Meredith Good-Cohn celebrates her 19th birthday today, knowing she is already a woman of tomorrow, a community activist, a scholar, a filmmaker, a volunteer in numerous capacities and the state's recycler of the year.
And the college-bound young woman is not letting up. She will enter the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall, with an academic scholarship, and most likely embark on a career in medicine or, maybe, film.
"I have not declared, but I am interested in health," she said.
Good-Cohn has just completed a term as president of the Baltimore Student Congress, a fledgling service-oriented group of area high school students, who "work together to better our community," she said.
She organized about 50 teens for the group's first major project last fall. They recycled everything possible from what was tossed away at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in October, an event that drew more than 40,000 people. The group arrived at 5 a.m., stayed several hours after the last runner and recycled more than two tons of discards.
"Ours was the team pink goes green initiative," said Good-Cohn, a resident of Hunt Valley and June graduate of Garrison Forest School in Owings Mills.
After that, the group, under her leadership, handled several other projects, but the teen who likes working with people said she felt a stronger draw to societal problems. She did not simply want to raise money for a cause, she wanted to work at something hands-on, she said.
"It is important to look into your neighborhoods, into places that are only a few miles from your home and see what you can do to help with the problems," Good-Cohn said. "There are projects you can do while working with the people you want to help."
When she heard that numerous city pools and playgrounds needed refurbishing, she formed a work team and met with recreation and parks officials.
"Children need to be surrounded by things that are safe and nice, not by broken glass and a sliding board that could hurt them," she said. "If your surroundings are nice, you will take care of them because you will feel you deserve them."
The volunteers settled on City Springs Pool on East Baltimore Street.
"It had a real community feel to it, but when we saw it last winter, it was surrounded by trash and overgrown weeds," she said.
The volunteers planned their strategy and set to work, including designing and painting a seascape mural on the once bland exterior of the bathhouse. By the time the pool opened this summer, they had helped make its grounds inviting.
For her senior year internship, Good-Cohn worked with Wide Angle Youth Media, a nonprofit that offers city teens opportunities to tell their stories in film. She helped middle-school students make a documentary of their neighborhood near Johns Hopkins Hospital. It premiered at the Orleans Street branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
"It was the perfect internship," she said. "I could combine my two passions — helping people and making films."
She won Garrison Forest's Alumnae Award and its first leadership and service award at graduation, both of which came with praise from G. Peter O'Neill, head of the school.
"It is fun talking to Meredith about her interests and dreams and to look at what she has already accomplished," he said at commencement.
He listed many accomplishments, everything from making movies and recycling to playing Antigone, traveling to China and volunteering in an emergency helicopter recovery unit at a city hospital.
On Wednesday, Good-Cohn is lunching with first lady Katie O'Malley at the Government House in Annapolis, an honor reserved for the few Women of Tomorrow nominated by their schools to the Maryland Commission for Women.
Today, for her birthday, she will take off from her hostess job at the Milton Inn and take in a concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion with a group of friends. But thoughts of the future are never far off.
"There will be tons of opportunities to help the community at Maryland," she said.