Friday, September 30, 2011

One voice can aid thousands

Often, it takes the strong voice of one to take a stand for the masses in need.

This was the case for Will Barry, a 17-year-old senior at Myers Park, who wanted to stand up for his brother, Jamie Barry, 15, who has cystic fibrosis (CF).

Cystic fibrosis “is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States,” according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Will said it is difficult for CF patients to come together to help lobby for their needs because there is a worry they can get each other more sick because of the mucus in their lungs being released.

“Cancer groups can go up (to D.C.) with hundreds of kids every year to meet politicians, diabetes groups can do it, but CF patients have never been able to do it,” Will said. “My idea was to gather together brothers, sisters, cousins, best friends of CF patients around the U.S. to go to D.C. and do it for them.”

Will said with the help of his parents, Amy and Peter Barry, who are national advocacy co-chairs, he was able to establish contacts across the nation to organize an annual trip to the capitol to lobby for CF patients.

When he was 14, he made his first trip up to Washington with his mom in hopes of speaking with politicians about the disease.

“I was realizing these people sit day in and day out with different lobbyists coming through and it’s monotonous to the point where they almost stop listening,” Will said. “But as soon as you get kids in there who are really passionate and excited, it’s almost a wake up call.”

He went on to say that the politician he was speaking with on that first trip broke down in tears as he explained to her what cystic fibrosis patients go through and what it’s like living with his brother who battles the disease every day.

This year, Will was able to organize about 50 individuals from across the nation to make the trip to D.C. and lobby for CF patients.

“I think it’s just such a great lesson for Will, our family, and anybody else out there who has a cause they feel passionately about,” Amy said of her son’s ambitions.

Look for a complete story in the Young Achievers section soon about Will and Jamie, who teach guitar lessons with friends at Alexander Graham Middle.

Also, if you know (or are!) someone you think we should write about, email me at or call 704-358-6043. In the meantime, continue to look for inspiring young people’s stories on the Young Achievers page. Link

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Young inventor sparks interest in community

In the Sept. 6 edition of Young Achievers, readers were introduced to Grant Edwards, a 17-year-old with a knack for inventing. For years, he has been taking forgotten recycled materials and turning them into useful contraptions.

In June, his creativity was awarded at the State University of New York Oswego 2011 Global Environmental Issues U.S (GENIUS) Olympiad competition. There, Grant was awarded gold and a most-innovative prize for his self-sterilizing doorknob.

The community response to Grant's story of success in creating inventions was huge. It was a pleasant surprise to come in the morning after publication and have emails from "Charlotte Today" host Colleen Odegaard, representatives of U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a number of readers and other television stations.

Clearly Grant's story was well-received by readers, and we want to continue to capture amazing youth in your communities.

Do you know of a young person younger than 21 in your area who has an inspiring story? We want to know! Comment on the blog with your ideas, or send them to

To check out Grant's story and learn about science fair opportunities in the area, or to read about others successful individuals, visit the Young Achievers page online.

Friday, September 23, 2011

College student sees hope in homeless

It can be easy to glance over people in the community. For Whitney Campbell, 18, a freshman at Salem College, an internship at the Federal Reserve during the summer of 2010 opened her eyes to those in need in Charlotte.

Campbell was chosen as the only high school student for an internship with the Federal Reserve through the School of International Business' Academy of Finance Apprenticeship Program. One thing she learned about during the internship was homelessness in Charlotte.

Campbell learned from an Urban Ministry employee that many in the community don't pay attention to the degree of homelessness in Charlotte. "It just opened my eyes," she said. “You drive past these places and don't realize the people who are affected... Some (homeless) people are lawyers and in this economy have lost their jobs."

Another part of the internship was completing a challenge to benefit Habitat for Humanity. "One morning we had to wake up early and sit on the roof (at the Habitat for Humanity Restore), hold up signs and have people pledge to give money. Our group had to come up with at least $1,000 to get off the roof."

During the two-month internship, Campbell helped collect $2,000 for the organization.

To read Whitney's advice to younger readers, check out Young Achievers online.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scotty McCreery on achieving: 'You've just got to have that extra drive in you'

The secrets to success can't always be categorized, and I was eager, when I had the opportunity, to sit down with a young person with an inspiring story who could offer a little different perspective.

Talking with American Idol winner Scotty McCreery this summer, I was struck by how elated he was to offer some advice to young readers, and how much time he spent that day chatting with a little girl who seemed to be his biggest fan.

He said the most important secret to success - no matter what you want to be - is to do your research: "If you want to be a singer, study it. I read books, I read Internet blogs, I read all kinds of stuff before I even auditioned for Idol to know what I was getting into."

As for accomplishing goals: "You’ve just got to have that extra drive in you."

As a reporter, I am excited and eager to get out into your neighborhoods and uncover the success stories of young achievers like Scotty. With this blog, I encourage readers to let me know about organizations or young individuals with inspiring stories. Email me at or call 704-358-6043.

In the meantime, continue to look for inspiring stories at

(Photo by Robert Lahser of the Observer.)