ALPHARETTA, Ga.— Before they were even in high school, sisters Gracelyn and Brooke Leath were making an impact in their community.
Inspired by a yearly volunteering event held at their school, the sisters said they got hooked on helping others and wanted to continue making a difference with their friends.
As a result, the Leath sisters founded a nonprofit in 2012 called Teens Help Other People, or TeenHOP, to help them do just that.
“We wanted to do something we could do every day instead of just one day of the year,” Gracelyn said.
TeenHOP is a community service program with the mission to empower youth and adults to volunteer in their communities and encourage others to develop leadership skills and live healthy lifestyles.
Teens can join an existing TeenHOP chapter in their area or create a new chapter with the help of Gracelyn and Brooke.
When members join the club, they can record their service hours on TeenHOP’s website. Having a log of volunteering hours becomes crucial when high schoolers become members in clubs like National Honor Society and Beta Club, or when they apply to colleges.
“The TeenHOP board verifies they volunteered, so they can prove they actually volunteered for the organization,” Brooke said.
TeenHOP members also gain access to Leadership Camps and the TeenHOP Leadership Gavel Club, which partners with Toastmasters to teach public speaking skills.
“It gives teens self-confidence and the ability to talk with everybody and not be fearful,” said Brooke, who is the vice president of education for the club. Gracelyn serves as the founding charter member.
Now, TeenHOP has more than 50 chapters in Georgia, many chapters around the country and a few around the world, in countries such as Australia.
Gracelyn and Brooke travel around the country visiting TeenHOP chapters, spreading the word about the club and planning events like Gavel Club meetings.
“We encourage volunteering all the time. Volunteering is a lifestyle,” Gracelyn said.
The sisters are dual-enrolled at Georgia Cyber Academy, the state’s public online school, and Gwinnett Technical College. Both will be entering their senior year of high school and agree their non-traditional education helps them to run TeenHOP while preparing for college.
“It allows us the freedom to help other people with their needs,” Brooke said. “If they need help organizing something for TeenHOP, we can be there because we’re not stuck in school all day.”
The sisters are members of many clubs in their school, including National Honor Society and Beta Club. Both said they enjoy reading, writing and blogging in their free time.
“We love our school because even though it’s online, it has so many clubs, and so many clubs we can also integrate with TeenHOP,” Gracelyn said.
The Leaths encourage students at their schools to join the club, and they travel with a collection of TeenHOP brochures in their car.
Dual-enrolling has also helped both sisters get an early start to their college educations. Gracelyn aspires to become a criminal justice lawyer, and Brooke aims to become a high-risk pregnancy doctor. Both are looking at the University of Georgia and Emory University as options.
The sisters plan to stay involved in TeenHOP through college and beyond.
“Even though we’re going to college, I don’t want this just to be a part of my past,” Brooke said. “I want to be able to say, ‘This is a part of me, this is who I am.’ ”
“When it’s your passion, you can’t just let it fade away,” Gracelyn added.