Amazing Kid: Shannon McNamara

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Shannon McNamara Picture

Amazing Kid Shannon McNamara empowers girls in Africa through education. Credit: Megan McNamara




Amazing Kid: Shannon McNamara
Age: 17
Grade: 12th
Home Town: Basking Ridge, N.J.
School: Ridge High School, Basking Ridge, New Jersey
Favorite Ice Cream: Strawberry

Why Shannon is Amazing: In 2008, Shannon founded a nonprofit organization, SHARE, that promotes literacy and education for girls in Africa. SHARE, which stands for Shannon's After School Reading Exchange, was initially focused on bringing books to African children and, to this end, the organization has created four school libraries in Tanzania filled with over 23,000 books and benefiting more than 3,000 children.

But today, Shannon's focus is on the SHARE Scholars program, which provides scholarships to girls in the program so they can go from a SHARE primary school to a SHARE secondary school. The secondary school she works with is a new girls' boarding school where the girls are protected and they don't have to work and clean after school; rather, they can focus on their education for all four years.

Shannon runs SHARE -- which started out as a small project for her Girl Scouts Gold Award -- and has recruited 850 youth volunteers to helped out with the program to date, including about 70 pen pals that currently correspond with children in East Africa. SHARE's funding comes mostly from generous individual donors who learn about the organization through her website and Facebook page, but she has also applied for and received grants that are directed toward teens trying to make a difference.

Shannon started helping others at a young age during international volunteer trips her family took each summer. However, in 2008, after completing her Girl Scouts project, Shannon was convinced they needed to do more.

"I felt like just playing kickball with some kids in an orphanage wasn't really helping us make the impact as my family and I had the potential to make," Shannon tells ParentDish. "After going down (to Africa) and actually seeing the children we were helping and seeing the houses they live in, it was just something you couldn't forget, so that was why we kept on coming back."

Recent Recognition: 2010 United Nations Youth Achievement Recognition Award; 2010 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes; 2010 National Prudential Spirit of the Community Award; 2010 New Jersey State Governor's Jefferson Award; Girl Scouts USA 2010 National Young Woman of Distinction

Shannon
's Advice to Kids: Find something you're passionate about and just go for it, even if it feels like you can't make that big of a difference ... There's a Mother Teresa quote that really inspires me: "If you can't feed a hundred hungry children, feed one." So, maybe you won't be able to solve the problem of poverty, world hunger or gender inequality that you want in a short amount of time, but if you start making a difference now, there's no telling what the future holds for you.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.