The AJC Cup has been presented to Atlanta area high school students since 1927.
Their success in high school helped shape their profession and determine their success in life.
Three past AJC Cup winners shared their high school memories and updates on their careers and lives.
Occupation: Student, Stanford University
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AJC Cup winning year: 2014
Basis of success: In many ways, as an achievement-motivated person, I defined success in high school by my grades, accomplishments and the subsequent confidence, encouragement and faith my teachers would instill in me. In another sense, my perceived success was a product of my autonomy. The more I was allowed to do, the more responsible, independent and successful I felt.
Why your career path? I am a student at Stanford University studying symbolic systems, an interdisciplinary major that combines computer science, neuroscience, behavioral economics and philosophy. I'm also minoring in creative writing. I have the wonderful curse of liking most academic subjects, and my current major is likely my attempt to maintain my various interests.
Reward of your career: The most rewarding part of my career as a student is the knowledge that with Stanford's resources and opportunities, I can help change the world positively, even if I do it in a simple, seemingly trivial way.
Occupation: Founder, Heart of Passion, a non-profit in Charlotte, N.C.
AJC Cup winning year: 2003
Basis of success: In high school, I felt successful when I was able to map out goals and adapt as needed in order to achieve them. I enjoyed being able to take on anything that was available — from various clubs and sports to classes and leadership positions. Staying on track with all of these goals and activities after a cancer relapse that caused me to miss a significant amount of school was my primary success at the time.
Why your career path? I work in the public sector and also serve as president of a 100 percent volunteer-run nonprofit organization that I founded after my first year of college. I was drawn to the public sector because through various private sector internships, I realized I was more mission-motivated than bottom-line-motivated, and I needed to know how I was helping others in my day-to-day life. I founded the nonprofit because, as a three-time teen cancer survivor, I felt like I was in a position to provide a unique support to other teens.
Reward of your career: For the public sector, the most rewarding part is knowing that I'm part of a team dedicated to making everyone else's life easier and safer. For the nonprofit, the "for teens, from teens" approach has evolved into a year-long leadership development program for (generally) healthy, motivated high school students that we equip with all the skills and experiences they need to plan and implement their own summer retreats for teens with cancer. The most rewarding part is seeing the students click with the value and applicability of social entrepreneurship and service to others.
Occupation: Middle school principal, international school, Kuwait
AJC Cup winning year: 1987
Basis of success: I had a supportive and involved mother. At a very young age I saw my mother, a single parent, attending school while working a full-time job to make a better life for us. She worked too hard for me not to be successful. I knew I couldn't goof off in high school and let her down. Second, I had teachers who had high expectations for me academically and held me accountable for my actions outside of class. Third, I surrounded myself with like minded students who were high achievers. I had to keep up with their academic standards.
Why your career path? Honestly, I had many great teachers in my life from elementary to college, but it was a rather poor teacher that led me to education as a career. I experienced a teacher who frequently degraded students and made us fear entering into her classroom. On one particular day, she was especially cruel in her comments to this one little boy. As she spewed her venomous comments, I could see him slowly sink down into his chair from embarrassment. I remember saying to myself, "If I became a teacher, I would never make kids feel the way she did." This one incident resonated within me for many years. I decided that I would make good on the promise I made myself years ago. I would make students feel welcomed in my class and confident that I had their best interests at heart.
Reward of your career: The most rewarding part about being an educator is knowing that what I do for kids will set them up for success. If I can evoke a spark of desire in a student's mind, then I feel a sense of accomplishment. I can't predict how successful students will become in the future. However, I take solace in knowing that whatever they become in life, I've done everything in my power to set them up for success.