Extraordinary Teen Awards 2023
Greatness comes in many forms, whether it’s pioneering research, soul-bearing works of art or the simple gift of making people laugh. Meet this year’s exemplary students.
Langley High School
Alex Pomper was always a big reader. Over time, he acquired more books than he had space for, but donating them to his local library or trying to resell them in affluent McLean didn’t feel like the right thing to do. So he started emailing organizations that serve low-income clients, while simultaneously collecting book donations from classmates and their families.
The enthusiastic response led to the 2022 launch of Give a Kid a Book, an effort that, to date, has collected more than 8,000 gently used titles and donated them through organizations in D.C., as well as Arlington, Fairfax and Prince George’s counties. “The ability to read is the greatest gift we have in our modern age,” says the 17-year-old Langley High School graduate. “That gives meaning to what I’m doing.”
Twice a month, Pomper is a fixture at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), where he sets out a display of books that families can peruse while waiting in line for food. He asks kids what kinds of stories they like and is usually able to find a book that matches their interests.
Bad weather doesn’t deter him, says Kim Roehl, AFAC’s volunteer manager: “He works so well with the kids. He’s thinking about the community. That’s just beautiful to see.”
Growing up participating in family discussions about politics and policy (his father is an international trade consultant and his mother is a writer), Pomper is also politically active. He volunteered with the campaigns of Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and Joe Biden. In May, he was named a National Merit Scholar.
He has an interest in science, too. He took an AP Biology class through Johns Hopkins University the summer after his sophomore year. The following summer, he interned with a professor at Virginia Tech, cleaning up data for a project charting the changing trade networks in Italy during the 1600s.
A co-leader of Langley High School’s chemistry club, Pomper heads to Johns Hopkins this fall, where he is considering a double major in the humanities and biochemistry.