Junior Achievement Recognizes Young Leaders from Across the Region
The 18 Under 18
Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts (JAWM) honored its inaugural 18 Under 18 Class of 2022, sponsored by Teddy Bear Pools, on May 19 at at Tower Square in Springfield. The event — which included poster board displays by the students, remarks, appreciation presentations and a buffet — recognized outstanding young people throughout Western Mass. who exemplify innovative spirit, leadership, and community involvement.
“We were impressed with the caliber of the nominations we received for this recognition,” said William Dziura, Development Director, JAWM. “It’s gratifying to know there are so many young people committed to making an impact on the world, and we are thrilled to be able to offer a forum through which they can be applauded for their efforts.”
The following 18 students comprise the 18 Under 18 Class of 2022:
Trinity Baush, Grade 11, Chicopee High School: A multi-sport athlete and member of the National Honor Society and Student Council, Bausch has shown leadership in all these groups by facilitating fundraisers and leading discussions about important issues. She maintains high academic standards and currently has a 4.0 GPA. Outside of school, she works in a leadership role at Applebee’s. Recently, she has helped increase awareness about the war in Ukraine through a fundraising program with money raised sent directly to a school in Ukraine.
Nevaeh Branyon, Grade 8, Marcus M. Kiley Middle School, Springfield: An outstanding student with a GPA over 4.0, Branyon is passionate about financial literacy and entrepreneurship because of the unique and innovative perspectives they provide. She serves as a Student Council liaison and is a member of the Yearbook, Math and Art clubs. In addition to being a student athlete, she participates in the FitZone after-school programs and is a member of Girls on the Run.
Nathaniel Claudio, Grade 12, Business Information Technology Program, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, Springfield: Claudio is president of the National Honor Society and the student representative to the Springfield School Committee. He has been involved with Junior Achievement since his freshman year, participating in the Stock Market Competition, the 100th Anniversary Gala and Parade, the Summer Accelerator and served as a High School Hero, teaching financial literacy to younger students. Outside of school, he is participating in a cooperative learning experience at Freedom Credit Union.
Chase Daigneault, Grade 10, Chicopee High School: Daigneault has participated in school leadership since middle school, where she served and still serves in various class officer positions. Recently, she was voted the class president of the class of 2024. In this role, she plans activities and monitors the social media presence for her class, in addition to organizing fundraisers for charity and scheduling volunteer opportunities for the class.
Ella Florence, Grade 11, Chicopee High School: As a member of the National Honor Society and Class Council, Florence leads many fundraisers, social projects and progressive initiatives. She is vice president of her school’s Best Buddies program, which involves students with autism into school events. Last year, she became a member of the Special Olympics Youth Activation Council and attended the statewide Winter Youth Summit, and she recently attended Capitol Hill Day with a Best Buddies peer. Outside of school, she volunteers at the Springfield Boys & Girls Club Family Center.
Elise Hansel, Grade 10, Business Information Technology Program, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy: A longtime participant in Junior Achievement programs, Hansel was a student leader in JA’s internship program with the Springfield Thunderbirds, where she played a crucial role in the event’s marketing efforts, including designing the event flier, partnering with area schools to coordinate a group, and making cold-calls to area businesses to sell event business packages. Recently, she won first place for her marketing and design skills in a billboard design competition for the Stop the Swerve campaign.
Liberty Basora, Grade 10, Marketing/Retail Program, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy: Known for her outstanding communication skills, fantastic aptitude for working with other students, and innovative mindset, Basora’s most recent project was bringing to life the dormant social media accounts for the school store: Putnam Vocational Beaver Lodge. She analyzed the problems faced by the Beaver Lodge, then created new content that allowed the site to reflect the Marketing Shop and open up two-way conversations with the store’s growing customer base.
Adyan Khattak, Grade 12, Chicopee Comprehensive High School: A member of Student Council, Business Club, sports teams, and the DA’s Youth Council Board, Khattak is passionate about creating opportunities for other students to connect with resources that improve and better their lives. As an intern at the Chicopee Comp College & Career Center, he has applied many creative and innovative approaches to help better answer student queries and needs. In addition to fluency in English, this first -generation American also speaks Urdu and Punjabi and reads Arabic.
Grace Kuhn, Grade 12, Westfield High School: A member of the cross-country team and vice president of the National Honor Society, Kuhn is also a member of the Best Buddies Club, which works with West Springfield’s preschool program, and the Reshaping Reality Club, which focuses on mental health and body image. She completed and published her first novel, Knox Hollow: Murder on Mayflower, during the pandemic and recently completed her second novel, Dalton Ridge: Homicide on Holiday Hill. She enjoys working closely with children and plans to be a speech pathologist.
