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Junior Achievement, NexTier Bank Unveil 18 Under 18

PITTSBURGH — On Jan. 18, Junior Achievement of Western PA unveiled its inaugural class for 18 Under Eighteen presented by NexTier Bank, showcasing the notable talents and achievements of 18 of the region’s most incredible young people and highlighting the vast young talent in our region.

Among the honorees is Braden Thomas, a 17-year-old student at Cambria Heights High School, Patton.

According to the website, Braden is “a compassionate community member and friend and an exceedingly motivated innovator.”

“His deep care for others shows in his work throughout the community, including a recent competition he began within his school after learning about the need for “Jared Boxes” at his town’s local hospital. The mission of the Jared Box Project is to entertain and put a smile on the faces of children in the hospital.

Braden ultimately wants to become a medical doctor, which not only fuels his desire to help others but drives his curiosity in using technology to do so. During the pandemic, he studied COVID-19 to complete an independent research project about the vaccine and ways to help reduce the spread of the virus.

He presented his research and findings at the regional and state Technology Student Association (TSA) competition.”

“These amazing kids are entrepreneurs, social activists, scientists, entertainers and so much more,” said Patrice Matamoros, president of Junior Achievement of Western PA. “They are the innovators, progressors and providers of hope that are, and will continue to, move our region forward. JA is honored and excited to recognize these young people who make me optimistic for a bright future.”

The talent search was cast across the organization’s footprint in western PA and northern W.Va. A diverse committee of community members reviewed each nomination and interviewed finalists to become the select eighteen.

The class of 2022 features honorees ranging from 10 to 18 years old. They represent a diverse cross section of the region, including areas outside the Pittsburgh area such as Erie, Mercer and Cambria counties.

In addition to being recognized as an event at the National Aviary in February, JA is working to provide the 18 students with additional educational and leadership opportunities to further their skills and qualifications. Tickets to the event are on sale now, with a limited number of in-person tickets available. JA will announce a virtual ticket option via the JA website. To learn more about the eighteen honorees, visit


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