MEET THE WINNERSA yearbook of the winners of the Barron Prize
AllisonLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Founder, Purses for Primates
Age at Winning Prize
Allison founded Purses for Primates, a non-profit that has raised over $27,000 to protect orangutans and their shrinking habitat. She collects gently-used handbags from across the U.S., resells them at fundraising events, and donates 100% of the proceeds to Orangutan Outreach, a New York City-based conservation group. She is a founding member of the group’s extensive children’s program, Forest School 101, and serves as the program’s current ambassador.
Allison began her work at age seven after reading Koko’s Kitten about the famous gorilla’s friendship with a young cat. Inspired to research great apes, she was struck by the orangutan’s gentle, intelligent nature and devastated to learn the animal is facing extinction due to habitat loss — the destruction of the Malaysian rainforest to create palm oil plantations. Determined to sound the alarm, Allison found a way to weave orangutans into almost every elementary school assignment. She also rallied her classmates’ families to boycott palm oil and with the help of her mom, wrote and published Allie and the Orangutan. In middle school, she formed Purses for Primates and began fundraising in earnest. She has given numerous presentations about orangutan conservation, has developed curriculum that she shares with teachers, and has served on Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots National Youth Leadership Council. “I feel that sticking with my passion from a young age is the greatest gift I could have given myself,” says Allison. “It taught me how to have persistence and how to be brave and stay grounded.”
Age at Winning Prize
Anurudh’s idea was born of his own vaccination experience in India, where his grandparents carried him as an infant 10 miles to a remote village to receive a vaccine only to find that it had overheated and was no longer viable. He was able to receive the vaccine the next day but realizes that so many others aren’t as lucky, with 4,000 children dying every day from vaccine-preventable diseases. He decided that solving the problem of last-leg transport could help and spent months formulating his ideas on paper. Anurudh took his initial design to professors at nearby Johns Hopkins University, who not only validated it but offered funding. After nearly two years of refining a half-dozen prototypes, he has tested his latest design for 200 hours and has a patent pending, with plans to scale up and get the device to those in need. “I’m committed to seeing this project through to the next phase,” says Anurudh. “I will have succeeded when the first person’s life is saved because of VAXXWAGON!”
DelaneyLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Founder, The Sink or Swim Project
Age at Winning Prize
Delaney has written and illustrated three children’s books on ecological topics and recently completed a comic adventure book about climate change titled Where Did All the Polar Bears Go? Research for a new book for young adults about sea rise led her to develop The Sink or Swim Project and www.miamisearise.com. Delaney’s work has also evolved to include political action and advocacy. Last year, for example, she learned that Miami-Dade County officials mentioned sea level rise just once in a 1,000-page, three-volume budget and didn’t include any funding to address the issue. She spoke in front of the Mayor and County Commission to demand action and her work, along with that of other concerned citizens, led the Commission to agree to allocate $300,000 and to appoint Miami-Dade County’s first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer. “Kids get it. Here in South Florida, they see evidence of sea level rise all around us and they understand that our generation must solve this problem,” says Delaney. “I’m proud to play a small role in helping lead my generation toward the solutions our planet needs.”
HannahLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Age at Winning Prize
Hannah began her work two years ago after learning that her 9-year-old Ethiopian pen pal, Ruth, was living without a reliable source of electricity. Determined to help, Hannah began researching electricity production and through a process of trial and error, arrived at the BEACON, which she has tested in the Boca Raton Inlet. She plans to publish it in an open-source platform and to work with humanitarian agencies to make it available to anyone who needs it. “I hope that my prototypes can have an impact on Ruth’s life and the lives of other kids worldwide who dream of making a difference,” says Hannah.
MartinLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Founder, Save the Seals
Age at Winning Prize
Enchanted by baby seals since preschool, Martin first became aware of their slaughter when he was in second grade. He immediately wrote a letter to the editor of his local paper and then rallied his teacher and classmates to action. Together, they crafted a petition, gathered 1,400 signatures, and sent it to the Canadian prime minister. “This campaign has developed my sense of compassion and awareness of the injustices inflicted on animals,” says Martin. “It has changed who I am, influenced my world, and made me realize I can make a difference.”
MayaLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Creator, 400 PPM Documentary Film
Age at Winning Prize
Maya’s climate change passion began at age 14, when she joined scientists and other students on a research expedition to the Arctic. Hoping to make a home video when she returned, she filmed what she’d expected to see — the beauty of icebergs and polar bears – but also documented the unanticipated and disturbing stories of the native people, who explained how melting ice is destroying their ability to hunt and fish and provide for their families. Returning home, she was struck by her peers’ complacency around climate change and decided to produce not a home video but a full-fledged documentary. Maya knew nothing about filmmaking but dug in, first convincing Canadian dignitaries including novelist and activist Margaret Atwood to be a part of her film. Nearly two years in the making, 400 PPM was released in 2015 as a non-profit, open-source documentary film. It has been shown around the world and is projected to reach an audience of over 2.2 million students. “There were many late nights when I contemplated giving up on my project and getting a good night’s sleep,” says Maya. “I’m so glad I didn’t.”
Founder, Limbs with Love
Age at Winning Prize
Meghana and her team of peers have perfected the lengthy process behind each prosthetic hand. One team member corresponds with the recipient to receive pictures and measurements while another uses special software and eventually Computer Aided Engineering (CAD) to complete the hand design. Finally, the design files are imported to the 3D printer which prints the parts that are then assembled like a puzzle into the final product. The process is made more difficult by the constant need to trouble-shoot printers and by the challenge of obtaining accurate measurements from children in developing countries. Undaunted, Meghana is currently developing a prosthetic hand controlled by electronics to increase finger functionality and sensory perception. She is also working to start 3D printer clubs in her community to encourage more students to learn to use the technology for good. “You are never too young to make a difference,” says Meghana.
Founder – For a Change, Defend
Pooja has worked with the government of India and former UN Police Commissioner to promote strong women and responsible men in the villages of Northern India. Her curriculum has been implemented in government schools, Blind institutes for girls, orphanages, and colleges, and has been certified by the District of Education in Chandigarh to be implemented in over 450 schools in the near future. She has recently focused on teaching self-defense to victims of sex trafficking in poverty-stricken villages near Delhi, providing support and increasing protection for those who are most vulnerable. Closer to home, she has spoken about the importance of empowering women at venues including the United Nations and TED Talks, and has taught teen dating violence prevention in underrepresented schools in Los Angeles. She is currently working on a women’s safety app for college students that alarms when shaken and sends a GPS location to police and emergency contacts. “I see an opportunity for change and an obligation to serve as the changemaker,” says Pooja.
Founder, Rachel’s Fun for Everyone Project
Age at Winning Prize
Rachel dove into fundraising, first designing and selling t-shirts and then organizing events such as spaghetti dinners, an auction, charity rides, and a community garage sale. She has expanded her efforts to include bike and car shows, an annual golf scramble, and a 5k running race. She has overcome her extreme shyness and now speaks confidently at community events, including City Council meetings, where she is allotted time each month to present a project update. Rachel has thoroughly researched playground manufacturers and has chosen the company and equipment design she feels is best. “I’ve learned to not take ‘no’ for an answer when seeking donations and to keep my goal in sight,” says Rachel. “By doing this, I know that I’m not only going to build this playground, but do almost anything I set out to do.”
Age at Winning Prize
Raghav worked for months with his local blind center to test his invention. He used funds from a small grant to make multiples copies of the device and donated them to the blind center. He also published the design, allowing other non-profits to produce and distribute the device to those in need. For his invention, Raghav won first place in the California state science fair, as well as numerous accolades from other competitions. Working under the motto “Service Through Science,” Raghav has also invented a wearable device that can predict and prevent autistic outbursts. His love of science and electronics in particular began in third grade, when he took apart his remote controlled airplane after it crashed into a tree. “These experiences have taught me what it takes to translate technology from a concept to the real world where it can benefit and help people,” says Raghav.
Founder, Rainbow Pack
Age at Winning Prize
Riley began her work following a visit with her fifth grade class to an elementary school where she was moved by a kindergartener’s comment that she’d love new crayons but that her mother couldn’t afford them. Riley responded with action and that year, provided the school with 360 filled backpacks – enough for every kindergarten and first grade student. Since then, she has built an impressive support team, including nearly a dozen peers to help her gather donations and purchase wholesale school supplies using grant funding from local and national organizations. Riley has also garnered the support of a Los Angeles City Councilmember as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board. She is working with both groups to address the district’s overwhelming need for school supplies. “I’ve learned about the power of people and how you can inspire people to use that power for good,” says Riley. “Rainbow Pack is sustained by people’s generosity and desire to create real change.”
