Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Angelica Martini & Hadiyah Weaver (Central High School & Cordova High School)
In partnership with International Paper, the National Civil Rights Museum awarded three local teenagers the 2015 Keeper of the Dream Award on October 22. Antonio Scott, Emma Johnson and Marlena Mireles have worked to combat challenging issues such as poverty, addiction and hunger and have served as examples to youth and adults in the community.
Scott, Johnson and Mireles were recognized during the museum’s Freedom Award Public Forum at Temple of Deliverance, 369 G. E. Patterson.
Scott, a Houston High School senior, has worked with the Houston High Student Taking Action Today, Houston vs Hunger to donate over 800 cans and raise more than $3,000 for the Mid-South Food Bank, has directed the school’s Salvation Army Angel Tree Drive, has served as editor for the student newspaper, has dedicated hours to academic tutoring and has been the Tennessee School Board Association’s Student Congress on Policies in Education student representative.
Johnson, a sophomore at Evangelical Christian School, was one of eight students last year who proposed the Mayor’s Youth Council to facilitate students working with local lawmakers. She is involved with the Model United Nations, has interned at the New Memphis Institute, has served as a Student Leadership University Ambassador and has volunteered with Memphis Legal Aid. She is working with state legislators to propose a bill that would require police officers to carry the antidote for heroin to stem the number of youth who die from overdose.
Mireles, a Kingsbury High School senior, volunteers with Streets Ministries, serving as the organization’s leader for education and outreach programs. For the past three years she has worked closely with second graders in the Streets Smarts afterschool program to help with homework and to build stronger reading skills. Through Streets Ministries she mentors her high school aged peers, assists with middle school summer camps and works on events with the Memphis Police Department’s Hispanic Outreach Program and Services.
The Teen Appeal’s Hadiyah Weaver interviewed Johnson to see what motivates her and to see why she is so involved with the community.
Johnson has been actively involved in Model United Nations since her sixth grade year, and participates in Youth Government. Johnson, along with eight of her peers, proposed the Mayor’s Youth Council to offer local government new perspectives facing youth. On top of all of this, Johnson is currently working with state legislators to propose a bill that would allow police officers to carry a heroin antidote to offset the rising number of heroin overdoses in youth today.
At just 15-years-old, Johnson is ready to mark her stamp in the world. She said the bill proposal all came from Johnson reading an article in a magazine.
Besides being a part of 11 extracurricular activities or clubs, being a dancer, and proposing a bill, Johnson plays the harp, piano, and is even an Advanced Placement and Honors student.
When asked how it feels to be her, Jonson responded, “[That’s] a really good question. It’s not one that I ever really thought about. I don’t really think about what I’m doing sometimes, and once you kind of stop and think about it, you’re like ‘Wow, I sometimes do too much.”
Johnson maintains good grades with hopes of attending the University of Oxford in England in a few short years. She would like to become a lawyer someday.
“Each time I tell people that [I want to go there], they’re always like, [do] you really think you’re getting in there?” Johnson said with a laugh. “My mom and my dad have been the biggest instigators, [they] have really opened up a lot of opportunities for me,” Johnson said. “That’s why I’m very thankful that they have pushed me to not sit at home and read books all day, and get involved.”
Johnson concluded the interview by saying, “There’s a quote from Shakespeare that I have on the inside of my ring and it says, ‘There’s a world elsewhere.’ I think that helps me with internalizing that this is not me, I have a very short time [here] and I guess [I have] to make the most of that.”
Teen Appeal reporter Angelica Martini also interviewed Scott.
For Houston High School senior Antonio Scott practicing community philanthropy drives his ambition to spread awareness as well as impact the lives of the people in his community. This mindset and overall commitment to change is what lead the Jackson, Tennessee native to be the recipient of the 2015 Keeper of the Dream award.
Learning the importance of awareness was vital to Scott and his family beginning at a young age. As a small boy growing up in in urban Jackson he enjoyed watching the news with his grandma and practiced his literacy by reading the newspaper. He relied on his own personal English teacher, his mother, to guide him through learning new words and staying up to date on current events. And when his family traveled, which was often, he was gracefully forced into reading every road sign. It was 2013 when Scott found himself in the midst of Houston High School in Germantown.
“It was different,” Scott said. “I went from being in a school with only 400 people to a school where there were 430 in one grade alone.”
Little did Houston High know that this newcomer would bring big ideas to an even bigger campus. One teacher in particular made an impression on Scott. On the first day his etymology and Latin teacher Dr. Abigail Simone was hospitable: Greeting him and making sure that he felt welcomed. She motivated him into being active in the school. During his first year in the Memphis-area he co-founded the Houston High School Students Taking Action Today organization sponsored by Simone.
“What many students don’t know is that we are living in the poverty capital of America and it was my mission to change that,” Scott said.
And with this in mind Scott was ready to take charge and make a change. Nevertheless, there was one situation that had to be addressed.
Scott thought, “How do we help people understand the realness of poverty when our school is comprised of students who come from a more privileged area?”
So he did what most teenagers do, he took it to social media. Houston was flooded with tweets, Facebook posts, anything that could remind the diverse student body of the importance of giving back.
“Everyone here loves their city, so our ultimate goal was to give back as much as we could,” Scott said.
In the end Houston vs. Hunger accumulated over 800 cans and $3,000 to donate to the Mid-South Food Bank. This work earned the STAT program two of the prestigious national Jefferson awards for public service.
Additionally Scott has also served as director of the Houston Salvation Army Angel Tree Drive. And for the past two years he has been the President of Houston’s student council.