Tessa Szalkowski is a senior at Grady High School whose family welcomed a Rwandan exchange student into their home. The student informed Tessa that her capital, Kigali, had just built their first-ever library, and that they desperately needed books. Tessa birthed the plan to ship children’s books to Rwanda to help stock their new public library. After collecting 10,000 books, she is the heart, soul and face of the Kigali Book Project. In three years she has put a different face to a country that has been known primarily for the images of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

As a member of the Grady 21st Century Leaders Youth Center board, she has encouraged students to seek support for their community service passions. Through Tessa’s efforts over 200 students have been involved in 15 service projects annually for the past three years, allowing them to complete over 2000 hours of community service for Atlanta. She was named one of Atlanta’s “20 Under 20” young leaders and co-captain of the Grady High School Chorus. She also sang with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s All-City Chorus.