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Emory Youth Partnership Teens Speak Out about Leadership

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VOX’s Atlanta Teen Voices Teen Editor Christian Stallworth co-facilitated a workshop, produced this video and and shares her experience with Emory University’s Atlanta Youth Partnership. After several activities and discussion about empowering youth to create change through leadership, the teens recorded video and wrote pieces capturing their experiences and sharing their voices.

The room at Emory was full of excited teenagers from different schools around Atlanta. The workshop was about leadership and about developing leadership skills while highlighting what a leader truly is. The interaction and engagement from the teens stuck out to me the most during the workshop. They all seemed so enthused to be participating and quick to share their opinions.

The biggest moment for me was after the Marshmallow Challenge, which involved them building the tallest freestanding structure they could within a certain amount of time using only tape, string, spaghetti and a marshmallow. When we asked about their frustration, they all came up with these relatable, hilarious outbursts, and it was so rewarding that they felt like they could speak freely and openly without raising their hands. There were little to no silent moments throughout the day, which as a facilitator, I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt I connected with these teens as far as their energy goes, and their quickness to jump at the questions and discussions made it easier for me to guide them. I enjoyed seeing their family dynamic and feeling like I was a part of the relationships these teens shared.

Ann-Marie Abunyewa, 15, Wheeler High School

The world should know that being a leader brings many challenges, such as organization, interacting with new people, and possibly stepping out of your comfort zone. However, being a leader for anything, no matter how minor or important, always connects you with a sense of huge accomplishment, because you were able to work towards a solution that everyone supports, and that is always rewarding.

A leader can always address the situation — what worked well and what needs improvement — and work with others to collaboratively create a solution that everyone can support.

No matter what, a leader should always support others. Whether it be moral support or respecting others’ ideas, a leader should be able to provide support to others to strengthen the team in which he or she works. I always show support for others by being open-minded and respectful, and I find this as a wonderful way to feel connected others.

Emory Picture 1
Emory Youth Partnership Teens participate in the Marshmallow Challenge. All photos by Sarah Garnitz, director of VOX’s Atlanta Teen Voices program.

Jade Rutledge, 16, Wheeler High School

Leaders come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, but all great leaders share many of the same traits. These qualities found in the most successful and influential leaders are very important to be accepted by your peers and not come off as overbearing or bossy. Relating to the True Colors test, I believe that some of the greatest leaders have great traits that do not is just come from gold. I feel that a leader should also be a little blue; they must be true to themselves to not come off as hypocritical to others and be adaptable if plans do not work out because when they do not, others will look to them for a stability and support. A leader should also have a dash of green because they should always push themselves and others to improve and strive for perfection in everything they do. A great leader also has a sprinkle of orange because they are who people look up to so they should not buckle under pressure, and they should be great communicators with anyone they meet. Not only  a leader all of the traits listed above, but also they must be confident in every step of the way in their journey.


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Shelby Smith, 16, Locust Grove High School

As a leader, it is important to be creative and confident in your work. Being creative helps with problems you or your team may have on a project. Some conflicts need a creative solution that most people would not think of. A leader also needs to be confident in their work and what they are saying. No one will trust a leader who seems timid when a problem occurs. You can be confident without being a jerk and putting everyone around you down in the process. Confidence is the way you present yourself, not by the bossy tone you use to get people to do what you want. A good leader would do and be both successfully.

Emory Youth Partnership Teens


Destiny Williams, 16, Booker T. Washington High School

The single most important trait for a leader to have is self-confidence. If a leader doesn’t have self-confidence, how can he or she be sure that he or she is worthy of leading someone. I have displayed self-confidence because in my school when I speak to people, I am not only representing myself, but also others as well, so I hold my head high, speak firmly, and let my appearance be shown. I show that I am not afraid and that I believe what I am saying.


Brandi Byner, 16, Booker T. Washington High School

Doing what’s right for yourself is always important. Sometimes others can tell you what’s not in the best interest for you, but as a leader, you have to stand up for what you believe in. It’s good to listen to other’s opinions, but you should always think about what’s best for you and what would positively affect you. Recently, a close friend of mine told me that I do what “I” want and don’t care about the negativity from others. She said that’s something she likes about me so basically, as a leader, you should always have confidence in what you’re doing.

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Aaron Johnson, 16, Hillgrove High School

One quality that I feel a leader should have is charisma. Charisma is an important leadership quality because when it comes down to it, a leader needs to be able to convince people that everything will be okay when it isn’t. If you look in history, all of the greatest leaders were able to convince their people that everything was great right before their demise. I am not a charismatic person, but one day, I hope to be a leader that has enough charisma to make people forget their fears and not worry as much as they should.


Yurine Nguiwenga-Nketcha, 15, Joseph Wheeler High School

I feel like the most important trait for a leader is determination. I chose determination because without it, the leader would not be able to push on through hardships. It allows the leader to not stop until the goal is achieved. A determined leader is also an inspiration to those who look up to them. Seeing their leader being as committed as he/she can will motivate followers to also reach their goals. An example of someone like this is Martin Luther King. Nobody could have changed his views. He fought for what he believed in during any circumstance. This is very admirable, and I aspire to be like him.


Emory Picture 2

Lindsey Foxx/Lance Rivers, 15, Mays High School

What? A leader? Impossible!

What is a leader?

Well…a leader is someone with mental strength,

The confidence to believe in what they stand for.

Could a leader stand alone? Of course not!

A leader needs a team! People, no…not people.

Leaders have fought for the LGBT!

Leaders have fought for the beautiful races of this country!

What am I?

A young African-American?

A transgendered individual? No!

I am a leader! I’m a proud leader!

And I am not afraid to fight!


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Interested in a Atlanta Teen Voices workshop for your organization? 

With the goal of amplifying the voices of teens across metro Atlanta, VOX’s Atlanta Teen Voices program offers workshops where teens can speak-up, write, and create art and media to be shared on To collectively impact our community through raising and sharing teens’ voices, contact Sarah Garnitz at



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