Last year, Aria Brent got to hobnob and FaceTime with singer John Legend and poet Carlos Andres Gomez.

"I'm fortunate, not famous," said Brent, a Centennial High School junior.

Brent was speaking at the Columbus Rotary's 15th annual Service Above Self High School Fair, held May 14 in the Valley Dale Ballroom in Columbus, about Centennial's participation in the Axe Find Your Magic Initiative.

She worked with fellow Centennial students Deiontay Bowie and Kitano Watkins on the community-service initiative, which culminated in the trio appearing on the school's stage with Gomez and Legend on Oct. 17.

"The goal of this was to break the stereotypes about what a young man is supposed to be," Brent said.

The Find Your Magic Initiative was introduced by the Axe, a company known for its grooming products for men and boys, to encourage "inclusive masculinity" in high schools, according to promotional materials from the company. Legend got involved and has appeared at several schools, including Centennial, on behalf of the program.

Centennial's program was one of many featured at the Service Above Self fair, an annual showcase of community-service projects undertaken by students at all 20 Columbus City Schools high schools and three middle schools.

All told, the students put 10,000 hours into the projects, according to Jim Maniace, co-chairman of the Service Above Self committee.

"How much better is our community for that?" he asked during the luncheon that followed the showcase.

Several schools had multiple projects, and the teams of students involved with them were on hand at the Service Above Self fair to answer questions from Rotary members and guests.

The work undertaken by the young people covered a range of issues, including:

* Freshman Fusion at Beechcroft High School, with "veteran students" mentoring newcomers.

* All Stars Shine at Centennial, which continued the tradition of students volunteering to help with the Special Olympics Ohio State Aquatics Meet.

* Helping the Hungry at Columbus Africentric Early College, in which students served meals at food pantries and homeless shelters.

* She Can Make a Difference at Columbus Alternative High School, aimed at addressing the stigma and other issues women and girls face because of their skin color and body size.

* Pull 4 the House at Columbus North International School, with students collecting pop tabs to help pay the electric bill at the local Ronald McDonald House.

* Macroawareness of Microaggressions at Eastmoor Academy, exposing the hidden meanings of terms used by staff members and students that reinforce stereotypes.

* Spanish Verb Word Wall at Northland High School, in which a Spanish-fluent student was recruited to assist the teacher by using her artistic ability to create compelling visual verb charts for posting in the classroom.

* AP Biology-Honduras Health Clinic at Whetstone High School, with students collecting donations of vitamins, Band-Aids and pain-relief products for a church organization that will transport them to a health clinic in Honduras.

"Service Above Self is really about the spirit of success at Columbus City Schools," interim Superintendent John Stanford said during his remarks at the luncheon.

"This is an event that I thoroughly enjoy coming to," said Priscilla Tyson, a Columbus city councilwoman. "There is absolutely no way our city could pay for those services rendered."

Among the Whetstone projects at the fair was the Gay Straight Alliance, represented by freshman Jacob Kerscher and juniors Carrie Mullins and Tasean Fine. The club is open to everyone, the three emphasized, and isn't focused only on gay students.

"In the world we live in, it's kind of hard for people who are open to anything," Kerscher said.

" 'Gay' is like an insult to people, and I don't think that's the case," Fine said.

"We like having fun with the kids," said Northland senior Erica Carter of the Parkmoor Reading Buddies project at the nearby elementary school. "We try to make sure they like reading."

Beechcroft's projects included an international fair.

"It was about sharing cultures, mostly of foods," said freshman Mario Martinez. "It's great to make new friends."

"It was basically to involve everyone's culture, at least the ones who wanted to participate," said Hector Retana, a junior.

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1