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Morgan Brewton-Johnson

Morgan Brewton-Johnson

Hometown: Smyrna, GA

high school: Pace Academy

college: Princeton University

MAJOR: Anthropology

Morgan Brewton−Johnson lives her life on the border between two worlds: reality and her own fantasies. Her boundless imagination is constantly creating, exploring, and losing itself, and nothing is too strange or too fantastic. Morgan holds the beauty of the mind and of human creativity in high regard, and has developed a strong artistic inclination, which manifests itself in her interests in photography and contemporary art. Morgan believes that the value of art lies beyond superficial aesthetics, and rather is in the power of art to distort perspectives and shift the lens through which we view the world.

Morgan’s propensity for the artistic stems from her long−standing love of literature. Having been read to since birth, Morgan credits her single mother, Zonya Brewton, with igniting her passion for all things literary. Throughout her childhood, Morgan was an incorrigible “sneaky reader,” attempting to read through the glass table during dinner or under her covers by book light at night. It was then that Morgan realized that she could, almost literally, live a thousand lives through books, and it became her goal very early on to experience as much as possible, even if only through the eyes of a fictional character.

Growing up in a household with two strong women, her mother and her aunt, Jackie Brewton, Morgan was empowered from an early age to marry her natural sense of curiosity with her eagerness to pursue knowledge. Both women fostered Morgan as she progressed through school and became more involved in activities that fused her natural creativity and her determination to make a positive impact on her community. For example, as founder of her school’s Yoga for Kiva club, she has organized on−campus yoga classes that provide a meditative outlet for her school’s student body while simultaneously fundraising for the club’s involvement in the micro-investment organization, Kiva. While Morgan is very proud of her academic and extracurricular involvements, she feels that her greatest strengths cannot be listed on paper or categorized under awards or honors. Above all else, Morgan feels that her value lies in her commitment to improving the world around her.

Morgan came to this realization while in India with her school’s photography department. In the midst of safaris and palace tours, she focused her lens instead on the debilitating poverty of the cities, on the social gender inequality, and on the dangers of an ineffective bureaucracy. It was there that Morgan recognized the transformative property of art, and its power to act as an agent for social and political change.

Morgan hopes to use this knowledge to make a positive impact on a global scale, and has been particularly inspired by the work of photojournalist Alison Wright. She plans to study anthropology in college and hopes to pursue a career that allows her to merge her passions for art, travel, and public service.

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Nancy Coleman

Nancy Coleman

Hometown: Tampa, FL

high school: HW Blake High School

college: Washington and Lee University

MAJOR: Chemical Engineering

Though born in Miami, July 12, 1996, Nancy was raised in Tampa for most of her life. During middle school, Nancy found the defining pieces of herself. All in sixth grade, she became a vegetarian, picked up the cello, and began practicing Taekwondo. Her experience consisted of balancing extracurricular activities and schoolwork, but this only prepared her for the multiplying effect high school would create for her responsibilities.

In eighth grade, Nancy made a tremendous decision in choosing where to attend high school. Rather than take the easy route and go to her zone school, a mere five−minute walk away from her house, she picked Howard W. Blake, a performing arts magnet school, an hour−and−a−half away by school bus. However, the three hours she sacrificed daily in transportation seemed inconsequential compared to her amazing high school experience. As a cellist her “major” in the school was orchestra, a department that facilitated a dedication to excellence and close relationships with other musicians. She made lifelong friends, and developed a passion for classical music that would have been difficult to foster in any other environment.

Nancy fondly remembers watching a concert by the Florida Orchestra with a few of her classmates, an event that inspired her to broaden her musical palette and come to appreciate the differing opinions people held in regards to art. There, she said she “fell in love” with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. After that experience she began seeking out music beyond the romantic era, all too familiar from the literature she reads with her orchestra, especially by listening to 20th century composers: Copland, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Ives, and Prokofiev, to name just a few. Their works exposed her to a fascinating faction of classical music. At the same time, though, she realized that others may not understand how she could tolerate atonal music, but she believes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The revolutionary composers reinforced her belief that everyone’s interpretation of what is beautiful is different, and for that reason she avoids judging people for their specific preferences.

Despite all of the time she needed to allocate to her studies and cello, Nancy still managed to keep Taekwondo an integral part of her life. In late 2012 she earned her first−degree black belt, and in early 2013 certification as an assistant instructor. Towards the end of her Junior year she spent nearly eight hours a week working with younger students and leading classes, to her an unbeatable way to volunteer time.

