MEET THE WINNERS

A yearbook of the winners of the Barron Prize

2020 WINNERS

Leaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment. Indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment
2020 Winners Announcement

Aniyah Ayres

Aniyah’s Mission

Age at Winning Prize

14

Home State

Pennsylvania

Aniyah Ayres founded Aniyah’s Mission to help Philadelphians in need and to show young people that their voices and actions matter. Committed to demonstrating “Kids Can” affect change, she and her team have provided food, warm coats, back-to-school backpacks, and scholarships to more than 5,000 underserved community members. Each August, Aniyah organizes her Peace, Love, and Water Ice tour to bring free water ice and her message of hope to neighborhoods in need. The weeklong tour culminates with her Day of Peace, a community celebration that encourages youth “to do more and be more.” The free event brings together families, churches, local organizations, and the police department to enjoy music, youth performances, bounce houses, and face painting. Aniyah provides food, clothing, and backpacks filled with school supplies. She also presents awards to local youth and adult activists.

Aniyah began her work as an 8-year-old when she organized a Children’s Die-In to protest police brutality and gun violence. Sixty of her peers and their families closed off one of Philadelphia’s busiest intersections, garnering local and national media attention. Inspired to do more, she formed Aniyah’s Mission to honor and further the work of her late father, a pastor passionate about helping the city’s underserved. Aniyah works closely with the Philadelphia 76ers on their youth advocacy and outreach programs. She has also created a Kids Care room at a local elementary school, where students can confidentially obtain food, toiletries, and school supplies. She is the author of The Life Without…, a recently published book to help young people experiencing the loss of a loved one. “I believe all children should have a voice and be heard, have clothing and a warm place to sleep, and be able to eat every day. It should be that simple,” says Aniyah. “Until that happens for every child, my work will not end.”

Annie Zhu

Fresh Hub & Readiness Across Mathematics Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

Texas

Annie Zhu co-founded Fresh Hub to reduce food waste and provide nutritious food to people living in Houston’s food deserts — areas with limited access to healthy options. Her team of 100 student volunteers collects excess fresh food that would otherwise be thrown away and offers it to community members at free monthly markets. Fresh Hub has collected 10,000 pounds of produce, bread, and other foods from grocery stores and bakeries and distributed it to more than 1,400 people. The Fresh Hub app, coded by Annie, notifies people of the monthly markets. Annie’s inspiration began three years ago when she volunteered at a homeless shelter and noticed it served primarily canned food. Soon after, she was shocked by the amount of fresh food discarded as she helped repair a grocery store hit by Hurricane Harvey. When she learned that a quarter of Houstonians live in food deserts, she felt compelled to act. She rallied her peers and with her sister’s help, launched Fresh Hub.

Her team first established a partnership with the Houston Health Department in order to distribute food at community centers in two food deserts. A partnership with Second Servings, a local nonprofit, helped Annie’s group connect with stores like Trader Joe’s willing to donate surplus food. Fresh Hub also connected with human service agencies that agreed to attend monthly markets to provide support beyond food. Annie’s work has helped her realize the relationship between food insecurity and educational inequity – and inspired her last year to launch Readiness Across Mathematics (RAM). An extension of Fresh Hub, RAM has already helped nearly 100 underserved students improve their math skills through monthly workshops, one-on-one tutoring, and online programs. “My frustration over the unfair circumstances built into society has led me to meet incredible people,” says Annie. “I know I’m not alone on this journey to help the underserved – and I know my journey has only just begun!”

Bill Tong

Bioma Project Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

Maryland

Bill Tong founded the Bioma Project, an environmental education nonprofit that brings native fish aquariums into classrooms. In four years, he has expanded his program to 38 schools in Maryland, D.C., and California, educating nearly 2,300 students. His aquariums are stocked with 10 species of native fish and plants. Students tend to these miniature ecosystems, learning about native wildlife and developing a sense of environmental stewardship. Teachers use Bioma Project curriculum to provide hands-on instruction. Bill began his work in 7th grade, frustrated by recurring trash in his neighborhood. Passionate about protecting the planet, he began efforts to connect his peers with the environment, hoping to inspire them to protect it. He started a wildly popular school fishing club and convinced Trout Unlimited to donate one of their large trout tanks of 200 fish to his school.

