Meet Your 2018 Washington Youth Tour Delegates
Each year, Jackson EMC selects four high school students to participate in a weeklong leadership and learning opportunity in Washington, D.C. This year’s Washington Youth Tour delegates have diverse backgrounds and interests, yet they share our values of teamwork, integrity and community service.
This June, Ebun Ajayi, Luke Bell, Andie Ellett and Briani Netzahuatl will join more than 1,700 Washington Youth Tour participants from electric co-ops across the country in the nation’s Capitol.
Briani Netzahuatl: Mountain View High School
Briani, a rising senior, is passionate about the Student Leadership Team, where she serves as communications chair, and its impact on students and the community. “It’s a great opportunity to collaborate as a team in creating monthly projects that benefit our community and help students get involved,” Briani said. Each month the team selects a big project. They have organized a donation drive for personal hygiene items for the local women’s shelter, a blood drive, and an international night for the entire community to celebrate different cultures. Briani said she values quality over quantity in all her endeavors and strives for an inclusive community-wide service-oriented atmosphere where students can grow and meet others while volunteering.
“My favorite project this year was the Prom Promise,” she said. Briani led the communication effort in bringing a nationally-known speaker and creating a week of programming before prom. “Many people in our community have been affected by drunk driving and recklessness or know someone who has,” she continued. “Students sign a pledge not to drink at prom, and I think we are making a difference in saving lives.”
Additionally, she serves as a volunteer at the North Gwinnett Co-Op, where she organizes, sorts and stacks food and clothes for the pantries and at the Planned Pethood Animal Shelter. “I love
community service work where I can see the people we are helping and serving,” she said. Briani plans a career in journalism.
Andie Ellett: Jackson County Comprehensive High School
Andie, a rising senior, became immersed in 4-H Club after a “Bring a Friend Day” event when she was nine years old. She joined the Llama Club and has risen to the national top 10 in showmanship.
“Llamas have a charming personality,” Andie said. “Animals are complex and have taught me to find the root of a problem. When a llama displays a behavior issue, I look for the ‘why’ behind it; something is a direct cause of the behavior. I’ve learned to apply this lesson to real world situations.”
In addition to her work with Llama Club in 4-H, Andie mentors elementary-age girls and participates in a variety of 4-H volunteer projects and teaches at state 4-H events. “She is intentional,” said Ali Merk, University of Georgia 4-H Agent, Jackson County Extension. “She has led numerous classes and programs under her own leadership.”
While her love for animals continues in her volunteer work for the Humane Society of Jackson County and a wildlife rehabilitation center, she also has a heart for senior citizens. She has led efforts to make more than 170 scarves and hats as Christmas gifts and has created variety shows for holiday parties, both for a local senior center. Plus, she takes her llamas to visitation days at nursing homes. “I find the most joy in life when I am helping others, especially in my community,” she said.
Andie plans to major in drama and business marketing for a career in the film industry.
Ebun Ajayi: Peachtree Ridge High School
Ebun realized how daunting the experience can be for new students. At the time, she had trouble navigating the school campus, sat alone at lunch and felt isolated since she didn’t know anyone at the school. As Ebun began talking to other students she discovered many had the same experience when they transferred from out of district. So, she approached the administration with her idea for a “Welcome Team” program. Principals, counselors and teachers embraced her idea. Her creation was so successful that it has been expanded to other schools in Gwinnett County.
“I’m grateful that my experiences have been able to help others,” said Ebun, now a rising junior. When she receives a list of new students from counselors, her team moves into action—writing notes, giving tours, sending invitations to sporting events and fine arts programs. “She is always willing to volunteer her time to serve fellow students,” said Peachtree Ridge Assistant Principal Lynne Best.
Ebun has a passion for connecting students on a deep, personal level. “Community is a support system that motivates and inspires me,” she said. “Friends are so important— they change you—either helping you or breaking you. It’s critical to be surrounded by people who share your values.”
In addition to the Welcome Team, Ebun runs on the track and field team, serves as chair of the Student Council Relay for Life team, is vice president of the Pan African Student Association, and tutors elementary students in math. Plus, she led a team of students who raised enough money to purchase two pumps that would bring clean water to remote villages in Africa. Ebun plans a career path in medicine.
Luke Bell Jefferson High School
Luke, a rising senior at Jefferson High School, has been playing piano since he was five years old. But when he heard a piano piece that melded Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” with the children’s classic hymn, “Jesus Loves Me” in middle school, he knew immediately that he wanted to add music to his career path.
Training as a classical pianist has taught him dedication in every endeavor.
“If you want to excel, you must be willing to work or practice,” Luke said. “I set goals each week, which culminate in learning a piece in a robust and satisfying way. I have translated that pattern to every area of my life.”
Although Luke played basketball, he quickly realized the difference in solo practice on the piano and team practice for sports.
“In sports, you have others going through the same thing—everybody on the team is practicing the same drill together,” he explained. “In piano, it’s just me and two hours every afternoon, which has given me a focus and discipline for other areas of my life.”
Luke’s love of musical challenges also enabled him to pick up the drums for his church worship band.
Luke and his two brothers own Triple L Farms in Maysville, where they are raising 15 dairy cows. He serves as a reading tutor and mentor for an elementary student, and volunteers for disaster relief programs through his church. Luke plans to incorporate piano studies into his career as a university professor in mathematics.