Nancy plans to continue with both orchestra and martial arts once in college, not to mention pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and minor in Environmental Studies.

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Quintin Hall

Quintin Hall

Hometown: Chicago, IL

high school: Latin School of Chicago

college: Vanderbilt University

MAJOR: Biomedical Engineering

Quintin Malik Hall, often known as Q, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He is academically accomplished, a multi-talented actor, orator, trombonist, athlete, and humanitarian. Quintin values education as a world-changer in our society. He graduated from O. A. Thorp Scholastic Academy, on the city’s northwest side, with a full scholarship to one of Chicago’s elite high schools, The Latin School of Chicago. He is a LINK UNLIMITED Scholar. LINK provides educational college preparatory opportunities for economically disadvantaged African American high school youth. He has been on the Honor Roll throughout his high school career, is an Erasmus Award recipient, a National Merit Scholarship finalist, band president and track co-captain. Quintin attended Emory University’s summer 2013 Pre-College Program for Evolutionary Biology. There he received the Dooley Award for achievement as an outstanding resident life student. Quintin’s drive and determination epitomize the statement, “Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses; it is only when you accept everything you are −and aren’t −−−that you will truly succeed.”

Quintin grew up waiting for an absentee dad. He learned not to whine about mistakes but to learn from them. He has since learned the value of forgiveness— how it opens new horizons, doors of opportunity, and allows an individual to grow and prosper. His mother, Donna Blockett, is his foundation and support. She planted and nurtured the seed that grew Quintin’s unwavering trust in and the stronghold of God in his life. She modeled the lesson that struggles develop your strengths. People laughingly remind him that in a day his mom could leave the planet at 7am, go to the moon, and be back by 12:00 pm if that’s what was needed to move him forward.

Quintin loves music. He traveled with Latin School band to Germany. Every four years the band plays concerts abroad. Quintin once stated: “Music feels like a conversation that I am having with the composer. A crescendo means we’ve hit a mutual epiphany. A tempo is our transition from a relaxed discussion to an argument. A ritardando represents a transition of topics.” Playing the trombone is his safe haven.

He has always been an advocate for helping others. Quintin believes when we are blessed we should give back. In 2011 his cousin was incarcerated, leaving behind 6 children. His mom accepted the challenge of caring for the 2 youngest. This affected Quintin’s life tremendously. Quintin accepted this challenge without complaint. He has resolved to be an active part of their lives and their positive male role model. He thinks of them as siblings, not cousins. He does not want them to have the negative experiences he had.

Quintin is excited about this new chapter in his life. He is mindful individuals can be ever so brilliant but education is the key that unlocks any door. Quintin looks forward to continuing his quest to be the best, embracing and learning from new experiences, and being a part of the cure to help someone.

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Sean Means

Sean Means

Hometown: Charlottesville, VA

high school: Monticello

college: Stanford University

MAJOR: International Relations

Sean Means is a young man with dreams, aspirations, and the unrelenting determination and tenacity to obtain all that he desires. Born in Nashville, Tennessee to a single mother of limited means, Sean has taken the conditions he was born into and has created for himself a path to success. The eldest of three, Sean has taken on the mantle of protector and caregiver for his younger siblings. While his mother has worked hard to provide for him and his siblings, it has been Sean’s role to help out wherever he can, from washing clothes and making lunch to tutoring and editing papers. While at times the pressure to provide and to assist has become overwhelming, Sean has persevered, all with the hope of a better life for himself and those around him.

Since Kindergarten it has been Sean’s dream to attend college and make a life for himself. With his eyes on the prize, Sean has maintained a 4.66 GPA throughout high school, while at the same time participating in both football and wrestling along with a plethora of other activities including Model UN, Latin Club, and debate. Sean’s relentless effort in both his academic and extracurricular activities has paid off with his garnering a seat in his graduating class’s top ten along with capturing a spot on the Virginia AAA All- State Football Second Team and qualifying for Nationals in debate during the 2013-2014 season.

Yet with all of Sean’s success, his focus has not just been on himself. Just as he was taught years ago, Sean has taken the imitative to help others succeed in life. Through his church youth group and his school’s honor society programs, Sean has extended his influence to countless others, whether through simply tutoring a student in math, helping his classmates find and apply for scholarships, or volunteering during the summer to repair the homes of the elderly. Sean has set out to “be the change he wishes to see in the world,” the wise words inscribed on a button that he holds dear.

