GCAPP event with Jane Fonda in Atlanta targets young audience

Hits from the likes of Post Malone and D.R.A.M. blasted while high school students from across Georgia filed into The Fairmont, a former industrial warehouse turned Beltline-adjacent events space in Atlanta’s Westside, last Friday morning.

Jane Fonda, the 80-year-old actress, fitness legend and former wife of Ted Turner, was in town last week for a youth summit hosted by the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential. Fonda founded the group in 1995. RICK DIAMOND / GETTY IMAGES
(For the AJC)

They were there to witness a panel discussion led by Jane Fonda, the 80-year-old actress, fitness legend and former wife of Ted Turner.

“There’s a lot of focus on childhood, there’s a lot of focus on adulthood, and very often adolescence falls through the cracks,” said Fonda. “Too many people don’t realize that it’s a unique stage of human development. It’s very different from childhood and adulthood. And the decisions that are made and the experiences that are had during adolescence really have a big impact. It’s the gateway to adulthood.”

She was hosting an event titled “Yes!” for the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential (GCAPP), a group Fonda founded in 1995 to promote healthy living among young people. Georgia had the nation’s highest teen pregnancy rate at the time, but that rate has fallen by more than two-thirds in the ensuing decades.

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The star-studded celebration at The Whitley hotel in Buckhead raised $1.3 million for GCAPP.

Joining Fonda on stage Friday were 12 teenagers making a positive impact. Some had already founded businesses or charities, while others planned to attend Harvard University or become physicians.

Among those on stage was 13-year-old Nawroz Youssef, a Syrian refugee who attends the Paideia School and hopes to one day become a doctor. One of the youngest participants in the panel discussion, Youssef broke down into tears at one point while describing her past and ambitions, and was loudly cheered by the audience. Fonda sat next to Youssef and provided encouragement when needed.

Jane Fonda is shown with Nawroz Youssef, a Syrian refugee who attends the Paideia School and hopes to one day become a doctor, at the Oct. 5 GCAPP event. RICK DIAMOND / GETTY IMAGES
(For the AJC)

“We wanted to speak with some adolescents and young adults who have overcome incredible odds to not just make something of themselves, but to become admirable people who give back,” Fonda said. “They have all sought ways to reach out to other young people to help them. We think that they are inspirational, and we want young people in the audience and the adults to hear these messages.”

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The night before, GCAPP honored former CNN President Tom Johnson along with his wife, Edwina. The couple has been a big supporter of the group.

Friday was about honoring a much younger audience. Students ranging from Douglas County to Dougherty County munched on the provided healthy snacks and shot selfies using the official hashtag #GCAPPEmpowers.

Backstage, Fonda spoke briefly about the group and its mission. She noted that while teen pregnancy rates have fallen drastically, she fears the policies of President Donald Trump may reverse that trend.

“Teen pregnancy rates went down, and a lot of that had to do with the Barack Obama administration putting money into the things that we know will help bring rates down,” said Fonda. “We have a new administration now that doesn’t have that same kind of commitment. On the contrary, what it’s looking like is that we’re going to be rolling back to what we had before. It’s the ‘just say no,’ abstinence until marriage kind of approach, which is what gave rise to the problem.”

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Fonda has been as busy as ever lately with projects including the ongoing Netflix series “Grace and Frankie,” the HBO documentary “Jane Fonda in Five Acts” and a movie titled “Book Club,” which has grossed over $90 million.

But in the midst of this success, sad news was released just two weeks ago when it was announced that Turner, Fonda’s ex-husband and the founder of CNN, had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia at the age of 79.

>> RELATED: Ted Turner reveals he has Lewy body dementia

“I’ve known for a long time that Ted had Lewy body, and I’m glad he went public with it so people would understand what he’s dealing with when they see him,” she said.