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From right to left, Peter Davies, David Shannon and Avery Hill pose with two students at Johnson & Wales University who have started a chapter of the Community Activism and Leadershipo Organization at their school. In April, the trio started a business based on the CALO club they are part of at Bryant University. (Photo courtesy of David Shannon)

Wallingford teen helps create company with a conscience

Less than a year after graduating from Sheehan High School last June, David Shannon, along with two friends he met during his freshman year at Bryant University, started a business to promote social activism.

In April, Shannon and co-founders Avery Hill and Peter Davies created a company called CALO, which stands for the Community Activism and Leadership Organization. The company is about thinking outside the box, said Shannon, 19. “We’re trying to promote a cultural shift.”

Instead of selling a product, the point of the company is to increase social engagement and the philanthropic mindset. Shannon said the company will work with businesses and organizations to help plan social engagement events with the purpose of “leading them in the direction to not only help themselves but their local community.”

Shannon, Hill and Davies first met through the CALO club at Bryant. Hill, who will be a junior at the Rhode Island university this fall, created the club as a freshman. During freshman orientation, Shannon and Davies joined the club and quickly befriended Hill.

The idea of the club, Shannon said, “is to help the local community and teach students to become leaders.”

Studying business at the university, Shannon realized that by turning CALO into a business he could pursue his goals and “help people at the same time.”

After becoming friends, Hill said the trio learned they shared an entrepreneurial spirit.

“For me it’s not about the money,” Hill said. “They are the same way, so we started to develop this project I had in the back of my mind.”

Hill, 20, of Maryland, created the club his freshman year after he joined the university’s “generic” philanthropy club. After successfully running to become club president, he helped change the constitution to create the concept of CALO. In the first six months, the club grew from five members to over 180, Hill said.

“We made community service a trending thing at our school,” he said. “We’re trying to push it to as many schools as we can. We have to spread the cause.”

The club expanded to nine universities throughout the Northeast, Shannon said. There are another 20 universities “on the edge of committing” to adding a chapter, he said.

Much of the trio’s time is spent on the club and newly formed business.

“All three of us don’t drink,” Shannon said. “It’s something we’re proud of. On weekends when others are out doing their thing, we’re writing business plans and working with investors.”

Part of their goal is to conduct interviews with 52 of the top philanthropists in the country, Shannon said. The interviews will be used as curriculum to show others how they can give back to their community, he said.

As a club, CALO takes on any service project, Hill said, including canned food drives, supportive walks, runs, relays and animal care drives. Another focus is women’s empowerment, Hill said. The club has sought to help women who own small businesses. Other initiatives include helping Bryant University raise money to install solar-powered classrooms and urging students to create a smart phone application to aid the local community.

“We plan to have about 150 community service chapters,” Hill said. “We all have really high goals, so we want to expand this.”

Since Hill lives in Maryland and Davies in New Hampshire, the three stay connected online over the summer.

Shannon said he never thought he’d be where he is today, starting a business before he turned 20.

“One of the things we always try to say is we have to have fun with this,” Shannon said. “It’s a business, but we’re creating it. We are actually creating something that could be monumental, but we are just three friends and we have a lot of fun with what we’re doing. We’re promoting that to others.” (203) 317-2224 Twitter: @Andyragz

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