Or­ga­ni­za­tion helps turn stu­dents into top teens

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

Area teens are get­ting posthigh school ex­pe­ri­ence—such as learn­ing how to dress, pre­pare and per­form dur­ing col­lege and job in­ter­views — on be­half of an or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing stu­dents with lead­er­ship and com­mu­nity outreach op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The South­ern Mary­land Chap­ter of Top Teens of Amer­ica, a pro­gram es­tab­lished by the Top Ladies of Dis­tinc­tion, Inc., brought over 100 teens from the District of Columbia, Mary­land and Vir­ginia (DMV) area dur­ing its sec­ond an­nual Lead­er­ship and Com­mu­nity Outreach Fo­rum last month at Na­tional Har­bor.

The con­fer­ence pro­vided lead­er­ship train­ing and the op­por­tu­nity for par­tic­i­pants to net­work and share ideas with oth­ers from around the DMV, fo­cus­ing on pro­vid­ing youth with ex­pe­ri­en­tial ed­u­ca­tion on lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment, civic en­gage­ment, men­tor­ship, so­cial me­dia/job eti­quette, and en­trepreneur­ship, ac­cord­ing to An­gela John­son, pro­gram ad­vi­sor and char­ter mem­ber of the South­ern Mary­land Chap­ter of Top Ladies of Dis­tinc­tion, Inc.

“The lead­er­ship fo­rum has every­thing to do with our ex­ter­nal projects, lead­er­ship and em­pow­er­ment of our teens,” John­son said. The South­ern Mary­land chap­ter has 31 stu­dents in­volved from the area and John­son said since in­cep­tion, in 2012, all have grad­u­ated high school and go on to col­lege.

“We try to stay in con­tact with them and keep them in­volved and we make it a point to do what­ever we can in terms of rais­ing funds so we can pro­vide schol­ar­ships for our teens for the hard work they’ve done,” John­son said.

Lau­ren Rather, 18, of Wal­dorf grad­u­ated from Thomas Stone High School and is now a psy­chol­ogy ma­jor at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Col­lege Park.

“I’m more of an in­tro­verted and shy per­son so it brought me lead­er­ship roles and it was a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence help­ing my com­mu­nity,” Rather said. Rather par­tic­i­pated in the chap­ter’s lit­er­acy group which trav­eled to dif­fer­ent se­nior ci­ti­zen lo­ca­tions in the area and in­volved the teens in read­ing, gar­den­ing and craft­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with the se­niors.

Rather also par­tic­i­pated in mul­ti­ple fundrais­ers the chap­ter is in­volved with to ben­e­fit causes such as the cure for sickle cell and Alzheimer’s dis­ease and the March of Dimes.

“I got to meet a lot of amaz­ing peo­ple in the com­mu­nity and I’m still in con­tact with a lot of them,” Rather said. “It’s great hav­ing a net­work and sup­port sys­tem be­hind me.”

Be­cause of her ef­forts, Rather was awarded as the chap­ter’s Miss Top Teen of Amer­ica and said the or­ga­ni­za­tion brought her lead­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties and the abil­ity to serve her com­mu­nity.

“She is a re­mark­able ex­am­ple of what it means to be a top teen,” John­son said of Rather.

Eric Thomp­son, Jr., 16, a stu­dent at Thomas Stone High School, was the youngest teen in the chap­ter to be elected pres­i­dent by his peers this year. The Wal­dorf res­i­dent has been with the chap­ter for 2 and a half years and said par­tic­i­pat­ing has helped him be­come a leader.

“It’s an or­ga­ni­za­tion that mo­ti­vates you to be­come a leader and they re­ally take their time to help us out to be more pro­fes­sional and get us ready for the real world… I don’t re­ally like to dress up but it’s a re­quire­ment for the events here,” Thomp­son said.

The chap­ter has part­ner­ships with sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions in the area, in­clud­ing Life­Styles of Mary­land, Inc., Gen­e­sis Health­Care, The Kappa Al­pha Psi De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion (South­ern Mary- land) and the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple’s Youth Divi­sion (South­ern Mary­land Chap­ter) in ad­di­tion to area schools’ govern­ment as­so­ci­a­tions and honor so­ci­eties.

The group will be in­duct­ing new mem­bers in June and the next fo­rum is sched­uled for May 2017. For more in­for­ma­tion about the or­ga­ni­za­tion or to get in­volved, go to http:// www.south­ern­mary­landt­lod. org/.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTOS

Eric Thomp­son, Jr., (left) pres­i­dent of the South­ern Mary­land Chap­ter of Top Teens of Amer­ica greets An­drew Nguyen (right), pres­i­dent and CEO of the O Agency and Brand by Drew, at the Lead­er­ship and Com­mu­nity and Outreach Fo­rum in March.

Lau­ren Rather, for­mer Miss Top Teen of Amer­ica — South­ern Mary­land Chap­ter, de­liv­ers the oc­ca­sion at the Lead­er­ship and Com­mu­nity Outreach Fo­rum in March.

The South­ern Mary­land Chap­ter of Top Teens of Amer­ica, a pro­gram es­tab­lished by the Top Ladies of Dis­tinc­tion, Inc., brought over 100 teens from the District of Columbia, Mary­land and Vir­ginia area dur­ing its sec­ond an­nual Lead­er­ship and Com­mu­nity Outreach Fo­rum last month at Na­tional Har­bor.

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