Founder, Geeks for Good
Eager to begin his work with students, Ryan found he first needed to tackle the problem of Wema’s insufficient power grid and collaborated with science teachers to construct a small solar electricity system. He then dug in with students, who embraced his computer-building course. He returned to Africa this summer with a group of U.S. student volunteers to finish his work at Wema and, using graduates from that program as co-instructors, expanded to other schools in Kenya. Recognizing that it is impossible to learn on an empty stomach, the team also began constructing a self-sustaining farm that Ryan designed and raised the capital for, starting with a 300-chicken poultry operation to provide WEMA students with daily protein. Ryan recently began partnering with wildlife conservation and tourism-related companies to support computer labs in the communities where they operate — partnerships that will allow Geeks for Good to extend its reach in Africa and expand into Southeast Asia and the Caribbean Basin. “Through this work, I have discovered my humanity, my passion, and my purpose,” says Ryan.
Founder, SHIFT Scoliosis
Samantha’s “Seeing the Curve” outreach team travels to underserved communities across the U.S. In addition to screening all of a community’s children, “Seeing the Curve” works with local professionals to provide hands-on training and to establish screening clinics. Samantha has organized half a dozen of these trips, including recent ones to the Big Island of Hawaii and to the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, the poorest place in America according to the U.S. Census. She is currently organizing a trip to Suriname, where she is laying the groundwork for a mass clinic to screen tens of thousands of children. She is also working with medical professionals to develop a tool that will simplify scoliosis screening and allow people worldwide to learn screening skills. “I want to give other children the gift I was given – healing and hope,” says Samantha. “And I want to be the best role model I can for the younger generation so they can see that youth can be positive, healthy leaders.”
StoryLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Age at Winning Prize
Today, Story speaks to schools, politicians, and stakeholder groups, and has testified before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous times before the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission. She has helped hundreds of people get involved in the political process through writing letters, tweeting, and calling their representatives. She has discussed wolf science and non-lethal management strategies with multiple state legislators as lawmakers have debated new laws to adapt to wolf recovery. Story also conducts wolf research in Yellowstone National Park and Washington state, tracking wolves, setting up field cameras, and sharing her data with wildlife biologists and conservation groups. “I’ve learned that you can’t judge another person based on one belief,” says Story. “More often than not, you can find something in common with those you disagree with.”
XerxesLeaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Led a Project to Mitigate Water Contamination
Age at Winning Prize
Xerxes first came to love Muscoot Farm as a young summer camper there. He witnessed one day during a downpour massive amounts of manure washing into a nearby stream. He followed the stream to a river and soon learned the river fed into the public reservoir system. As he began mapping out a way to solve the problem, Xerxes made countless phone calls and asked local lumber stores to donate materials. Groups including the EPA and Audubon Society lent their expertise and support. In the end, he completed an estimated $60,000-$70,000 project entirely on a donation basis, including 2,600 volunteer man-hours. For his work, Xerxes was awarded the William T. Hornaday Conservation Medal, given to just ten Boy Scouts each year. “My vision for the future is having a genuine purpose and doing something that I believe in,” says Xerxes. “For me, that stems from the simple but special moment of connection that comes with helping others and the environment.”
Alex & Hannah
Age 13, OhioTwins Alex and Hannah founded their non-profit Adopt A Book at age 8 and since then, have collected and donated over 107,000 books to more than 100 organizations serving children in need across Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Church groups and Scout troops, as well as the United Way and Procter and Gamble, have held book drives to benefit Adopt A Book. More than thirty Mattress Firm stores across the state serve as book donation sites. Alex and Hannah deliver the books they collect to children at Boys and Girls Clubs, homeless shelters, after school programs, and schools, including one in Zimbabwe, Africa. The twins have also raised over $25,000 from donations, grants, and fundraisers, allowing them to purchase and gift new books, too. Both avid readers, they were inspired as second graders to hold their first book drive (which yielded 32 books) when they learned that a nearby school was closing because of a lack of literacy funding. “I’ve learned that we each need to make a difference,” says Alex. “And if we put our minds to something, we can do it.”