Sean is known around his school and community for his leadership and his compassion. Even before becoming a captain on his school’s football and wrestling teams, Sean encouraged his teammates and guided them both on and off the field, helping them remember plays on the field and formulas in the classroom. Moreover, in the forum of academia, Sean became a member of his school Student Advisory Council with the hope of working with administration to better meet the needs of the student body. In a school of a little more than a thousand, Sean has stood out as a man of exceptional leadership but also a man of great humility.

While Sean has gained success in his life, he attributes it to his strong-willed mother and his Christian upbringing. Sean hopes to major in international affairs and later gain his J.D., so that he may use legal knowledge to right injustice.

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Shayla Harris

Shayla Harris

Hometown: West Orange, NJ

high school: Kent Place School

college: University of Chicago

MAJOR: Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies

Shayla Harris is a leader from North New Jersey whose passion for learning and community serve as guiding principles. She has attended a prestigious all-girls school, Kent Place, since the 3rd grade where her intellectual curiosity has flourished. Shayla believes that challenge is key to personal growth, inspiring her to take several Advancement Placement classes. She received the distinction of AP Scholar with Honor in addition to being inducted into The French National Honor Society and being named a National Achievement Outstanding Participant. While Shayla’s numerous academic achievements are a great source of pride, the contributions she has made in her communities are equally important.

Though Shayla is grateful for the privileges she receives from her school community, she remains connected to and aware of the issues that face those less fortunate than herself. Therefore, it is her mission to combat social injustice and inequality through activism and volunteer work. As one of few minority students in her 3rd grade class, she recognized at a young age that her school’s homogenous demographic lacked perspective. She did not feel ostracized by her socioeconomic and racial differences; instead, she was inspired to make a change. As a senior, Shayla is the President of Kent Place’s Diversity Council and Vice President of Black Cultural Association. She strives to create an open and welcoming environment, while facilitating difficult discussions through weekly meetings and assemblies that teach her peers how to use their privilege to aid oppressed individuals and groups.

Shayla not only uses her voice to make a difference, she also evokes change by lending a helping hand in local communities. As a sophomore, she was selected to be Kent Place’s representative in the NJ Food Bank’s Teen Council and has been dedicated to the organization ever since, collecting, sorting and distributing food and other necessities. Shayla not only provides resources to the impoverished, she is also able to amplify their voice and raise awareness through an annual conference and service supported by Bridges Outreach, an organization that aids the homeless.

Shayla credits much of her success and ability to make a difference to her education, hard work and belief that everyone should have equal access. She shares this passion for learning through her involvement with a local organization, Little Angels Literacy Program. She tutors children with learning disabilities and teaches enrichment classes for students who are not being challenged in the classroom. Working with these children makes Shayla all the more grateful for her education and for initiatives like the Ron Brown Scholar Program. Shayla plans to major in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies, and would love to work with the Ron Brown Scholar Program’s network so she can uplift even more lives.

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Sojourner Ahebee

Sojourner Ahebee

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

high school: Interlochen Arts Academy

college: Stanford University

MAJOR: Comparative Literature

A “sojourner” is a visitor, one who travels and resides temporarily in a given place. When Sojourner Ahebee was born in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa, to an American mother and an Ivoirien father, she carried the history that her name possessed. After the first seven years of her life, and the subsequent death of her father, she, along with her family, would return to her mother’s original hometown of Philadelphia, leaving behind the Ivoirien Civil War, her beloved coconut tree, the taste of fried plantain on the tongue, and the only home she knew.

Upon her move to Philadelphia, Sojourner was struck by her new American classmates and their distorted perceptions concerning the continent of Africa. Sojourner remembers recounting to her new friends stories about Cote d’Ivoire. She told them of the seasons, and spoke of the flower plantations in Bingerville, but her classmates only laughed, bombarding her with questions like, “Did you live in a hut?” and “Did animals roam around the city?”

But Sojourner’s first American classroom experience was not an empty one. The questions posed by her classmates pushed her to consider her identity, and her history as a girl with two homes. The daughter of a poet, Sojourner began to write her first poems at the age of eight as a means of exploring these questions of identity, and that overwhelming feeling of having to walk between two worlds.

During Sojourner’s sophomore year of high school, she left Philadelphia to attend Interlochen Arts Academy, an arts boarding school in northern Michigan. For the past three years Sojourner has been studying creative writing, as well as maintaining a rigorous academic load. She has served as the editor of her school newspaper, the President of Interlochen’s chapter of Amnesty International, is currently the Vice President of her entire student body, as well as a co-editor-in-chief of Interlochen Arts Academy’s annual creative writing anthology, The Interlochen Review.