Inspired by these successes – as well as by Gandhi’s call to “be the change” – Bill committed to creating an interactive environmental education program. He pitched his idea of classroom aquariums to schools across Maryland and D.C. Dozens jumped at the chance to participate and offered input. Bill spent much of his sophomore year creating a 40-page curriculum and obtaining permits for collecting wild fish. To fund start-up costs of $1,600, he and his friends sold their Pokemon card collections. Bioma Project students demonstrate a 60% increase in environmental literacy over the course of Bill’s year-long program. Bill continues to fund his free program through a small fish farm he created in his basement. “I now understand Gandhi’s wise words. Change is hard, and I learned I needed to blaze a path for others,” says Bill. “Through persistence, the students of the Bioma Project have become the change I wanted to see in the world.”

Chander Payne

Urban Beet Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

Maryland

Chander Payne founded Urban Beet to grow fresh food for underserved people and to help cool urban areas. His four school-based farms have provided over 2,500 pounds of produce for homeless youth and people living in D.C.-area food deserts. Chander passionately practices regenerative agriculture — farming that builds healthy soil and captures carbon. His farms help reduce the urban heat island effect that causes city neighborhoods to be 10 degrees warmer than surrounding areas. He has engaged more than 200 young people, many of them marginalized, in an effort to “connect students with gardening, families with real food, and everyone with the soil.” He is working to create five new urban farms across Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware.

Chander began his work in 2016 after noticing the lack of fresh produce at his school. To help, he connected the student food pantry with a local rooftop farm. That summer, he fell in love with regenerative agriculture and returned to school with a mission: to use the practice to help marginalized youth grow food. Chander created an urban farm in his school’s courtyard and invited young people from the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project to grow and harvest vegetables. His weekly workdays allow homeless children to experience the mental and emotional benefits of gardening, and to enjoy their harvest as farm fresh meals made by True Food Kitchen. Chander’s team recently began creating and donating Free Little Farms — window sill planters complete with soil, seeds, and a note of support. “My work has led me to see the world as a regenerative farmer — to be perceptive and empathetic,” says Chander. “I envision a world where I walk into underserved neighborhoods and see colorful beets and tomatoes growing – a world where every kid has a close relationship with living soil and fresh food.”

Dana Perella

Cookies4Cures

Age at Winning Prize

9

Home State

Colorado

Dana Perella founded Cookies4Cures and has raised more than $100,000 to fund research into rare pediatric diseases. In three years, she has rallied nearly 100 families to join her in baking over 17,000 cookies. Dana’s nonprofit focuses on research and treatments for five rare and devastating childhood diseases that affect her friends and others. In her words, “When a child has a rare disease with no cure, research is hope. Cookies4Cures funds hope, one cookie at a time.” She began her work as a 7-year-old, when her friend Mila was diagnosed with a rare and fatal disease called Batten. Determined to help Mila’s family fund research for a cure, Dana decided to bake and sell cookies. Every weekend, she pulled a wagon filled with cookies door-to-door through her neighborhood. Three months later, she’d met her $1,000 goal.

To increase fundraising and share more widely her work to help Mila, Dana created a GoFundMe campaign. It went viral. Fueled by the response, Dana asked friends to help her bake and they started holding cookie pop-ups – events where they educated people about rare diseases and offered cookies in exchange for donations. Within months, Dana had raised $56,000 for Mila’s research fund, which led to the first-ever treatment for her form of Batten. Dana has proceeded to help other children with rare diseases by raising an additional $45,000 for research. Her vision is to create a Cookies4Cures fundraiser for every rare childhood disease. She wants to inspire thousands of kids to help make that happen. “I hope that I can inspire more people to do their part,” says Dana. “For anyone who wants to change the world, I have two pieces of advice: 1) Believe in yourself and 2) Just start.”

Isabella Paoletti-Tejeda

Read a Story, Change a Life

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

California

Isabella Paoletti-Tejeda created Read a Story, Change a Life, a literacy intervention program that has helped more than 2,500 at-risk children learn to read and write. Her program inspires imagination and builds lifelong readers through storytelling and interactive workshops. Based in Orange County, it serves children at affordable housing developments, low-income preschools, and local libraries. Her program also supports young students in Kampala, Uganda. Isabella has built a team of 120 volunteers and has raised more than $44,000 to fund her work, with donations and support from Disney, First Book, and Youth Service America, among other groups.

