Feeling hopeless about the state of the world? Of course you are! I am sorry to ask a silly question.
I have something to help. No, it’s not a giant slice of chocolate cake; it is better. Last week, I was invited to a meeting of the Athena Society via Zoom. The group was honoring its 2021 Dr. Sylvia Richardson Young Women of Promise.
Tiny digital boxes are still the safest way to gather, but by this point, it can feel disconnected. So I shocked myself when I started taking copious notes and doing that thing where you squint and nod in an impassioned way, even when your camera is off.
Not only have these teens adapted to hard times, they’ve thrived. They all had a certain sparkle, reminiscent of when we were not yet dead inside. I knew I had to tell you about them, to spread the juju.
The Athena Society came together in 1976 to support the Equal Rights Amendment. The Tampa business leaders seek young women who model the same principles. Each of the 13 teens got a $500 grant. As a bonus, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, came on the call and offered them a chance to intern for her office.
Then, the adults made way. The winners, all 16 or 17 years old, got to talk about their lives and goals. They want to end gun violence and racial inequities, close the wage gap and find common ground. They want to save the world.
Anya Patidar of King High plans to become a plastic surgeon to help victims of acid attacks. Yasamin Khosh of Freedom High helped register 1,500 people to vote.
DeAndrea Daughtry was on track to graduate Riverview High with two years of college done. Anabella Bragdon of Brooks DeBartolo High overcame a stutter, and Angelica Fogarty of Academy of the Holy Names went through spinal fusion surgery.
Tatyannah Santos-Lopez, a.k.a Miss Riverview Teen USA of East Bay High, joined the ceremony on her way to a flag football game. She runs a foundation that gives books to needy kids and let us all know she will be the first Hispanic female president.
Alyssa Garza maintains a 6.19 grade point average at Gaither High on her way to becoming a journalist. Asher Montgomery from Hillsborough High is an accomplished reporter, too. “Nobody is too small to listen to, and nobody is too big to challenge,” she said.
Okay, before you feel bad that your crowning achievement at 16 was sneaking into a screening of There’s Something About Mary, fear not. They are regular teenagers who work at Target, bake, dance, sing and babysit. Some are unsure of their paths.
“In all honesty, I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life,” said Arlie Rubin of Plant High. She loves to talk and knows that slowing down and listening will be the key to making change happen.
“We’re in desperate need of people who can connect with others who are most unlike themselves,” she said.
Now, that’s a promise.
Because I would be devastated if I got an award like this and my name wasn’t mentioned, here are the winners: Anabella Bragdon, DeAndrea Daughtry, Peyton Finchum, Angelica Fogarty, Alyssa Garza, Yasamin Khosh, Asher Montgomery, Anya Patidar, Emily Patrick, Arlie Rubin, Tatyannah Santos-Lopez, Anika Shah and Cameron Siler-Nixon.
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