JA 18 Under 18


DON MCCLAINDon is making a daily difference in innumerable ways. As an ambassador and youth mentor at HeartSmiles, an organization focused on leadership, entrepreneurship, and personal growth for youth in Baltimore, Don mentors five to 10 young people. Through HeartSmiles, Don became social media team lead for the Community Crime reduction Team. Seeing the power of social media, they launched the D.O.N. Way (The Direct, On-time, and Nimble-minded Way), to help small businesses use social media to grow business. Don is a leader in the Youth Food Security Network, an inspector general with the Baltimore Polytechnic’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, a spoken-word poet and performer, and a member of The Violet Project. The latter improves access to sexual and reproductive healthcare for city teens as well as education on gender and identity. As a Black, queer, non-binary person, Don has presented to faculty, parents, and the community about topics like the importance of respecting varied pronouns and decriminalizing mental illness.

“Don serves as a prolific student activist, leader, and courageously outspoken individual working to make their community one filled with love and integrity every day.” —Lauren Jackson, nominator

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