Aside from Sojourner’s school responsibilities, she has managed to garner many art-related awards as well. Sojourner’s poetry has been published in numerous literary magazines. She is a recipient of two gold medals from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her poetry, and in April of 2013 her 10-minute play entitled “Sparrows” won the Young Playwrights Festival in Traverse City, affording Sojourner a full production of her play.

This year, Sojourner will serve as one of five National Student Poets, the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. In September of 2013 Sojourner, as well as the four other student-poets, was received in the White House by Michelle Obama to garner her award. For a year, Sojourner and her fellow poets are taking on community service projects in which they interact with specific communities via poetry workshops. Sojourner has conducted several workshops with Alzheimer’s patients at a local nursing home, pushing the patients to consider the role that language and memory plays in their daily lives.

Sojourner Truth, an African-American abolitionist, as well as Sojourner Ahebee’s very own namesake, once said, “Truth is powerful and it prevails.” Through the power of language, Sojourner Ahebee aims at uncovering truth, uncovering narrative, and discovering the unlearned territory of the human heart.

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Tyrone Clay

Tyrone Clay

Hometown: New Orleans, LA

high school: Sci Academy

college: Swarthmore College

MAJOR: Political Science / English

New Orleans native Tyrone Clay is a humble scholar with a passion for the bettering others and himself. Tyrone’s mother raised him alone, and thus pasted onto him valuable lessons in persistence. It is mainly because of these lessons that he was able to work from special educational classes in elementary school into the top 10th percentile of his high school graduating class.

Noticing a lack of leadership within his environment, Tyrone has dedicated himself to his community. For two years, he has volunteered at the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), where he socialized animals and helped at sponsored events. In two class projects he has led two companies. On the issue of juvenile justice, he led a group of consultants, Ultra Consultants, who worked with the LCCR (Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights) to improve communication between young defendants and their attorneys. Consequently, they were recognized in a local newspaper. In addition to his consultant work, he was the CEO of a company that served as a support network for low-income, first-generation students at local universities and will lead a presentation to LSU during his senior summer. In school, he extended his commitment to this issue by becoming a College Captain who attempts to improve graduation and retention rates amongst his graduating class. In addition, he founded a tutoring club in which he became a personal mentor for a three students.

Tyrone is also a well-rounded scholar. He has played the baritone, trombone, snare and bass drum throughout his life. He has also played on his school’s football and track teams and has been an active member of the boxing club. For enjoyment, he writes in his journal, cooks for his family and makes others happy.

Tyrone’s philosophy is that he is simply the embodiment of the brilliance of his supporters. It is the effort, love and support so generously given that has put Tyrone in the position to leverage change and improvement in his community. He believes that it is his obligation to serve his community and plans to do so while pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science and English.

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Mathama Bility

Mathama Bility

Hometown: Cary, NC

high school: Salem Academy

college: Duke University

MAJOR: Public Policy / Film

Mathama believes in using life’s challenges and setbacks to build courage, compassion, and character. Through hard work and determination she has achieved much, both at school and within her community.

Motivated by her desire to tell visual stories that educate and inspire, Mathama has directed and produced three short documentary films in association with the Cary Youth Film Project. One of her films, Goodness Grows, a short film about the local−food movement in her community, won the “Viewer’s Choice Award” at its premiere.

With these achievements, Mathama was then able to work on larger-scale productions including a short film by Out of Our Minds Animations, an Academy Award winning studio where she completed a month−long internship. She was also awarded a scholarship to travel to England, producing a short documentary film on British youth culture while living with a host family. In January 2014, Mathama completed an internship with the Winston−Salem Arts Council. While there, she explored the business side of the arts industry and helped the non−profit to meet its annual campaign fundraising goal of $2.65 million.

Her passion for the performing arts also extends to theater, where she has used her leadership skills to direct, stage manage, and crew−head various productions. Last year, she was awarded her school’s “Stage Manager of the Year Award” for her efforts. As an actress, she has performed in several productions, including Thoroughly Modern Millie, Macbeth, and Annie. She is also currently the President of her school’s Theater Club. For her considerable contributions to the theater, Mathama has been inducted into the International Thespians’ Society as a lifetime member.

