Simit Shah spent the summer of 1993 preparing to be the editor of his high school newspaper, The Pitchfork.
As he was reading the Sunday, June 13 edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he came across a story about this group of teens producing a teen newspaper.
At the end of the story there was a phone number to call if you wanted to participate. So, the rising Marietta High School senior called. But no one answered. So he waited and tried again.
“I had to stay at it a bit,” Simit remembered. Finally, he connected with 23-year-old Rachel Alterman, whose home phone number had been published with the story in the Sunday AJC.
“He was one of the first teens to call in response, and I remember thinking: I guess I’d better figure out a game plan for what to do with teens who want to be involved.” Rachel said. “So I set up a some training days with local journalists at the Atlanta Project offices in City Hall East. Simit was there — and committed to writing and learning graphic design to publish VOX during the next school year.”
That impromptu gameplan was VOX’s first summer program, and while the early days of something new can be exciting, they can also be tough. Simit’s work in the summer program turned into late nights at the offices of Business Atlanta magazine — where Rachel formerly worked as an editor — laying out the VOX Newspaper.
“To be involved with VOX (back then) you had to really want it,” Simit said. “It wasn’t the easiest thing to do. It was a little bit of a rag tag group. But the experience was great. It was all worth it.”
Simit stayed involved for a while after graduating and heading to Georgia Tech for college. He “found his voice” through writing about sports at VOX, including a story on Atlanta Braves third baseman Terry Pendleton.
“It was a great catapult,” said Simit, who now works for the Georgia Tech Athletic Association as a digital strategy consultant.
Literally the day after his graduation from Georgia Tech in 1999, Simit headed down the street and joined Turner Broadcasting as CNN’s webmaster and rose to the role of director of web operations in January 2005.
It was that same year that he began to officially reconnect with VOX as a volunteer from Turner, which had been a supporter of VOX since the mid-1990s.
In July 2006, Simit joined the VOX Board of Directors, a move that was very special to Rachel since he was one of VOX’s early teens.“He’d already been giving back as a donor and a volunteer – but returning to the organization as a Board member and ultimately serving as Board Chair is uniquely powerful,” she said.
Simit remembered his early Board days as an “eye-opening experience” since he hadn’t served on the Board as a teen at VOX.
“There was a level of respect and intimidation,” he said. “It was great seeing how VOX had changed from rag tag to a real organization.”
Simit became Board Chair after the economy went into recession and as VOX began planning for an executive transition.
“But he remained dedicated and determined — and helped VOX grow through challenging times, never wavering in his support of our mission, our hard-working staff, and the impact we can make for Atlanta-area teens,” Rachel said.
That passion and commitment resonated within the walls of Turner, which was thrilled to have a former VOX teen as their Board representative to one of their priority organizations.
“Simit was super helpful for our department to have as a liaison,” said Kristina Christy, Director, Corporate Responsibility, Turner Broadcasting System. “He helped spread the word of our support throughout CNN.”
The enduring idea of voice is what always drove and continues to drive Simit’s passion for VOX.
“At the core, it’s people fighting for their right to be heard,” he said. “That’s what VOX is.” As the world gets smaller, there are fewer places to go without being judged. At the core, the mission is so pure.”