Isabella first learned of the dire need for literacy intervention while volunteering as an 8th grader at Higher Ground Youth and Family Services, a local agency that supports at-risk youth. She discovered that nearly 80% of the children there were reading two grade levels below state standards. She also learned that most of the children had never visited the public library – her childhood home away from home, where she has volunteered for seven years. Isabella decided to take what she’d loved growing up at her library – the storytelling, workshops, and theatrical events – and bring them to at-risk children. She asked experts in Library Science for help with curriculum and recruited high school volunteers with experience in theater, creative writing, and design. Together, they created a 105-page training manual that includes scripts, songs, an instructional DVD of story time materials, and puppets. Isabella earned the Girl Scout Gold Award for her work. The Yorba Linda Public Library uses her materials to train volunteers and recently committed to continuing her program for years to come. “The process of finding a cause I feel passionate about and doing something about it has been life changing,” says Isabella. “I’ve learned that age doesn’t define my ability to create change in the world.”

Isha Clarke

Youth Vs. Apocalypse Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

California

Isha Clarke co-founded Youth Vs. Apocalypse (YVA), a diverse group of young climate justice activists. The group works to lift the voices of youth – in particular, youth of color – in the fight for a livable climate and equitable world. YVA organized and led the first Bay Area Youth Climate Strike in March 2019, when 2,000 protestors marched and chanted in the streets. The group supports underserved students at local schools, offering guidance for their climate justice clubs and community action projects. YVA also pressures politicians to make environmentally and socially conscious policy decisions. Isha gained fame through a now-viral February 2019 encounter in which she urged Senator Dianne Feinstein to support the Green New Deal.

Isha’s passionate voice helped launch YVA several years ago, when she took up the fight against a proposed coal export terminal through her West Oakland neighborhood, a low-income area already disproportionately affected by pollution. During youth protests outside the terminal developer’s office, Isha confronted the developer with her calm, confident voice. That experience of speaking truth to power fueled her determination to bring those most impacted by environmental injustice into the movement against it. YVA continues to fight for “No Coal in the Bay” and for reform in California’s oil and gas industry to protect people and the environment. For Earth Day 2020, the group organized a three-day virtual climate strike (given shelter-in-place orders at the time). The strike highlighted the need for climate justice work to focus on dismantling the larger systems of oppression that treat people as disposable. “Just because we can’t vote doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a seat at the table, especially when the topic of discussion is our futures,” says Isha. “There is only one planet and it is the job of all of us to sustain it.”

Kavi Dolasia

Reaching Out with Robotics

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

California

Kavi Dolasia co-founded Reaching Out with Robotics to increase technology literacy for underserved youth. Her program brings hands-on robotics education to disadvantaged children, students of color, and girls — groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The program also reaches students with disabilities and the elderly. Over the past five years, Reaching Out with Robotics has impacted more than 4,000 students through weekly classes, monthly workshops, and STEM fairs. High school mentors visit middle schools, public libraries, and Boys and Girls Clubs to teach engineering and computer science basics through robotics. Kavi has grown her program into eight chapters across California and is working to expand further. Her sponsors include the National Center for Women & Information Technology (supported by Apple, Bank of America, Microsoft, and Google) and Disney Friends for Change.

Kavi fell in love with STEM as a sixth grader, one of just four girls on her school’s robotics team of 30 students. A year later, she joined her older sister in investigating why nearly all students in her high school STEM classes had attended one of the area’s two middle schools (Mill Valley), and not the other (Bayside). The girls found that 89% of students at Bayside were socio-economically disadvantaged, compared to just 7.9% at Mill Valley. The two middle schools’ vastly different test scores reflected the disparity. Kavi and her sister decided to start a weekly STEM club at Bayside — and Reaching Out with Robotics was born. Six years later, their annual robotics competition at Bayside showcases the STEM gains students there have made. Bayside is currently part of the first California school desegregation order in half a century. “The impact of my program has taught me that grassroots action can be a catalyst for tangible, lasting change,” says Kavi. “Every Monday when I walk into Bayside to teach robotics and see the triumphant smiles of students troubleshooting code, it gives me hope.”

Kavi Gandhi

Yash Gandhi Foundation

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

Pennsylvania

Kavi Gandhi directs the Yash Gandhi Foundation and in three years, has raised more than $460,000 to help find a cure for I-Cell, a rare, genetic childhood disease. The foundation honors his older brother Yash, who passed away from I-Cell just shy of his ninth birthday, when Kavi was in first grade. The boys’ parents established the foundation in 2001, the only one in the world focused solely on I-Cell funding. They’d built a small circle of supporters but in 2016, told Kavi they planned to dissolve the foundation. Dismayed, he reflected for several days and then told his parents he wasn’t going to let that happen – that he wanted to revive the foundation and do the work himself.

His parents stepped back and 13-year-old Kavi took charge. He expanded the foundation’s mission to include advocating on behalf of the I-Cell community. He overhauled its website, creating an information and networking hub for newly diagnosed families. He began building a strong social media presence that includes photos, bios, and videos of children living with I-Cell. His social campaigns have engaged nearly 200,000 people in 43 countries. An avid cross country runner, Kavi organizes the i Run for i-Cell 5K fundraiser each October. Dozens of I-Cell families from across the country gather for the race and to connect with others facing the disease. Kavi donates all race proceeds to prominent I-Cell researchers. His foundation has prompted a renaissance in research into the disease. “I’ve met so many heroes through my work – people who are endlessly passionate about their causes,” says Kavi. “I’m so hopeful about the continued positive impact that heroes, young and old, can bring to this world.”

Lillian Petersen

Uses Satellite Imagery to Predict Crop Yields in Africa Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

New Mexico

Lillian Petersen has created an early warning system using satellite imagery to predict crop yields in every African country several months before the harvest. Her method could give governments and aid organizations earlier warning of impending food crises and allow them to transport food and supplies to where they are most needed. Unlike other crop failure warning systems, her model can predict crop yields anywhere in the world and is practically free. Numerous aid organizations and research institutions have invited her to present at conferences around the world. She has published her method as novel work in the peer-reviewed journal Remote Sensing.

Lillian’s inspiration began nine years ago when her family adopted three children. All had faced food insecurity in their former homes and one was severely malnourished. Lillian worked with her new siblings daily to help them overcome cognitive delays and physical challenges. Several years ago, she heard of multiple crop failures that had thrown Ethiopia into a state of emergency, and aid organizations were unprepared. She knew that similar situations cause three million children to die from malnutrition each year. She resolved to help and put her love of technology to the task. Lillian has worked tirelessly since then, collaborating with leading satellite experts and writing thousands of lines of code. She first validated her method in Illinois and then applied it to every country in Africa, with highly accurate results. She continues to monitor crop health over Africa and is extending her work to predict malnutrition prevalence based on economic, social, and agricultural factors. “My younger siblings opened my eyes to the hardships faced by the underprivileged all over the world,” says Lillian. “I believe everyone has the responsibility to help reduce suffering. My goal is to unlock advances in technology and make them work for the world.”

Madhvi Chittoor

Madhvi4EcoEthics Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

9

Home State

Colorado

Madhvi Chittoor founded Madhvi4EcoEthics to reduce plastic and Styrofoam pollution and inspire others to do the same. A black belt in Taekwondo, she calls herself the No Styrofoam Ninja. She speaks at environmental events across the country and shared the stage with Greta Thunberg at Denver’s Global Climate Strike in October 2019. She has worked with her district congressman and the governor of Colorado to have April declared as Plastic and Styrofoam Pollution Awareness Month in Colorado. Madhvi spent much of the past year gathering signatures to convince state legislators to propose a statewide ban on Styrofoam take-out containers and single-use plastics in restaurants and grocery stores. She worked nearly every weekend collecting signatures for her petition and talking with legislators and mayors across the state. The petition has been introduced as two bills that will soon be signed into law.

Madhvi’s statewide campaign builds on her success petitioning her Denver-area school district to replace Styrofoam lunch trays with sustainable ones. She worked for months to gather signatures and then brought her petition and idea to the district superintendent. He set up a task force and asked Madhvi to help lead it. She attended and spoke at all of the task force’s meetings for nearly a year. In September 2019, the Jeffco Public School district — with 86,000 students across 155 schools — made the switch to compostable paper lunch trays. The move will eliminate 7.6 million Styrofoam trays from the landfill each year. A nature and animal enthusiast, Madhvi first became aware of plastic pollution in first grade, when she learned of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. By age 7, she’d written and published a book called Is Plastic My Food? to educate her peers about the problem. “I’ve learned that making change takes time and requires patience,” says Madhvi. “But I know that through persistence and determination, I can create change on a large scale, even though I am young.”