Attending Salem Academy, a prestigious all−girls boarding school in Winston−Salem, North Carolina, Mathama is an honors student. As an “A Better Chance” Scholar and Leadership Award winner, she attends Salem Academy as the recipient of the Dickerson Merit Scholarship. There, she directs student boarder life as House Council President. She is also a member of Student Council and the Honor Cabinet which addresses all infractions made against the school’s honor code. At school, Mathama devotes her time to the Black Student Union, Model UN, Key Club, and Art Club.

Recently, Mathama was selected to participate in Walt Disney World’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence magazine. In association with the Dreamers Academy, Mathama was a guest on WRAL−TV and has been featured in stories for the News and Observer and Black Entertainment Television.

Mathama aspires to work in the film industry. Ultimately, Mathama hopes her work in film will help her audiences lead more positive and fulfilling lives. She has a good start at doing just that.

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Devon Cash

Devon Cash

Hometown: Houston, TX

high school: Episcopal High School

college: Stanford University

MAJOR: Economics

Devon works in investment banking at Goldman Sachs in New York as a member of its activism and shareholder advisory practice. Devon graduated from Stanford University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and will soon enroll in Harvard Business School’s Master of Business Administration program as an HBS 2+2 cohort member. Outside his professional endeavors, Devon serves as an advisor to The Phoenix Scholars, a nonprofit that provides college counseling services to first generation, low income, and minority high school students. He previously served as Executive Director of the organization from 2017 to 2018.

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Gomian Konneh

Gomian Konneh

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

high school: Julia B. Masterman

college: University of Pennsylvania

MAJOR: Neuroscience

Gomian Naomi Konneh makes valiant and well−considered efforts in order to ensure the equal treatment of those seen as being inferior in today’s society. Gomian was first exposed to social injustice at a young age − hearing heroic tales of her grandparents marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, protesting alongside Louis Farrakhan at the Million−Man March, demonstrating alongside Cecil B. Moore at the desegregation of Girard College, and participating in a plethora of noteworthy events in the fight for civil rights for all citizens of the United States. It was this fundamental ethic of care that inspired her to take actions to ameliorate conditions within her Philadelphian community.

Gomian is the second daughter to parents Cynthia Small and Mohamed Konneh − her mother hailing from Philadelphia and her father from Liberia. With dreams of strengthening her speech−giving and leadership abilities, she participated and placed first in the many “Speech Meet” competitions organized by her small elementary school. Gomian won her school’s Oratorical Speech-Writing Contest and delivered a speech to the entire institution. She subsequently attended Julia R. Masterman Middle and High School in Philadelphia − where she honed her craft for speech-writing and in turn used that craft to promote social change. In ninth grade, Gomian was selected to deliver Masterman High School’s Blue Ribbon Speech − a speech congratulating the school on its newly−attained Blue Ribbon status − and used the time to discuss student morale and the importance of collective perseverance.

As the Associate Concertmaster of the Temple University’s Community Music Scholar Program String Ensemble, a violinist in the All−Philadelphia Orchestra, and a first violinist in her high school’s orchestra, Gomian became aware of the struggle to preserve arts education in public schools. She then got involved in the fight, delivering speeches at rallies in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall − holding Pennsylvania legislators accountable for the budget deficit; however, that was only the beginning of a long, harrowing battle. In order to alleviate the School District of Philadelphia’s “Doomsday Budget Crisis,” Pennsylvania lawmakers proposed a plan which cut teachers, arts education, counselors, libraries, accelerated learning, nurses, and countless other amenities from the district’s budget. Dozens of schools were closed, displacing thousands of kids. To help give students a voice amid the chaos, Gomian led a walkout in which over 5,000 students of Philadelphia’s public and charter schools walked out of their classes and marched through the streets in order to express their discontent to the citizens of Philadelphia. Gomian continues to speak at events encouraging the community to get involved in education reform in the city of Philadelphia.

Gomian’s honors include National Merit Outstanding Participant, the French National Honor Society, Masterman High School Poetry Out Loud Champion, National History Day Philadelphia Citywide First Place Champion, and National History Day Pennsylvania Statewide Third Place Champion. She participates in numerous activities, such as serving as a Track and Field Team Manager, a Philadelphia Student Union Activist, a buildOn community service leader, an African American Cultural Committee member, a student of the Thomas Jefferson University’s Medical School “Future Docs” program, a World Affairs Club member, a Student Government delegate, and many more.

Gomian will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2014 as a Biological Basis of Behavior (BBB) major. She wishes to become an Ophthalmologist in the future.

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