Extraordinary Teen Awards 2017

This years winners are pouring their talents into humanitarian work, the arts, environmental protection, social justice and dreams of Olympic gold.

Photo by Erick Gibson

Tommy Bayou

Washington-Lee High School

Life at home was tough for Tommy Bayou—his dad had lost his job and his mother was pulling extra shifts—when he wandered into the Lubber Run Community Center in 2011 and discovered the Buckingham Youth Brigade (BYB), a local nonprofit that inspires Arlington kids to develop confidence, hope and leadership skills through community engagement.

Six years later, the group has provided not only an escape from stress, but also personal growth opportunities for Bayou, whose family moved to the U.S. from Ethiopia in search of a better life when he was 4.

“I didn’t know who to talk to about a lot of my problems,” Bayou says of the turning point when he first met BYB’s then-director Alyssa Duda. “She was there when I needed a helping hand. From there, it was about giving back.”

Through BYB, Bayou has interviewed local immigrants about their needs, helped organize his neighborhood’s annual Buckingham Festival, coordinated volunteers for Martha’s Table and pitched in to help with distribution for the Arlington Food Assistance Center and Toys for Tots. His Orthodox Christian faith has always been a guiding force, he says, just as it is for his father, a parking lot attendant, and mother, a certifi ed nursing assistant.

“He’s constantly trying to outgrow himself and his comfort zone,” says Mireya Vitela, BYB’s current youth program coordinator.

At Washington-Lee, Bayou co-founded a fundraising club and served on Arlington’s Out-of-School-Time Council, which advises the county board and school board on after-school activities for kids. He juggled all of these commitments while holding down a part-time job in a restaurant and maintaining a 4.3 GPA. Next year he plans to study biology at Georgetown University.

Categories: Parents & Kids