last two summers.

"Before I started coming here, I was kind of shy and wouldn't really talk to anybody," Burns says. "(The Boys and Girls Club has) made me become a more outgoing person."

In October 2018, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Mississippi Capitol Unit named the Jim Hill High School sophomore Youth of the Year.

Soon after that, the 15-year-old moved on to the regional competition, where she won third place.

"I said I would improve myself if I made it to the next level," she says. "I promised to be more active in my community and pick up trash, donate clothes and other things people need."

The organization holds various programs that have helped her, including ones that focus on community service, public speaking and finance management, she says.

Her favorite subject in school is resource management, and she plans to pursue cosmetology after graduating high school.

Outside of school, when she is not working on school projects, Burns spends the majority of her free time helping at the Boys and Girls Club. —Nate Schumann

Shelby Dean

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Shelby Dean

Clinton High School junior Shelby Dean, a semi-finalist for the Mississippi State Board of Education's 2019 Student Representative Program, says it's important for students to have a voice in education because what they learn will shape how they grow up.

For example, she says, had the school district not made it mandatory to get at least one art credit, she would have never discovered her love for the subject.

"If that hadn't been a requirement, I don't think I would have ever tried it out," Dean says. "... The decisions that the board and stuff are making for students all over the state are important because it's going to shape how people grow up and how they learn."

The board announced earlier this year that Dean and other students around the state were semi-finalists for the organization's Student Representative Program for the 2019-2020 school year. The board will announce the winners in July. If she wins, she will be a non-voting member of the board, but can give input on policy decisions that affect the state's public schools.

"It was really surprising, but I'm definitely grateful for my sponsor and the principal, who thought I would be a good candidate for it," she says.

Dean, 16, is also the student body vice president and is gunning for president in the 2019-2020 school year. She is a member of the school's cross-country, track and soccer teams. Though she is not sure on a college, yet, she plans to become a teacher either for math or physics.

She is also involved in the youth praise team at First United Methodist Church in Clinton. In her free time, she likes to draw and paint. —Amber Helsel

Neil Marchetti

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Neil Marchetti

One of Jackson Preparatory School senior Neil Marchetti's favorite pieces he created for his portfolio in Advanced Placement Art was of his brother, Lawson Marchetti, who goes to the University of Mississippi.

"I went to hang out with him, and I took a picture of him," Neil Marchetti says. "He has a long beard (and long, curly hair) right now so it was really neat to get to draw something like that."

His work for AP Art was displayed in the Senior Art Show at Prep in March.

For AP Art, students must create 24 samples for their portfolios, with 12 showing a range of styles and 12 concentrating on one. Marchetti, an admirer of renowned portrait artist John Singer Sargent, Marchetti chose to focus on portraits, his favorite.

In creating art, Marchetti chooses to use his iPad and Apple Pencil.

"The (device) allows me to mimic the techniques of a real pencil while also providing paint and pen tools," Marchetti says. "I can achieve a higher value of colors and techniques."

Creating art on his iPad allows Marchetti to cut down the time it would take to switch between tools, wash brushes or sharpen pencils, he says.

Marchetti is a member of his Jackson Prep's speech and debate, tennis and Ultimate Frisbee teams. While he is outside of school, though, Marchetti spends his time drawing, playing ping pong or video games, and watching shows and movies on Netflix with his friends.

After graduating in May, Marchetti plans to attend UM this fall. While he is currently undeclared for his major, he has interests in math, science and art, and he is considering pursuing engineering because it is a field that can incorporate those disciplines. —Nate Schumann


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