Pinkerton Academy senior Devin McMahon led the way to a small conference room adjacent to Student Council Adviser John Breda’s science classroom. The room is also used by the Council, of which McMahon is president, and she warned, “It’s really messy.
“We’re getting ready for the winter pep rally,” she said, carefully moving a pile of paper snowflakes.
McMahon has done everything from cutting out snowflakes to decorating the Pinkerton Building in purple lights, all for the good of the school and larger community. The Hampstead resident’s efforts were rewarded recently when she was named one of two delegates to the United States Senate Youth Program.
The program, begun in 1962, brings 104 students – two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity – to Washington, D.C., for an intensive week-long study of the Federal government. According to a press release, “The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service.” All expenses for the event, called Washington Week, are paid by the Hearst Foundation, which also gives each delegate a $5,000 college scholarship.
McMahon said she was nominated by the school, and that potential delegates have to have been elected to a school office. She filled out an application, wrote an essay, and was chosen as one of a half-dozen state finalists. She was then interviewed and selected as one of the delegates, she said.
McMahon can’t pinpoint a time or place where social activism and community service “hit” her. She was raised in a family of socially-aware people, with political conversations at dinner. With two siblings adopted from Ethiopia, she became aware of world issues and the need to get involved.
In seventh and eighth grade at Hampstead Middle School, McMahon became involved in an anti-bullying committee and increased her involvement. She was chosen to attend an eighth-grade leadership forum at Pinkerton and decided to run for Student Council as a freshman. She’s been busy ever since.
She’s current President of the Pinkerton Council, vice-president of the district Student Council, on the board of the state Student Council, a delegate to the state DECA marketing conference with the school’s chapter project, and Community Service Coordinator for the Future Business Leaders of America.
When does she sleep? “Never,” she said jokingly.
McMahon was also a founding member of the Interact Club, the student arm of the Rotary Club, and coordinated the “Go Purple” week last fall, which raised awareness of the March of Dimes.
But that wasn’t enough for McMahon, and last year she started her own nonprofit, “Your Eyes Wide Open.” The initiative came from the adoption of her little sister Hana from Ethiopia, she said. “We went to Ethiopia, and there were children following me around asking for a pencil. My parents warned me about the poverty, but I was not aware until I saw it.” McMahon started her nonprofit to help Ethiopian children obtain an education.
“In freshman year we took Global Studies and I learned about the poverty cycle,” she said. “Education breaks the cycle.”
Friends, including her boyfriend’s family, have adopted from Ethiopia and so have other families in Hampstead, so she had a ready-made interest group. They’ve hosted events around Hampstead, mostly for middle-and elementary-age students, and recently held an open mic night at The Coffee Factory.
McMahon will go to Washington March 7 through 14, she said. While the agenda is not firm, she knows she’ll be meeting with the Secretaries of State and Defense, with New Hampshire’s Congressional and Senate delegations, and possibly with President Barack Obama.
While she’s excited about meeting the movers and shakers, the tour of attractions and the scholarship, she’s most looking forward to meeting students of like minds. “I want to meet students like me, but who have done much more,” she said. She’s involved in a Facebook group with the other delegates and noted that “one kid had dinner with the Russian ambassador.
“These will be our future leaders,” McMahon said of her fellow delegates.
Though she’s interested and active in social issues, McMahon doesn’t see her own future in politics. She was considering journalism until she took a marketing course last year “and fell in love with marketing.” She’s considering public relations and “business in general,” and hopes to make a difference through Corporate America.
“My mother said, ‘Don’t work for any nonprofits until you pay off your college loans,'” she said with a smile.
She has her sights on two schools, Bentley in Massachusetts and the University of New Hampshire, and has already been accepted at Bentley, she said.
She is the daughter of Jeff and Jenna McMahon of Hampstead and has four siblings, Caelin, 16, Hana, 14, Ryan, 10 and Cameron, 9.