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Second Annual 18 Under Eighteen Event Honors the Next Generation of Leaders


Group shot of all 18 honorees at 18 Under Eighteen

Image caption: Group shot of all 18 honorees at 18 Under Eighteen

Junior Achievement of Western PA (JA) hosted their 18 Under Eighteen recognition ceremony on February 7, 2023, highlighting 18 of the best and brightest young people in 56 counties across western PA and northern WV.  

Over 200 people showed their support at Acrisure Stadium and online to celebrate the 18 Under Eighteen honoree class of 2023. The new class was not only awarded recognition and accolades, but they also had the opportunity to tour Acrisure Stadium, network with influential business leaders and receive gifts from supporters. Here are 5 takeaways from this exciting and impressive event: 

1. All dreams are achievable 

JA's 2023 honoree class proves that all dreams are achievable with hard work, dedication and innovation. At the 18 Under Eighteen recognition ceremony, attendees heard from the honorees about their life experiences that inspired them and led them to success at such young ages. Kriti Gupta, a 15-year-old student from Upper St. Clair School District, talked about the challenging process of starting her own registered 501c (3) non-profit and the hard work needed to reach this goal. Similarly, Abby Wertz, a 17-year-old student from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, discussed the challenges she hurdled to start a lunch fund for students who could not afford their school lunch bills.  

These students are just two examples of the inspiring efforts our honorees have taken to make their communities better. Click here to read about each of the honorees and the dreams they aim to accomplish.  

2. It’s important to support the next generation

Not only did over 200 community leaders, business professionals, family members, and friends show up to support the new class of honorees, so did many influential organizations throughout the region.  

 This year over 15 prominent and influential partners like Lamar Advertising, PPG Industries, TriState Capital Bank, and People’s Gas and more showed their support. In addition to supporting the 18 Under Eighteen initiative, some partners supported the honorees directly through experiences and gifts. Lamar Advertising put all 18 honorees on billboards throughout the region, CNX donated tickets for the honorees to attend a Pittsburgh Penguins game and Chick-Fil-A and Millie’s Ice Cream respectively donated free sandwiches and ice cream to the honorees for an entire year. Furthermore, many of the partners, guest speakers and business professionals have encouraged the honorees to reach out to them for advice and support as they continue their journeys. 

3. Be sure to make time for fun

In addition to the recognition and accolades the honorees received, we went above and beyond to ensure the honorees had fun. All honorees received a VIP tour of Acrisure Stadium prior to the start of the ceremony. The tour took them through the stadium while giving them behind-the-scenes information and trivia. The honorees even met Craig Wolfley, former football player and current color commentator for the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

In addition to the tour, the honorees participated in a Glambot, a special type of video that captures slow-motion footage of event guests, take headshots and select the music that played when they accepted their awards.  

4. Relationships can transcend age gaps and generations

Although the honoree class of 2023 is a diverse group of students ages 10 to 18, the age gap did not stop them from forming bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime. For example, our three honorees that focus on sustainability, Jason Garland, Elijah Majocha and Bristol Joseph, have teamed up to obtain funding for each other’s businesses. Honorees Grace Howard and Karsen Thompson bonded over their shared work in the mental health field and have become close friends who push each other to reach their goals. Furthermore, many of the honorees have been invited to network with community leaders and business professionals, building relationships over generations to spread positivity and change throughout the region.  

5. The next generation is more than all right 

The 2023 honoree class proves that Generation Z is hardworking and prepared to take on the challenges the future will pose. From LGBTQIA+ advocacy to climate awareness, our honorees are determined to make the world a better place than how they found it and are equipped with skills and tools they need to get there.  

“18 Under Eighteen and this group of people has proven to me that our generation is not lacking as many people think,” said Mohammad Shedeed, a 2023 18 Under Eighteen honoree. “In fact, we are in a great place to secure our future and humanity’s future as well.” 

Thank you to everyone who supported the 2023 18 Under Eighteen initiative and honoree class. Click here to rewatch the program, and click here to view photos from the event.  

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