Sophia Papademetriou ‘22 is guided by an intrinsic desire to uplift others and help them assert their agency, both here at St. Andrew’s and around the world, particularly the community of Bauchi State, Nigeria, which she has come to know through her volunteer work with the non-profit Leadership Initiatives.
“Working with people from a different culture has opened my eyes to how there are so many similarities between cultures, but also so many differences,” Papademetriou said. “The importance of understanding the needs and identities of other cultures in order to best work alongside them has shaped who I am today and developed my interests.”
Through Leadership Initiatives, a Washington, D.C.-based international nonprofit that helps students gain real-world experience, explore future careers, develop leadership skills, and experience college life, Papademetriou has collaborated with fellow St. Andrew’s students to help a Nigerian catering company bolster their business and support the broader community
. This school year, Papademetriou led a team of St. Andrew’s students, including Ansel Barnard ‘22, Rushien Maghsoud ‘22, Reid Povinelli ‘22, Lacey Somwaru ‘22, and Shannon Yehl ’22, to develop a human rights campaign that would combat sexual harassment in Bauchi.
She first learned about Leadership Initiatives during her ninth-grade year after seeing an email from Head of Upper School Ginger Cobb about summer programs offered by Leadership Initiatives. Papademetriou said she has always wanted to go into law, and a weeklong Leadership Initiatives law program at Georgetown University piqued her interest. The program gave students an opportunity to work on pro-bono law cases that connected them with local clients as well as clients in Africa.
“I’ve seen firsthand that some of those cases go better than they would have because of students helping and contributing, whether it was preparing clients for court, briefing their documents, filing motions,” she said. “I can directly see the impact it’s made.”
That experience inspired her to take on a two-year International Business Internship with Leadership Initiatives that supported the catering company in Bauchi State, and then the human rights campaign during her twelfth-grade year. Neither program was interrupted by the pandemic, as they were both designed to be online, virtual experiences for students.
“I’ve been able to learn what it means to create a solution from the ground up that is actually sustainable,” Papademetriou said. “The nonprofit has been inspiring, being around people who want to do the same thing as you, here and around the world.”
This past summer, Papademetriou returned to the law program that first introduced her to Leadership Initiatives, this time as a facilitator, and has helped the nonprofit develop its law program as an intern.
Reflecting back on her time at St. Andrew’s, she said the student involvement in the Upper School, from students organizing new clubs to speaking at Morning Meeting, inspired her to discover how she can be a leader.
“I think the environment at St. Andrew’s, being so supportive, breeds leadership,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for St. Andrew’s and that environment that uplifts you to do new things, I wouldn’t have gone and found that opportunity [with Leadership Initiatives].”
At St. Andrew’s, Papademetriou uplifts others as a peer tutor and study buddy for Lower School and Middle School students. She also co-founded the People for Pets Club, which empowers students to make a difference for animals by organizing pet food and supply donation drives.
Whether it’s a student club at St. Andrew’s or an internship team with Leadership Initiatives, the opportunity to bring people together around their potential to create positive change inspires Papademetriou.
“What I have found here at St. Andrew's is a culture that really promotes community collaboration to accomplish goals and solve problems,” she said.
Papademetriou will study international affairs and political science at George Washington University this fall, with a goal of continuing on to law school.