Age 17, TexasCampbell created A Youth Mind (AYM) to empower young people around the world to document their life stories through the medium of photography and storytelling and to improve their lives through entrepreneurship. AYM works with schools and organizations to provide disposable cameras and writing prompts to students and encourages them to think about how they can affect change in their own communities. These photographs and the students’ work are shared (with their permission) in galleries, social media, and among other students in the AYM program. Participating students then learn the basics of business and pitch project ideas during AYM-led youth entrepreneurship summits. Campbell has organized AYM projects in Kenya, Colombia, India, South Sudan, Tanzania, USA, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar. He is currently overseeing the first ever youth entrepreneurship summit in South Sudan and is pursuing similar opportunities in other host nations of the project. He began his work a year ago following a trip to Cambodia, where he was inspired by the dedication and resiliency of the young people he met. “This project combines my passions – wanderlust for the world, a deep sense of caring for others, and an excitement about the creation of something new,” says Campbell.
Age 14, CaliforniaDesmond created Protecting Our Birds in order to preserve and create bird habitat, especially in urban settings, and to educate others about ways to help birds. For the past four years, he has built and monitored bluebird nesting boxes, with his 21 boxes producing 163 fledglings this year. Passionate about birds his entire life, Desmond joined the Pasadena Audubon Society at age eight and is now a contributor to several Audubon newsletters. He regularly leads bird walks for kids and adults and has presented talks for Audubon chapters, schools, and libraries, reaching close to 1,000 people. He raised nearly $1,000 to protect a local canyon and wildlife corridor by photographing as many species of birds as he could in one day and collecting donations for each bird photographed. For his tireless efforts and passion, Desmond was named the 2015 American Birding Association Young Birder of the Year. “I’ve learned that I can make a big difference to birds and the environment by sharing my passion with others,” says Desmond.
Age 14, MinnesotaEmily founded Crayons for Cancer to ease the financial burdens of families whose children are fighting cancer. Her non-profit has raised over $88,000 to help an estimated 4,000 families by selling crayons that have been melted and remolded into whimsical designs to give them new life. Emily donates the funds to oncology units at children’s hospitals across the country, earmarking them to cover costs that insurance doesn’t, like parking and meals, and to replenish hospital treasure boxes where young patients can choose prizes. Emily began her project as a six-year-old to honor her best friend, who lost his battle with cancer. She and her family have enlisted the help of schools, Girl Scout troops, and a host of other organizations in collecting and repurposing crayons, with support from Friendly’s Restaurants, a steady source of crayons. Emily has overcome shyness to become a confident public speaker, able to address audiences of over 1,000 people. “I’ve learned that no act of kindness, no matter how small, will ever go to waste,” says Emily. “Crayons for Cancer shows people what even little acts of heroism can accomplish.”
Emma & Amy
Age 15, OhioTwin sisters Emma and Amy founded Bake Me Home to encourage shared family experiences for those transitioning from homelessness into homes of their own. With the support of thousands of community volunteers, the girls fill tote bags with everything needed to bake cookies – a jar of their homemade cookie mix, baking supplies, a grocery gift card for butter and eggs, and even a toothbrush and toothpaste. They have donated more than 3,000 tote bags to families in crisis, partnering with 18 other human service agencies across Ohio. The girls founded their non-profit organization as 7-year-olds after years of requesting items for a local homeless shelter in lieu of birthday gifts. They expanded upon their initial Tote Bag Program to include their Picture Me Home Program, providing more than 1,350 free, professional-quality portraits for families in crisis. In addition, through their Bake me BACK Home program, the girls and their team of volunteers have provided more than 20,000 cookies to military personnel overseas and to wounded veterans at a local VA hospital. “You don’t have to be famous or important or even an adult to make a difference,” says Emma. “What really matters is that you make the world a better place whenever given the opportunity.”
