Monday, December 31, 2018
When I first greet Alex Fell, I’m struck by his voice. Yes, it’s a deep baritone — but it’s more about the maturity in his timbre and especially in his demeanor. He’s self-assured, deeply polite, humble, and gracious. And then I am reminded that he’s only a senior at San Marcos High School. That makes him the youngest person I’ve had the honor of featuring in the Santa Barbara Questionnaire, which is now officially beginning its sixth year.
Alex is the director of advancement for Kids Helping Kids. The organization was founded 15 years ago by the high school’s AP Economics teacher, Jamie DeVries, who wanted to bring traditional financial curriculum to life while simultaneously teaching students the duty of service and empathy.
“I always wanted to be part of Kids Helping Kids,” Alex tells me enthusiastically. “I couldn’t believe that San Marcos High School students were effecting change, and I needed to be on that stage.”
Since its beginnings, Kids Helping Kids has raised more than $3 million. “We divide our annual budget between local and international youth causes,” he explains of the senior student-led program. “Locally, we assist economically-disadvantaged students with visual aid machines, SAT/AP testing fees, medical bills, school supplies, and tutoring. Internationally, we support children in five countries, including Nicaragua, India, and Rwanda, focusing within areas plagued by human trafficking. We fund safe houses, educational institutions, and water purification systems catering solely to these at-risk children. Our basic concept is described in our name: we are kids making a difference for other kids.”
Alex attends classes all day, but then works diligently from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. on his humanitarian tasks. “Kids Helping Kids has opened my eyes about social entrepreneurship,” says Alex, who leads a grant writing team and a business pitching team. “It’s a great opportunity to give the students the opportunity to be philanthropists, and learn to invest in children.”
Kids Helping Kids is hosting two major fundraising galas on January 11 and 12 at the Granada Theatre, featuring Ben Rector and JOHNNYSWIM.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Alex grow up and mature in this talented multi-faceted young man. He is also the president of the Madrigals at San Marcos. “I love doing my studies and supplementing it with my music,” he explains.
On February 7, he will part of an Honors Performance Series at the venerable Carnegie Hall in New York City. “I submitted a vocal tape and was chosen,” he tells me matter of factly. “I’ve done musical theatre since I was five years old and transitioned to choral music.” He has traveled all across the country with the Madrigals, winning several choral competitions in San Diego, Honolulu, and New York.
Alex grew up interested in computer science and attended Crane School until 2015. Both his parents, Robin and Bob, are incredibly supportive. “They’re not musical,” Alex confesses. “But dad has mentored him on how to approach funding donors, and mom accompanies me to musical competitions.”
He looks forward to attending college, awaiting word from Penn State, Michigan, MIT, and USC. He’s looking for degree in both business and music. “I’m a great lover of symphonies,” he says. “I’ve done piano since I was a kid. I love jazz and symphonies. I’ve cultured my voice.” I have no doubt we will be hearing of Alex in the near future.
Alex Fell answers the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I am told my deep voice catches people off guard when they first meet me, but I’m grateful for the opportunities it has given me in vocal music.
What do you like most about your job?
Not every high school student has the opportunity to fundraise for the meaningful causes supported by Kids Helping Kids, and frankly I’m just blessed to be a part of the organization. I’ve treasured my experiences learning from some of the brightest fundraising minds across Santa Barbara who have mentored me through this process, and I am so appreciate to individuals and businesses that open their doors to Kids Helping Kids fundraising teams. Most of all, I am grateful to be utilizing my Economics education to spread a little light around the world.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sitting in a jazz bar next to the fire after a long day on the ski slopes. Ahh!
What is your greatest fear?
Deadlines! But I must admit I am begrudgingly grateful for them.
Who do you most admire?
Absolutely my parents. They are my inspiration for all that I do and they support me through my successes and failures.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I spend the bulk of my paycheck on food expenditures around my high school. I’ll admit it, I’m a Chipotle addict.
What is your current state of mind?
Anticipatory. College decisions come out soon!
What is the quality you most like in people?
I’m drawn to honest people and good listeners. I work well with those who are willing to speak truthfully in difficult situations, and I respect someone who listens intently before offering something to a conversation
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Complacency. I am challenged with people who give mediocre effort, and I’m especially wary of those who make great claims and never follow through.
What do you most value in friends?
Support and humor. My friends are my support system, and I associate myself with those who are continuously positive. Humor is a must!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
How ‘bout them Cowboys!
Which talent would you most like to have?
Proficiency in multiple instruments.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Leaving time in my schedule for playing more sports.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Performing in national and international honor choirs in Orlando and Carnegie Hall this school year. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity.
Where would you most like to live?
New York, at least in my early years. There’s something electric about being in a big city, and I appreciate everything NYC has to offer from symphony performances to Broadway shows.
What is your most treasured possession?
My voice, no question. Any singer can relate to the great lengths I go to maintain its vitality.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My brother. He has an unusual perspective on life.
What is your motto?
“Carpe diem,” or the edited version my Economics teacher Mr. DeVries likes to say: “Carpe the heck out of the diem.”
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Oh this is tough! Musically, I look to Frank Sinatra. I love his distinctive style, and I’ve sung his tunes since I was a little kid. In addition, I would say Ben Franklin. He’s an extraordinary man in every respect.
On what occasion do you lie?
When I call my mom’s cooking delicious. Sorry mom, you know I love you.