Matine Khalighi

Helping the Homeless Colorado & EEqual

Ages at Winning Prize

18

Home State

Colorado

Matine Khalighi co-founded Helping the Homeless Colorado (HTHC), a Denver-based nonprofit that supports individuals in the community who are facing homelessness. Over the past four years, his team has raised more than $130,000 to help over 10,000 people in need. The group has granted $15,000 in college scholarships to homeless students and has distributed more than 40,000 basic necessities. HTHC has also built a social media following of 11,000 people. Their statewide #SpreadTheLove campaign invites Coloradoans to have a conversation with a homeless person, record it (with permission), and post it to social media. The pictures and videos are also aired on television. The campaign has engaged more than 25,000 people across the state.

During the fall of 2019, Matine felt drawn to address what he’d come to see as a critical need – support for K-12 public school students experiencing homelessness, who total more than 24,000 in Colorado alone. He challenged his team to reimagine what Helping the Homeless Colorado could do to help and pitched the idea of taking the organization to a new, national level. Nine months later, Matine and his team launched EEqual, a for youth, by youth nonprofit committed to mitigating the economic impacts of poverty in education through targeted programming. Using knowledge gained from experience and research, the EEqual team is now investing in education as a way to break the poverty cycle. EEqual supports students in need by providing classroom supplies, scholarships, and social awareness campaigns. “In my earlier life, I thought I was far too young to make a real difference,” says Matine. “But I had a spark and used my creativity to act upon what I thought was right. I’m committed to helping build a just society that values the power of unity.”

Sammie Vance

Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project

Age at Winning Prize

11

Home State

Indiana

Sammie Vance founded Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project to create designated benches where schoolchildren can sit when looking for a friend. In the past year, she has helped more than 100 schools across the country collect plastic caps and recycle them into buddy benches. She hopes to place a recycled bench on every school playground across the country. Corporate partnerships are helping her toward that goal. Walgreens stores in Indiana collected enough caps for 75 benches and asked Sammie to choose schools in the state to receive them. UPS has created an $8,000 shipping fund for schools participating in her program.

Sammie began her project as an 8-year-old, inspired after hearing how buddy benches were helping lonely kids. With support from her mom, Sammie located a company in Indiana that creates benches out of recycled plastic caps for $250 — a fraction of the cost of a new bench. She pitched the idea of a recycled bench to her school principal, who loved it, and then put out a call for caps. In less than two months, she’d collected 1,600 pounds of them — enough for three benches. Sammie continues to receive caps from around the world, sorting and weighing them to help other groups obtain benches. Schools and community organizations reach out to her daily, seeking support and information about her program. A Kiwanis group near Los Angeles recently asked for help in acquiring 500 benches over the next five years. Sammie is frequently asked to speak to groups of all ages about the power of each person to make a difference. “I’ve learned that if you want something, you need to go for it, be willing to ask for help, and never give up,” says Sammie. “If you can dream it, you can do it!”

Topher Jones

Lonesome Larry Project Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

12

Home State

Idaho

Topher Jones has raised nearly $11,000 to protect sockeye salmon and other threatened fish in the Western U.S. Known as the Sock Guy for the Sockeye, Topher sells custom-designed socks and has donated all profits to the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support fish restoration projects. His initiative, called the Lonesome Larry Project, is named for the lone sockeye salmon (dubbed Lonesome Larry by the media) that in 1992, swam 900 miles from the Pacific back to Idaho’s Redfish Lake to spawn, only to find himself alone. Topher first learned of Larry and the plight of salmon a year ago. An avid fisherman, he was dismayed. He’d also just spent much of his 5th grade year studying Idaho’s fish and their importance to the ecosystem. He decided to help protect them.

“Socks to save the sockeye!” came to mind and Topher set to work. He reached out to nonprofits, Native American groups, and government officials to learn about the challenges facing salmon. He asked for help designing a Lonesome Larry logo and socks, and has since added bottle openers, decals, and keychains to his line. He sells his wares at Idaho Steelhead hockey games and local coffee shops, as well as on his website. His goal is to raise $100,000 to help the salmon. He also hopes to inspire people to take care of fish and the environment. He raises awareness by speaking to school and community groups. “I believe you don’t have to be an expert to help the world. You just need to be really motivated to do something,” says Topher. “I’ve learned that the world has so many problems but we can come up with solutions. Everyone can help make a difference.”