Age 15, TexasEric co-founded We Care Act, a non-profit designed to provide disaster relief that has grown to include electronics recycling and the refurbishing of computers for children in need. He and his two sisters began their work as elementary school students to support victims of the devastating 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China, raising over $6,000 in just a few months. Since then, the siblings have donated clothing, books, computers, sports equipment, and e-books benefiting approximately 46,000 people in 20 countries. Eric recently created Life Initiative for Technology (LiFT). He has refurbished computers for an inner city school in Houston and has traveled to Costa Rica, China, and Nicaragua to provide recycled computers for underserved children there. He has also sent computers – all of which are loaded with hundreds of PDF-formatted children’s books – to schools in Africa and Nepal. In addition, Eric and his team have produced informational videos on computer recycling which they are using to help students in other states launch similar programs. “I’ve learned the value of taking action and bringing people together,” says Eric. “I will keep doing everything I can to help as many people as I can.”
Age 13, GeorgiaHannah has created a number of initiatives to inspire others to join her in protecting animals and the environment. As a ten-year-old, she raised several thousand dollars in a single evening for the non-profit Save the Horses by organizing a movie night attended by over 300 people. She has developed a presentation about plastic pollution and has shared it with approximately 1,000 children and adults, including the Governor of Georgia, who invited her to his office when he heard of her work. She has also influenced a number of local restaurants in switching to an “upon request” policy regarding plastic drinking straws. Hannah has created numerous videos and Public Service Announcements, including two about the problem of plastic pollution, which she saw firsthand during her beach clean-ups in Bermuda, Miami, and Jamaica. She has also made videos about the need to protect some of her favorite animals including orcas and rhinos, and has presented at rallies and protests to save orcas. Additionally, she has sold homemade cookies to raise $1,500 for elephant conservation. “Through education and information, we can change the world for the better,” says Hannah.
Isabella & Willow
Age 10, ColoradoTwins Isabella and Willow founded Kids Saving Elephants to educate kids and adults around the world about the plight of African elephants and to raise money to help fight the ivory trade. They have raised thousands of dollars by selling their handmade elephant greeting cards, lemonade, and cookies at the Aspen Music Festival and Aspen Saturday Market each summer, spreading their conservation message to thousands of people. The sisters began their work in second grade by writing a letter to President Obama, President Xi of China, and President Kenyatta of Kenya, pleading with them to do whatever they could to end the ivory trade. They also gathered signatures on an online petition version of their letter that was signed by children in most of the 50 states and in more than 60 countries. The girls make frequent presentations about the elephant’s plight. They are currently working to start a pen pal program between kids in Kenya and Colorado to share the importance of protecting elephants. “I’ve learned that kids really can make a difference in the world, but it takes a lot of effort to do so,” says Isabella.
Age 17, TennesseeOlivia has collected and distributed over 100,000 pair of shoes for people in need through H.U.G.S., Inc. (Help Us Give Shoes), the non-profit she founded as a nine-year-old. With a mission of “shoeing the world,” she collects gently-used shoes and then travels to locations across the U.S. to fit recipients. She also sends shoes around the world via friends and missionaries. So far, she has “shoed” children and adults in 13 countries and in 10 U.S. cities including Washington, Atlanta, and New York City. Closer to home, Olivia holds an annual Back-to-School shoe give-away for children living in the Appalachian Mountains and ensures that every child leaves the event with a perfectly fitting, like-new pair of sneakers. She works tirelessly, cleaning and disinfecting each pair of shoes and finding warehouse space to house them. “The ability to change the world is at every single person’s fingertips,” says Olivia. “I fully believe that with a vision for good and hard work, everyone is capable of world-changing awesomeness!”
Age 18, New JerseySabina founded Girls Science Interactive, a non-profit that provides free STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) summer camps for elementary and middle school girls. Her camps, usually held for 25 students at public libraries in mostly low-income neighborhoods, are designed to spark girls’ interest in science. They provide hands-on exploration of topics such as chemistry, global warming, neuroscience, and renewable energy, and demonstrate the real-world applications of science. In just two years, Sabina has grown her program from a single camp in one location to 13 camps at sites in Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. She has recruited and trained a team of 17 high school and college students – all of whom share her passion for girls and STEM — to serve as regional directors. Sabina’s inspiration sprung from her work for the past four years in a professional biomedical research lab and from her recognition that boys hugely outnumber girls in her advanced science and math classes. “People shouldn’t be afraid to try something new,” says Sabina. “I think everyone should strive to give back to their communities in some way, even if they start small.”
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Each year, the Barron Prize honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment.