Announcing Junior Achievement’s 18 Under 18 Class of 2024

May 21, 2024 | News

Last week, Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM) honored its 18 Under 18 Class of 2024, sponsored by Teddy Bear Pools and Spas, at Tower Square in Springfield. The event, which was also sponsored by The UPS Store and Holyoke Community College, provided the opportunity to spotlight outstanding young people throughout Western Massachusetts and surrounding areas who exemplify innovative spirit, leadership and community involvement.

The program included poster board displays by the students; remarks by Ted Hebert, owner, Teddy Bear Pools and Spas; Tracey Alves-Lear, JA of Western MA Board Chair; Brooke Sokoloff-Adams, director of student development, Holyoke Community College; and individual student recognition.

“This is our third year honoring students in this special way, and we were pleased with the outstanding caliber of the nominations we received,” said Amie Miarecki, president, JAWM. “We feel so inspired by the amazing young people in our community, and are delighted to highlight the impact they are making. We hope the whole community joins us in applauding them for their achievements and community contributions.”

The following students comprise the 18 Under 18 Class of 2024:

Aarav Trehan, Grade 12, Longmeadow High School. After graduation, Trehan plans to pursue a degree in finance. One day he hopes to work as an investment banker. His community involvement is centered around helping youth, as he coaches a basketball team in the winter, volunteers as a summer camp counselor and tutors students in various subjects. During the holidays, Trehan builds gift baskets for underprivileged children. He has also started his own online clothing business.

Aiden Kane, Grade 12, Agawam High School. Kane is the student representative to the school committee, president of Best Buddies, and a member of the AHS Jazz Band, track and field team, Prom Committee, Peer Mediation, Model Congress, and Helping Hands Club. He plans to attend Springfield Technical Community College in the fall for two years, then transfer to the University of Massachusetts for a degree in political science.

A’jahna Johnson, Grade 12, Chicopee Comprehensive High School. AJohnson was admitted to the esteemed EMT Academy offered by Chicopee Public Schools. She is currently undergoing training to become an emergency medical technician, a pursuit that aligns with her aspirations of a future career in nursing. She has set her sights on pursuing a nursing degree at Delaware State University (HBCU) in the upcoming fall semester.

Haileigh Swistak, Grade 12, Quaboag Regional High School. Swistak will be attending Wheaton College in the fall. She plans on majoring in creative writing and possibly minoring in theater. For the past two years, she has been stage director for Quaboag’s Theater Program, and has self-published two poetry collections: Raindrops in April and Roses in May.

Isabella Oliveira, Grade 11, Agawam High School. Oliveira serves as president of her school’s chapter of Future Teachers of America, where she created a successful Prom Closet for her school. She is also a member of the District Attorney’s Youth Advisory Board and has taken on a leadership role for the Inclusion and Diversity Committee. In school, she is vice president of Peer Leadership and was named president of the Best Buddies club for next year. She plans to pursue a doctorate in pharmacy to become a pharmaceutical scientist.

Jasmine Griffin, Grade 12, East Longmeadow High School. Griffin plans to attend the University of Hartford this fall as a nursing major. Her passion for healthcare and desire to make a positive impact in this crucial field have driven her career choice. As part of the Women’s Fund Young Women’s Advisory Council Cohort – 2022 National Project, she has been actively engaged in creating prosperity for young women. She is dedicated to championing diverse representation, supporting underrepresented communities and working towards equitable access to healthcare for all.

Jayden Lopez, Grade 12, Holyoke High School. Last year, Lopez worked with Enlace De Familia’s Betty Medina Lichtenstein on a new community event: the Holyoke Community Expo & Celebration. The event was for entrepreneurs and local artists to showcase and sell their work to the community. He is also a teaching fellow at Generation Teach, helping sixth grade students with reading and art. He has committed to Emerson College in Boston for the fall, and will major in comedic arts as a writer and entertainer.

Jordan Wetherell, Grade 11, Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School. As a dedicated business technology student, Wetherell has honed her skills in marketing, management, entrepreneurship, and customer service, all while pursuing a Microsoft certification. She also manages the school store, serves as a Peer Tutor, assists at the Palmer Public Library and volunteers at her dojang’s taekwondo summer camp.

Lila Broadley, Grade 11, Quaboag Regional Middle-High School. Broadley is a member of the Lucy Stone Chapter of the National Honor Society, a member of the Women in Business Club, president of the Environmental Club and plans to start a student-led school newspaper next fall. Last summer, she interned for the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office and represented her school at the Massachusetts State House in Boston for the 77th annual Student Government Day. She plans to attend law school and practice either business or environmental law.

Lucy Hildreth, Grade 11, Agawam High School. Hildreth has served as president of her school’s Sign Language Club for the last three years; is a leader of the school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), promoting LGBTQIA+ friendly actions and events; and has recently begun volunteering with Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen in Chicopee. Last year, she worked with the District Attorney’s Office on the Youth Advisory Board with the Inclusion Committee. An entrepreneur and owner of a small business, Textile Terrarium, Hildreth is beginning her experience in women- and queer-owned establishments.

Mah’dee Naylor Jr., Grade 10, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. As an active member of the New England Public Media (NEPM) Youth Media Lab, Naylor has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to media production and community engagement. They also serve as finance officer, usher and youth leader at Dwelling Place Church, and work with Parent Villages and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. They have earned awards for oratorical competitions and play varsity baseball.

Martha Brannstrom, Grade 12, Longmeadow High School. Brannstrom has long been on the move, having lived in Chicago, South Carolina, Texas and Shanghai, China before moving to Massachusetts. She has served as class president for the past three years, was elected student government representative for her school at Student Government Day in Boston and served as an intern for regional political campaigns including Eric Lesser in his Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts race and Eric Coleman in his Mayor of Hartford, Connecticut race. She plans to study political science at the University of Amsterdam.

Mychal Connolly Jr., Grade 12, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. Connolly’s first venture into the entrepreneurial world was co-authoring a motivational book titled Realistic CEO with his father. The goal of the book is to inspire young people to chase their entrepreneurial dreams, no matter the odds. Building on this foundation, he launched the “Realistic CEO” podcast, a platform where he continues to demystify the journey to corporate leadership by interviewing successful CEOs and business owners. He plans to study communication in college in preparation for his own CEO journey.

Nicholas Kendra, Grade 12, Chicopee High School. Kendra is a member of the National Honor Society and an intern at River Mills Center in Chicopee, where he troubleshoots seniors’ technological issues. He also assisted in teaching a five-week iPad course and various workshops. He is a member of the Ronald McDonald House of Springfield Teen Board, plays on his school’s soccer and baseball teams, and is certified in first aid and CPR. He intends to major in cybersecurity at Marist College in the fall.

Qua’Nae Golston Thomas, Grade 12, Holyoke High School. Golston Thomas produces her own podcast, Let’s Talk with Qua’Nae, and recently co-collaborated with Holyoke Public Schools, UMass College of Education and Wistariahurst Museum to form the Youth Archivists for Social Change program. She has worked for the Generation Team program as a teaching fellow, and was a peer teacher for Acceleration Academy. Through her involvement with Global Glimpse, she went to Aquiares, Costa Rica to volunteer for communities in need. Golston Thomas plans to go to Southern University at New Orleans to study criminal justice, and then attend law school to become a criminal defense lawyer. Her long-term aspiration is to become a Supreme Court justice.

Nicholas Rodriguez, Grade 11, Holyoke High school. Rodriguez participates in a broad variety of extracurricular activities including the chess club, As Schools Match Wits Club and the Holyoke High Theater Company. He served as a member of the Holyoke High redesign team and as the Holyoke High representative on the school committee. He also volunteers to take disabled students ice skating at the Fitzpatrick Skating Rink in conjunction with the Holyoke High Athletics Department, and delivers food to the elderly within his religious community. He hopes to be accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering with a minor in robotics.

Siobhan Armstrong, Grade 11, Holyoke High School. Armstrong is member of her school’s Business Club, Garden Club and As Schools Match Wits Team. She serves as a kid camp counselor at Summer Bible Camp and volunteers at Blessed Sacrament School and Parish. An avid athlete, she is a three-time All-Western Mass Recipient for Field Hockey, was voted team captain as a junior for both the field hockey team and indoor and outdoor track and field team, and received the MIAA Women in Sports Award in 2023. Armstrong plans to study public health in hopes of becoming an epidemiologist, specifically hoping to study cancer research and prevention globally.

Zainab Sheikh, Grade 11, Longmeadow High School. Sheikh was elected to represent Western Massachusetts on the Massachusetts Association of Student Councils State Board, to represent her high school on the Regional Board and to attend Girls State in the Summer at Stonehill College. She was nominated to Governor Healy’s Youth Advisory Council, receiving the Commonwealth Award, and received the Jane Bellows Award. She is a class officer and a member of the LHS Writing Center Executive Board, Anti-Racism Committee, Mock Trial, Women in STEM, Students Together Against Negative Decisions, Red Cross Club, Best Buddies Club and Science Olympiad. She plans to become a dentist.

Nominations for 18 Under 18 were open to anyone 18 years or younger who attends school in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin or Berkshire counties, as well as the Quaboag and Tantasqua regional school districts and the state of Vermont. Judging criteria were divided into three categories: innovative spirit, leadership and community involvement.




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