Viraj Mehta

Precision Medicine Initiatives

Ages at Winning Prize

17

Home State

Arizona

Viraj Mehta is passionate about developing technologies for the prevention, early detection, and treatment of cancers. His projects make use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in an effort to increase survival rates. He began his work four years ago after losing his grandfather to cancer diagnosed at a late stage. When Viraj learned that late diagnoses are especially prevalent in medically underserved areas, he created the organization OncoVision to help people in these areas screen themselves for cancer. Over three years, he conducted workshops for people in rural areas of India, Malaysia, and Poland. His OncoVision app makes the project more sustainable and can predict one’s percentage risk of eight different cancer types with 97% accuracy.

In creating the OncoVision app, Viraj realized the potential of emerging technologies to help patients with cancer – especially in the context of precision medicine, which focuses on personalized treatments. He established Precision Medicine Initiatives to explore technologies in this realm. In two years, he has created two web platforms. The first, miRTK, recommends personalized therapeutic treatments for cancers based on molecular analyses. The second, GLIA-Deep, which is patent-pending, holds promise for patients with glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer that is difficult to treat with standard chemotherapy drugs. With GLIA-Deep, clinicians can upload a patient’s MRI scan and within seconds, receive an assessment of their genetics along with patient-specific drug recommendations. Viraj has won numerous awards for his work and has been invited to speak at international neuro-oncology conferences. He has validated GLIA-Deep at Mayo Clinic and is working on testing it in a clinical setting. “My journey with this work has allowed me to help people around the world and to accomplish things I didn’t think were possible,” says Viraj. “It has also taught me the importance of being grateful and has allowed me to honor my grandfather by spreading compassion in his name.”

HONOREES

Elliot Shin

Olivenbaum

Age 17, Oregon

Elliot Shin founded Olivenbaum, a nonprofit that educates and empowers refugees and strives to bring peace through music. His group provides academic tutoring, free music classes, and college scholarships for refugees in his community. An accomplished oboist, Elliot funds his program by performing benefit concerts with his peers. Olivenbaum was born of Elliot’s passion for making music and promoting peace. His work is also inspired by the hardships his grandmother faced as an immigrant decades ago, when she fled North Korea for the U.S. To help refugees new to his community, Elliot recruited 45 peers to serve as academic tutors. A local nonprofit matched them with refugee families. Paired with an Iraqi student, Elliot began weekly, hours-long tutoring sessions and organized group ukulele lessons. He also arranged for his 40 refugee students to serve as tutors for American high schoolers taking Arabic. He continues to support his students in serving the community, enlisting their help as translators at hospitals and in cooking meals for the homeless. “So often refugees are misunderstood as ‘outsiders,’ not worthy of belonging,” says Elliot. “I’ve learned the importance of overcoming misconceptions and that most everyone wants to give back and to belong.”

Ethan Wilk

Xenia Project Leaf

Age 17, Arizona

Ethan Wilk founded the Xenia Project, a nonprofit working to protect endangered marine species with novel blockchain technology. Over the past two years, he and his team have used their blockchain-based tracking chips to tag more than 1,000 endangered fish, allowing them to delineate the factors driving the high extinction rates in the area. His chip attaches to fish harmlessly and records their swimming patterns more accurately than any standard tracking chip, a result of the unique blockchain implementation. To expand his reach, Ethan has forged partnerships with numerous other organizations including the World Wildlife Fund. He has also arranged community fundraisers and has inspired over 500 volunteers to join his cause. He originally outlined his concept for a blockchain-based tracking chip in ninth grade by drafting a research paper that allowed him to materialize the idea with a professor at Arizona State University. He is now aiming to expand his work overseas to Australia. “My journey to conserve marine life has been long, and it’s been challenging,” says Ethan. “For the first time in my life, I’ve begun to embrace the saying that nothing is impossible when one tests their limits.”