Katelynn Mersincavage, Grade 12, Hampden Charter School of Science–East: Excelling academically, Mersincavage pushes herself with multiple advanced placement classes and college dual enrollment courses. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council and the soccer team. Outside of school, she is an organizer and active participant in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, where she regularly participates in fundraising and awareness events for the cause, which hits close to home; her brother lives with type-1 diabetes.
Alondra Nieves, Grade 10, Business Information Technology Program, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy: Academically, Nieves maintains a 4.0 GPA. Creatively, during the pandemic, she started teaching herself to play the guitar and write music, using her skills and talents as a poet to create songs. She is actively involved in the Hampden County District Attorney Youth Advisory Board with responsibilities on the Mental Health Teen Task Force. She also reads to elementary students, participated in the Stop the Swerve Campaign, and helped with a school-wide food collection.
Sean O’Dea, Grade 12, Mohawk Trail Regional High School: O’Dea is captain of his cross-country team, a member of the Student Council, secretary of the Key Club, a member of the National Honor Society and student representative to the School Committee. He was also selected by his teachers to represent the Town of Heath for Project 351, a non-profit lead by Governor Baker to develop the next generation of community-first leaders through youth service. For his AP language course, he wrote and produced a video essay highlighting local environmental issues in Franklin County.
Ricardo Ortiz, Grade 8, Marcus M. Kiley Middle School: Ortiz moved to Springfield from Guatemala at age 11, speaking only Spanish. He has since participated in the Empowerment Academy and the school band, where he plays clarinet. This year, he campaigned successfully to establish a Yearbook Club and inspired the idea of painting an 8th grade mural, so students can leave their mark for future generations. He aspires to be the first person in his family to graduate from college, with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur and opening his own flower shop to honor his late grandmother.
Het Parikh, Grade 12, West Springfield High School: Leader of the percussion section of the school band, Parikh is also a member of the National Honor Society and the Key Club, and serves as a student tutor and participant in the Innovation Pathways Program. He has maintained a 3.92 cumulative GPA while simultaneously earning more than 30 transferable college credits. Outside of school, he has volunteered at the Lions Club Food Kitchen at the Big E, the clean-up of Mittineague Park, and the local senior center, where he runs a smart phone clinic.
Parmila Sarki, Grade 12, Business Information Technology Program, Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy: Since her freshman year, Sarki has been involved with Junior Achievement, participating in the annual Stock Market Competition, the 100th Anniversary Gala and Parade and the Summer Accelerator. She also served as a High School Hero, teaching financial literacy to younger students. During the pandemic, she worked with her teacher to create videos to help younger students understand financial literacy concepts. After school, she helps first graders with schoolwork.
Jadyn Smith, Grade 11 Chicopee High School: This student activist works to make the school a better place by advocating on behalf of the entire student body. As a member of the National Honor Society, Smith helps facilitate fundraisers, including one for a school in Ukraine, and is also on the Student Council fundraising committee. Outside of school, she enjoys volunteering at her local church, helping to address food insecurity, and is an assistant manager at McKinstry Market Garden.
Kayla Staley, Grade 11, Springfield Conservatory of the Arts: An accomplished singer, Staley has been featured at events across the community ranging from school graduation ceremonies to the Union Station Tree Lighting Ceremony and the Western Massachusetts Chorus Festival. She also excels academically and is president of her class and a member of the National Honor Society. She was selected as a student representative for the Springfield Public Schools Portrait of a Graduate, and to receive private coaching from Broadway stars, college professors and other masterclasses.
Victoria Weagle, Grade 11, Frontier Regional High School: This exemplary student leader is passionate about her community and finding creative solutions to complicated problems. Weagle is greatly gifted in scientific research, and hopes to develop these skills in college and throughout her life. She is involved in Quiz Bowl and many extracurricular science projects, including a volunteer research trip to Dominica in 2023, for which she has saved up her own funds.
Nominations for the 18 Under 18 were open to anyone 18 years or younger who attends school in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, or Berkshire counties. Judging criteria was divided in three categories: innovative spirit, leadership, and community involvement.
Beyond the award recognition, the students selected will benefit from a meaningful new network of community leaders and peers and may receive additional opportunities through event partners. They will also be invited to participate in a virtual leadership workshop later in the year.