Organization helps turn students into top teens
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/.
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.