Hollis Belger

Juggling for Jude

Age 15, California

Hollis Belger founded Juggling for Jude in 2014 and has raised more than $450,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Her fundraising centers on the skill of juggling a soccer ball with one’s feet, which she does in exchange for donations. She is working to raise $1 million to help St. Jude increase pediatric cancer survival rates and to support children undergoing treatment, which the hospital provides free of charge. Hollis started Juggling for Jude as a nine-year-old, determined to put her passion for soccer and strong juggling skills to good use. Initially focused on juggling for pledges, she has greatly expanded her reach. She now juggles at dozens of events each year, leads kids’ soccer clinics and private juggling lessons, and designs and sells merchandise. She also partners with soccer clubs across the country, supporting them in organizing their own Juggling for Jude fundraisers. Hollis speaks frequently at schools, camps, and conferences, raising awareness of pediatric cancer and sharing her message that young people can make a difference. “I want my generation to know that we all have something we can share to help others,” says Hollis. “It takes hard work, dedication, and commitment to a cause, but we can all impact those in need, and feel empowered as a result.”

Jaden Winn

Youth Igniting Change Leaf

Age 17, Oregon

Jaden Winn founded Youth Igniting Change, an alliance of youth activists working to promote climate justice, advocate for homeless youth, and advance the conversation around equity and inclusivity. His group helped organize Portland’s climate strikes in 2019, when nearly 30,000 people marched to demand climate action. Jaden and his team recently worked alongside organizations like Citizens Climate Lobby to successfully advocate for statewide climate policy reform. Youth Igniting Change helps homeless youth through monthly deliveries of self-care bags and will soon launch a new initiative to expand their support. In partnership with Portland City Schools, high school students will have the opportunity to design and build tiny homes for students aging out of the foster care system and in need of housing. Jaden began his work three years ago after four local homeless men died in sub-zero temperatures. Distraught but determined to help, he fundraised to provide tarps, tents, sleeping bags, and warm clothing for 50 people living on the streets. “I believe it’s up to my generation to redefine what it means to be an engaged and caring citizen,” says Jaden. “My goal is to bring ordinary young people together to turn seemingly small everyday actions into a movement of social uprising.”

Justin Sather

For the Love of Frogs Leaf

Age 9, California

Justin Sather works passionately to help save frogs by reducing plastic pollution and protecting frog habitat. He founded For the Love of Frogs as a kindergartener and has raised more than $20,000 for his cause. He has used the funds to support frog conservation programs, purchase reusable snack bags for his classmates, and provide eco-friendly toothbrushes to hundreds of people. He has also used donations to buy recycling equipment in order to turn plastic trash into treasures in his garage. He recently launched The Parallel Projects, an initiative to help people in developing countries upcycle plastic waste. Working “in parallel” with children and adults in places like Kenya and Cameroon, Justin has supported the upcycling of 5,000 plastic bottles, turning them into flower planters, chairs, and even irrigation systems. He is currently working to purchase 244 acres in the Ecuadorian rainforest to protect thousands of colorful frogs there. “I’ve learned that one idea can change the world,” says Justin. “It started out with just me wanting to help the frogs. Now people from all around the world want to clean up the planet with me.”

Kate Gilman Williams

Kids Can Save Animals Leaf

Age 10, Texas

Kate Gilman Williams co-authored a children’s book titled Let’s Go on Safari! and in the past year, donated over $12,000 in sales to nonprofits that protect wildlife and wild spaces. Her book sales support the Jane Goodall Institute, Global Wildlife Conservation, and The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – leaders in conservation who agreed to partner with her. Kate wrote her book with Michelle Campbell, a South African game driver who guided Kate’s family on safari when Kate was 7 years old. The two exchanged cross-continental emails for months to create their book, which showcases African animals and the threats they face — and inspires children to protect them. Since its U.S. publication in 2019, the book has also been published by Penguin Random House in South Africa and is available to download worldwide. Kate has donated hundreds of copies of her book to schools across the U.S. and to various literacy initiatives, including The Clinton Foundation. Kate is committed to turning kids’ natural love of animals into action. In January 2020, she rallied peers to help animals impacted by the Australian bushfires, raising more than $6,000 with a campaign called Quarters for Koalas. “Advocacy has no age limit, and kids can save animals!” says Kate.

