Skip to main content

Greenville Business Magazine

Area Teens Win Awards For Service Projects Developed Through Riley Institute Program

Photo: Winning first place for his "Festival of Friendship" was Emerging Public Leader Blanton Newman (left) of Greenville. He is a 2019 graduate of J.L. Mann High School.

High school students participating in the Riley Institute at Furman’s® Emerging Public Leaders (EPL) program have been working over the past year to create service projects across the state. After presenting their projects to a panel of business and community leaders, four students received cash prizes to expand or replicate their projects, and three students received honorable mentions.

EPL is a program designed to impart public leadership skills and knowledge to high school seniors. Over the summer, participants spend a week at Furman University, where they investigate topics such as engaging in the community, analyzing critical issues, and practicing ethical leadership. They also develop communication and presentation skills, and plan for the implementation of their service projects.

Projects from the 2018-19 EPL class were judged on vision, planning, execution, program impact, presentation skills, and project sustainability. The prize winners are:

Blanton Newman, J.L. Mann High School, Greenville

First Place (receives $1,000)

Newman organized a “Festival of Friendship” April 7 at J.L. Mann High School. The event was designed to raise awareness about persons with disabilities and to bring all community members together, regardless of their abilities. The event also served as a fundraiser for J.L. Mann’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L.S. program – Students Pursue Exceptional Challenges In All Life Skills.

Passionate for individuals with special needs, Newman saw a need to shine a light on the gap he perceived between the abled and disabled in the community. Newman’s goal was to help bridge the divide by providing a fun way to meet, learn about, and befriend the disabled.

“Emerging Public Leaders will always be a defining moment in my high school career. Through my participation in EPL, I was blessed to be given the opportunity to learn so many new and important things about leadership,” he said.

Bayan Abunijem, Greenville Tech Charter High School

Second Place (receives $600)

Abunijem organized two self-defense workshops to raise awareness about domestic violence in South Carolina and to help women build confidence in their ability to protect themselves. The events were open to the public and targeted female college and high school students.

Abunijem partnered with The Raja Academy to provide the training events. Participants in the workshops learned basic self-defense moves that will help protect them from domestic relationships and/or sexual assault.

“South Carolina ranks high for deaths caused by domestic violence—that was something I couldn’t ignore, so I decided to create this project with the hope of teaching women that they can fight back,” said Abunijem.

Andrea Kimpson, Richland Northeast High School, Columbia

Tied for Third Place (receives $350)

Kimpson’s Midlands Postcard Project aims to educate, inspire, and engage younger generations of Midlands residents to know the Columbia area and its fascinating African-American history.

The project involved creating postcards featuring important locations in Columbia and brief snippets about their history. Kimpson distributed the postcards to various groups of students in the Midlands to inspire them to visit the locations and understand how they fit into the rapidly-developing city scene.

Olivia Reichenbach, Hilton Head Christian Academy

Tied for Third Place (receives $350)

Reichenbach organized a group of juniors and seniors with three or more years of Spanish language classes from Hilton Head Christian Academy called “Planting Seeds.” The group tutors native-Spanish-speaking, elementary and middle school students in English, science, and math.

The following students received honorable mentions:

Lauren Garrison, River Bluff High School, Lexington

Garrison’s project helps senior citizens who cannot afford the upkeep of their pets. She implemented a two-part service project to support Paw Pals, a program run by the South Carolina Office on Aging, which provides pet food at no cost to qualifying senior citizens.

Lillian Holland, Porter-Gaud School, Charleston

Holland created “Cookies and Karaoke,” a project which helps elderly people who suffer from cognitive illnesses enhance their cerebral aptitudes.

Reilly Arford, Ridge View High School, Columbia

Arford increased the awareness of human trafficking in the state of South Carolina by speaking with members of his local government.

The Emerging Public Leaders program is made possible in part by State Farm, Spinx, The Riley Institute at Furman, Walmart, and the Pazdan Family. 

For more information about Emerging Public Leaders, contact Melanie Armstrong at [email protected] or 864-294-3688, or contact the Furman News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.