The AFA Teens Advisory Board offers teenagers an opportunity to build strong leadership skills, offer insight to AFA about the needs of teenagers as they relate to Alzheimer’s disease, help steer the future direction of AFA Teens—and give back even more to the Alzheimer's community.
Meet the 2012-2013 AFA Teens Advisory Board
Antara Afrin— Detroit, MI
With a strong passion for medicine, business and media, Antara “absolutely loves working on anything that deals with the human brain,” desires to become a neurologist, and wants to help people affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Her other volunteer efforts include participating in Do Something, a national organization for teens and social change; and working on a project to help underprivileged children in the Detroit metropolitan area. “I just love helping people in need,” she declared.
Antara is a senior at Lewis Cass Technical High School, where she is enrolled in the chemical/biological sciences curriculum. “Education is my number one priority because education will help me in my efforts to create a better world,” she said.
Barrett Cole – Farmers Branch, TX
Barrett became interested in the AFA Teens Advisory Board after working with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease as a volunteer at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. In addition, her grandmother developed this disease last year so she is seeing it first-hand in her own family. Barrett hopes that by serving as a board member she can do her part “in contributing to the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.”
A senior in high school, Barrett plays varsity volleyball, and serves as president of her school’s student council, editor of the yearbook, and co-president of the National Honor Society. She also is president of her Dallas 4-H Club, and is an active member of the Girl Scouts and the 4-H State Board.
Barrett spends her free time doing community service, photographing her local community, and operating her own non-profit organization. She was recently featured in Justine magazine for her community service work.
Aaron Edelman – Roslyn, NY
When Aaron’s grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the teen didn’t fully understand what the brain disorder was all about. He felt that joining the AFA Teens Advisory Board would be a good way to get educated and get involved. “I am genuinely interested in serving such a great cause,” he declared.
Aaron is currently a senior at Roslyn High School, where he takes part in the school’s environmental club and “Students for Social Responsibility.” Outside of school, he enjoys playing soccer and volunteers his time to worthy causes, such as Challengers and Shooting Stars, for children with special needs.
Lexi Gray – San Antonio, TX
Lexi is serving her second consecutive term on the AFA Teens Advisory Board. For Lexi, Alzheimer’s disease is very personal: two of her family members were afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, including her great grandmother, who died three years ago. Prompted to get involved with AFA Teens by these experiences, she now hopes to help provide support to other teens who are affected by the disease. Ultimately, she said, she would like to know that she “had a small part in the fight to stop Alzheimer’s disease altogether.”
Lexi is currently a high school senior at Johnson High School, where she runs track and plays soccer. She is a member of the National Honor Society, and the National Spanish Honor Society, and is a recipient of her school’s Presidential Service Award. She is also an advanced pianist and enjoys learning Spanish as a second language. When she has that occasional break from schoolwork and sports, Lexi enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with friends.
Kristina Jespersen - Lawrenceville, GA
Thrilled to be able to help raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, Kristina has had plenty of experience dealing with the disease. Her mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2006 when Kristina was in the fourth grade, and then passed away in October 2011.
“It was like someone had come in the middle of the night, kidnapped my mom and left us with a complete stranger that looked just like her. Alzheimer’s turned her into a very different person than who I was used to,” Kristina said.
To carry on her mom’s memory, Kristina is writing a book about her mother. She is a student at St. Pius X Catholic High School, and in her spare time, she sings, acts and trains as a figure skater.
Rachel John – Jericho, NY
Rachel, a high school senior, has dedicated most of her volunteer time to helping people with Alzheimer’s disease and has started an AFA Teens chapter at her school.
She was first exposed to Alzheimer’s disease in ninth grade when her grandmother began experiencing memory loss. “As if high school wasn’t hard enough, Alzheimer’s made life a bit more complicated,” she recalled. However, Rachel eventually learned to embrace the disease, and found caregiving to be rewarding. She loved caring for her grandmother so much that she began to volunteer at a senior home for resident with Alzheimer’s disease through a school club called Project Care.
Rachel recently started a non-profit organization called Brainspiration, an online fashion site geared toward promoting Alzheimer’s awareness that donates 40 percent of profits to AFA.
Carolina Leon- Weston, FL
To Carolina, a high school junior, family is extremely important. That is why she got involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease during her freshman year of high school when her grandmother was diagnosed with the brain disorder. “Alzheimer’s can take a great toll on families. I wish that one day we can look at it as something that can be treated and cured,” she said.
Carolina creates gold and silver jewelry that features a butterfly—representing beauty and freedom, and hopefully a world free of Alzheimer’s disease one day. Carolina’s favorite class is biology, and she spends her free time reading, writing, volunteering and hanging out with friends.
Ananya Mayukha – Ann Arbor, MI
Ananya, a senior at Pioneer High School, learned about AFA Teens through her volunteer work at a local assisted living facility. While volunteering there, she was touched by how her sheer youthfulness uplifted the residents. Ananya started an AFA Teens chapter at her high school in 2011 to cultivate a regular group of high school volunteers.
Through this chapter, she and her peers have found an invaluable form of therapy for the residents: music. The AFA Teens chapter of Pioneer High School, by chance a group of talented musicians, has played and sung songs, often interactively, to the residents—and have connected deeply with them. Last year, the chapter also organized a successful benefit concert.
An Indian classical vocalist and Western classical cellist, Ananya hopes that her music will continue to reach individuals with Alzheimer's disease. She also leads local practice sessions for children learning Indian classical music, coaches Science Olympiad for middle school students, and tutors high school students in biology.
Abhi Rao – San Antonio, TX
Abhi, a freshman at Ronald Reagan High School, is enthusiastic about neuroscience and most interested in exploring how diet and music impact the brain. His interest in Alzheimer’s disease was piqued while participating in the National Duke TIP Summer Studies program.
By serving on the AFA Teens Advisory Board, Abhi hopes to bring fresh ideas that could raise awareness at a national level and help teens make a difference.
“I feel very fortunate that I have the opportunity to join the advisory board—a group of teens who are as enthusiastic as I am about Alzheimer’s disease. Through my volunteer work, I hope to impact Alzheimer’s in a revolutionary way,” said Abhi, who plans to pursue a medical career.
Among his interests, he is an avid reader, plays flute in the Reagan Wind Ensemble, and enjoys playing golf.
Chris Schloss – Fort Lauderdale, FL
Chris, currently a high school senior, has served on the AFA Teens Advisory Board for the past three years. He wanted to get involved in the cause after watching the disease’s impact on his grandmother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when he was eight.
In addition to serving on the advisory board, he has tried to help heighten awareness by volunteering at local fundraising events that raise money for Alzheimer’s disease.
Chris enjoys all sports and plays baseball for his high school.
Melissa Stepovich – San Diego, CA
Melissa Stepovich, a junior at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego, has a special place in her heart for a very influential and loving woman: her Abuelita (“grandmother” in Spanish). Melissa’s abuelita was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2003 at age 72, and passed away in October 2012.
“I realized how she positively touched so many lives,” Melissa said about her abuelita. “Although her spirit and zest began to fade, she never lost her smile, her loving touch and her songs that she sang until her very last moment… She was a beautiful example of a strong and admirable human being, and I will forever treasure who she was and the legacy she left behind.”
Melissa first joined the AFA Teens’ Advisory Board in 2011 to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and encourage others to put forth time and effort to find a cure.
At her high school, Melissa is involved in track and field, cross country, Academic League, Carondelet Circle, National Honor Society, and California Junior Scholarship Federation. She spends her free time reading, playing the piano, sharing time with her family and friends, and volunteering at her church, and other schools and charitable organizations.