Kevin Malaekeh

Youth Climate Action Coalition Leaf

Age 17, California

Kevin Malaekeh co-founded the Youth Climate Action Coalition (YCAC), a nonprofit that has worked with more than 3,000 schools and thousands of students to mitigate the effects of climate change. YCAC extends the work of the environmental club Kevin started at his school two years ago, inspired by his love of natural places and his deep desire to protect them. His club’s 60 members have reduced the school’s water usage by 30% and have built a robust school composting program, among other initiatives. Kevin has worked for the past year to expand the composting program citywide, collaborating with town officials, waste management companies, and California EPA. The city’s pilot program will launch with 500 households in September 2020. California EPA is hopeful the new initiative will serve as a blueprint for similar programs in other cities, given a new statewide law mandating massive reductions in landfills’ levels of organic waste. YCAC is also working on legislation to require climate change education in the state’s public schools. “I’ve learned that people are willing to take action when the tools are provided to them,” says Kevin. “At YCAC, we’ll continue to work hard to make sure our generation helps end the climate crisis.”

Megan Chen

The Urban Garden Initiative Leaf

Age 17, Delaware

Megan Chen founded The Urban Garden Initiative (TUGI), a nonprofit that empowers children to grow fresh produce and teaches them environmental concepts. Her team of more than 200 volunteers provides container gardening workshops to students at approximately 50 elementary and middle schools. The fall and spring workshops give children the chance to plant vegetables from seed. The workshops also teach students about urban agriculture’s ability to make cities greener and healthier. TUGI provides similar programming for Boys and Girls Clubs and offers a summer camp in partnership with other nonprofits. Megan is a longtime grower of container vegetables herself, gardening indoors year-round to provide fresh produce for her family. She launched TUGI in August 2019 after summer work at an urban farm in Wilmington, a nearby city where many residents live in food deserts. Megan has raised over $10,000 to fund her work and has built partnerships with groups such as the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy. She has also grown TUGI to include more than 40 chapters around the world. “I think it’s incredible how many people you can find who are passionate about the same causes you are,” says Megan. “I want to work together to give youth the knowledge and resources they need to create change.”

Sofie Roux

Sparkly and SmART

Age 15, British Columbia

Sofie Roux has raised nearly $50,000 US from sales of her artwork and invested it in sustainable projects that support girls’ education in Africa. She has focused on STEM technology, menstrual health, and access to clean water (since waterborne illnesses and the need to carry water hinder girls’ school attendance). She began her work 11 years ago when she funded a computer lab at a children’s home in Cape Town, South Africa. She has continued to update the lab and the home’s director, Rosie Mashale, has become a mentor. When Rosie recently asked Sofie for help with a menstrual hygiene campaign that promotes girls’ school attendance, Sofie responded with a sustainable solution: the purchase and installation of a machine that makes sanitary pads and employs local women to run it. Sofie has also donated funds to build three wells in rural Malawi, working with Water Wells for Africa. While visiting the well sites in 2019, she painted a mural on a new water tower at a high school in Blantyre. She is currently working from her back yard to repurpose a shipping container into a solar-powered technology learning lab for the school, which will be shipped and set up in Malawi next summer. Sofie shares her journey so far in her recent TEDx Talk. “I’ve found there is boundless imagination, knowledge, energy, and love out there,” says Sofie. “Enough to confront big problems. Enough to change the world, one small step at a time.”

Zev Shapiro

TurnUp Youth Activism App Leaf

Age 18, Massachusetts

Zev Shapiro founded a nonprofit that created the TurnUp mobile app to serve as a hub and social network for efficiently organizing young activists. TurnUp uses technology to empower young people to take action in their communities. The app informs young people of events happening in their area, and connects them with organizations and each other. Over the past two years, Zev has built a team of 600 youth across the country and has raised over $100,000 to fund his app. More than 100 organizations have pre-subscribed to it. Zev’s passion for civic organizing began in fourth grade, when he gathered hundreds of signatures to convince local education officials to add a salad bar to his school’s cafeteria. There is now a salad bar in every public school in Cambridge. In the eight years since then, Zev has worked on numerous political campaigns – usually as the only young person involved. TurnUp aims to change that, making it easier for youth to organize as environmental, social, and political activists. “Tech for good is what we’re all about,” says Zev. “We think technology can be the key for this generation to make the biggest impact on our democracy.”

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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.

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WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Media inquiries and other questions:

Barbara Ann Richman

Executive Director

director@barronprize.org

Questions about the online application:

admin@barronprize.org

Terms of Use | © Thomas A Barron, LLC
Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes | P.O. Box 1470 | Boulder, CO 80306

Terms of Use | © Thomas A Barron, LLC

Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

P.O. Box 1470

Boulder, CO 80306