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Leya Alani ‘18 receives Citizen of the World Award for 2024
Leya Alani with Mrs. Watts


Leya Alani ‘18 began her interest in community while a student at Bright School and has continued to add to her experiences in high school. For her efforts, she was named the 2024 winner of the Citizen of the World Award. 

This award recognizes alumni who are fulfilling the school’s mission: "The Bright School builds a foundation upon which students become wise and compassionate citizens of the world. Its century of progress fosters the intellectual, artistic, physical, and moral growth of young boys and girls." To be eligible for the award, alumni must be current students in high school (grades 9-12), college. or graduate school. The winning alumni demonstrate leadership in service to others in the broader community. Anyone may submit a nomination, and our fifth graders select the winner. All names, schools and gender are removed from the nominations, and fifth graders evaluate each nomination based on the students’ activities. The award was first given in 2017, meaning this year’s high school seniors voted on the first winner.

Leya visited fifth graders and teachers at school after she was selected. Mrs. Watts presented the award, which includes a $100 donation made in her award to a nonprofit of her choice. Leya talked to students about her experiences and encouraged them to get involved. She said it was during her time at Bright School that she first “had a dream of helping people.” While a student, she led a school-wide donation drive for refugee camps in Northern Iraq called “Bright Hearts Caring Coats.” Leya and her family collected clothes, diapers and baby formula to send to refugees. During middle school, she visited Jordan with her parents, who are dentists in Chattanooga and fled Iraq with their families. In Jordan, they met refugees. “They were so grateful,” she said. “It does make you feel thankful for what you have.” She has also been to Greece to deliver supplies to refugees. In high school, Leya started a student-led club at Baylor called “New Beginnings” to collect essentials for refugees moving to Chattanooga through Bridge Refugee Services. Leya told the fifth graders about helping set up apartments for the refugees and picking them up from the airport. “It is nice to see how happy they are,” she said, adding that one particular family really struck her. “There was an older sister and younger boy, like my family. We took them to their new home in Chattanooga, and they were crying because they finally got the things they needed,” she said. Leya plans to continue the club and hopes to expand it in the future. She submitted a portfolio of her work to be part of the Global Scholars program at Baylor.

Other nominees include:

Jenna Naik ‘17, senior at GPS

Jenna Naik

Jenna serves as Terpsichord President and has led this year’s company with ambition, compassion and servitude. She consistently puts others before herself and keeps our dance mission at the center of everyone’s life. She leads by example and is the first one to enter our space and the last to leave. Her efforts are tireless and she pays attention to the small things that do not bring her any accolades. She has participated in every community event we have performed in over the past three years and sings the praises of our dance program wherever she goes. Her example and impact can be seen and felt far beyond the studio walls. She works hard to include everyone around her in all of the activities she is leading.


Lily Monen ‘17, senior at Baylor

Lily Monen '17

Lily is an extraordinary individual who embodies intellect, leadership, compassion, and unwavering dedication. Lily's involvement in the Mayor's Youth Council and her remarkable leadership in the Community Service Program reflect her ability to unite people for a common cause. Every day after school you will find Lily working at the local community center, leading almost 100 Baylor students. The R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Scholars Program is a partnership between Baylor and two community centers in downtown Chattanooga. Baylor students serve as tutors and mentors to elementary-aged students. She began as a tutor in ninth grade but quickly grew into a mentor and friend to children in the Chattanooga community. As a senior, she serves as student leader of both the program and the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. board.

Her responsibilities include monitoring scholars' progress, taking attendance, setting program goals, and implementing improvements throughout the year. She even secured a grant to enhance the community center's library. Lily also has been a part of the Civic Scholars Program where she has learned how to position herself as a leader in civic engagement and community development. She was selected to serve as a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council. She works with students from each high school in the greater Chattanooga area to improve our public educational system and address issues such as mental health and literacy.


Jude Rifai ‘17, senior at McCallie

Jude Rifai '17

Along with being the senior valedictorian of his school, Jude has been very involved in various service and leadership groups across McCallie, including being a part of the Head’s Leadership Council, the McCallie Diversity Club, the Natural Conservation Guild, the McCallie Service and Business Society, Model UN, Mock Trial, the McCallie Guitar Quintet, and Science Olympiad. In all of these activities, Jude holds a very prominent leadership role and strives to improve the activities in all the ways he can. Some outcomes of his work are the McCallie Big Blue World Culture Fair’s success, many nature cleanups held at the Reflection Riding Nature Center, many guitar performances throughout the school, city, state, and country, many cleanups of the Pleasant Gardens cemetery, and much more.