Koedi Nealy - Texas Interview by Claire Plath Nomination by Debi Schnider Photography by Capture It Camera Issue 35 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
The Nomination: Koedi had the vision at age seven of making a difference in the world by using spare change. She related pennies to the overlooked, forgotten, and lost people of the world. She never gave up on her dream, and with much drive and determination, her ministry, Graced, became a non-profit when she was 13 years old. Koedi is now 17 and is very active in her school, church and community. Graced has a team of ambassadors ages 7-27 who work together to help people feel valued. They provide for the community’s homeless population and send underprivileged children to camp. Koedi is an inspiration and she speaks to different organizations about the importance of creating change with change.
Tell me about Graced Ministry, and how you started it. When I was 7, I noticed people passing up pennies on the street, I noticed people not wanting pennies back for change, and I even witnessed someone throw a few pennies away. I also noticed a homeless community that people passed by as if they didn’t matter. I related the two and decided I would use pennies to show people that we are all of value.
What is the purpose behind Graced Ministry, and what inspired you to start your own ministry at such a young age? Graced ministry is a non-profit that gives youth of all ages a way to fellowship and serve others and their community. As of now, our ambassadors range from age 7-25 and we currently have 56. We collect pennies and use the money to minister to people living on the streets. Graced also has a program that helps send youth to summer camp.
How have you overcome challenges you’ve faced through having multiple learning disabilities? I have had great therapist’ to teach me learning/studying habits and strategies. I have learned to set goals and work hard until they are accomplished. I have had to learn that learning looks different for some people and that’s ok. I embrace my learning struggles and don’t look at them as a disability but a difference.
Through the obstacles you’ve faced, how have you persevered through hard work and determination one example including becoming a member of your school’s National Honor Society? I set achieving National Honor Society on my goal list as a fifth grader. I would study long hours, go to tutoring, work close with teachers, ask for extra credit, and envision me achieving that goal. I reached National Junior Honors Society in 7th grade and worked diligently ever since to keep it.
What advice would you give to other teens to encourage them to stay positive and determined through your own experiences? I have had peers tease me because of my learning differences in the past as well as mock and ridicule me for my ministry work, but I focused on the enduring words of my family, found adult mentors that I trusted, and tried to stay true to the things I felt like I was created to accomplish.
How has starting your own non-profit organization impacted your life and how you help be there for others? Starting Graced Ministry has not been easy and was not an overnight success. After 6 years of talking to anyone who would listen and begging my family to help me, my vision became a reality. Watching the Ambassador program grow as youth of all ages unite to make change with change has been one of my greatest accomplishments. I hope I can continue to be someone to encourage others that it doesn’t matter your age or your situation ~ you are of value and can make a positive impact on the world.
Koedi will be featured in issue 35 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!