MEET THE WINNERS

A yearbook of the winners of the Barron Prize

2021 WINNERS

Leaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment. Indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment
2021 Winners Announcement

Abby Yoon

Sustainable Hunger Initiative

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

North Carolina

Abby Yoon founded the Sustainable Hunger Initiative (SHI) to help underserved families access healthy food and to address residential segregation and poverty. Since 2017, her group has donated more than 45,000 pounds of food — including thousands of pounds of locally raised beef — to over 600 food-insecure families. One of SHI’s earliest initiatives, the Greenville Community Garden, has provided over 3,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to local family centers and soup kitchens. The garden also offers nutrition and cooking demonstrations, tastings, and a space where volunteers can learn sustainable agricultural practices. Abby has raised thousands of dollars and helped to build partnerships with twenty organizations across the country to support SHI. Her initiative also oversees a Fitness and Nutrition Program that has served over 7,500 at-risk children and has donated more than 600 bicycles and helmets to marginalized youth.

Abby began SHI as a ninth grader following her move to a different school district, where she was struck by the larger homes, better school conditions, and lack of diversity. She realized for the first time the injustices of residential segregation and resolved to do what she could to address the related environmental and health disparities. She joined a local nonprofit called LAST (Love a Sea Turtle), an environmental stewardship and youth leadership program, and began expanding their food insecurity initiatives. That work grew into SHI. Abby has recently extended her mentorship to include a “We Stand” Black History Awareness project in partnership with local government, as well as a Community Dialogue Series facilitating conversations around racism and diversity. “The past four years have provided me with the most rewarding and educational experiences,” says Abby. “They’ve also altered my perception of what a dedicated team of youth, community members, and I can achieve.”

Adarsh Ambati

The Green Environment Initiatives Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

16

Home State

California

Adarsh Ambati founded The Green Environment Initiatives to design solutions for environmental crises and to provide STEM education for underserved students. He has invented a smart sprinkler system that conserves water and has developed a low-cost method for testing amphibians’ health. His Gro-STEMs team of high school volunteers has taught more than 150 STEM classes to youth at homeless shelters, libraries, and youth organizations. His volunteers have also distributed over 550 compostable Care Cards listing ways to live more sustainably. Adarsh has raised more than $6,250 to fund his work by growing and selling succulents.

He began his efforts in middle school in the midst of the California drought. Frustrated to see the water wasted by his neighborhood’s automatic sprinklers, Adarsh began designing a better watering system. It integrates real-time weather forecast data and city water regulations to determine when and how long to run sprinklers – and then shares the guidelines via Twitter. He has piloted his system to demonstrate a monthly water savings of 2,500 gallons per household and is working with a local water company interested in using it. Another drought-related experience – the disappearance of frogs from the creek in front of his home – prompted Adarsh to develop a new way to test frogs and other amphibians for a fungal pathogen that is threatening species worldwide. His non-invasive method uses simple, inexpensive test strips to swab amphibians’ skin. It produces results more quickly (within minutes versus days) and more economically ($0.25 versus $200) than current methods. Leading scientists have validated his technique, which Adarsh hopes will allow citizen scientists to help protect frogs. “I’ve come to value the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity,” says Adarsh. “More importantly, I’ve discovered that through innovation, education, and advocacy, even teenagers like me can make a resounding impact on the world.”

Alexandra Collins

Students Against Ethylene Oxide Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

Illinois

Alexandra Collins co-founded Students Against Ethylene Oxide (SAEtO), a nonprofit that engages youth in fighting to ban the carcinogenic gas EtO near schools and residential areas. Her student group helped prompt the closure of Sterigenics, a local medical instrument sterilization company that for 30 years had spewed high levels of EtO into her community’s air. Alexandra first learned of the emissions in 2018 – and discovered the surrounding towns suffered from a cancer rate nine times the national average. She also discovered that few of her peers and neighbors knew about the documented connection between EtO and cancer. She embarked on a campaign to change that.

As a first step, she attended a government-led panel on EtO, the only teenager in the room, and was disheartened to receive flippant responses to her honest questions. Around the same time, she learned that her state’s former governor had partnered financially with EtO-emitting companies while in office. Her trust in government rattled, she and her sister launched SAEtO to organize their peers in researching EtO’s effects on the body. Equipped with data linking EtO to cancer, the group began making presentations, speaking with health officials, attending legislative hearings, and organizing mass mailings. Despite continual pushback from those in power, SAEtO stood steadfastly by the mountain of evidence they’d compiled, earning the respect of educators, politicians, and community members. In just over a year, Alexandra’s group was instrumental in pressuring the local polluter to shut down. SAEtO continues to write politicians and stage protests in an effort to enact nationwide legislation banning EtO emissions near schools. The group also recently launched EtO-Free, which posts online reviews of EtO-free beauty products. “I’ve learned that youth shouldn’t be embarrassed or silenced by their lack of experience or expertise when combatting issues in their community,” says Alexandra. “Our voices should carry no shame, no quietness.”

Brooke and Breanna Bennett

Women In Training, Inc.

Age at Winning Prize

14

Home State

Alabama

Twin sisters Brooke and Breanna Bennett co-founded Women In Training (WIT) Inc., a youth empowerment nonprofit that advocates for menstrual equity and menstrual education. Each month, WIT provides at-risk youth with WITKITS – canvas bags filled with a month’s supply of menstrual, hygiene, and dental products, plus gifts like fuzzy socks, a handmade bracelet, and a journal. Each bag also contains the WIT Guide to the Menstrual Cycle, written by a local doctor. In 2020, WIT’s volunteer team distributed 3,000 WITKITS throughout Central Alabama; that number multiplied threefold to 9,000 in 2021. Additionally, Brooke and Breanna have launched WIT’s youth development programs to address the cycle of generational poverty in Alabama. Their Rites of Passage Circle supports middle school girls of color in building self-esteem in an effort to prevent early pregnancy. The WIT Leadership Development Circle works to develop teen girls’ awareness of global issues and inspire a commitment to service.

Brooke and Breanna launched WIT in 2019 after learning that 20% of American youth skip school or work because they can’t afford menstrual products. They asked for money in lieu of gifts for their twelfth birthday, hoping for $200 to buy menstrual products for at-risk girls. Instead, they received $2,000 and began distributing their monthly WITKITS. When the pandemic hit, requests for help poured in from shelters, women’s centers, and children’s care homes. The girls fundraised to meet the increased need by organizing the Virtual WIT 5K Race to End Period Poverty and a virtual Women’s Film Festival, showcasing films produced by women and girls. The sisters are currently working with State Representative Rolanda Harris on a bill that would require Alabama public schools to provide free menstrual products. “I’ve learned to trust my instincts and now I feel confident that I can accomplish my goal of making the world a better place,” says Brooke. “I’ve learned to challenge people to use their privilege to help others,” adds Breanna.

Duncan Jurman

Bring Butterflies Back Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

Florida

Duncan Jurman founded Bring Butterflies Back to protect and repopulate South Florida butterflies through education, conservation, and research. He has collaborated with community partners to teach more than 3,500 students and individuals and has impacted over 10,000 butterflies. To foster environmental stewardship and attract butterflies, he converted a barren field on his school’s K-12 campus into an extensive outdoor classroom that includes a garden and vivarium. He carefully selected plants to serve as butterfly hosts and nectar sources, engineered watering systems, and spent weekends with volunteers constructing flower beds. His outdoor classroom is embedded in the school’s curriculum and has provided countless educational opportunities. It has also attracted more than 30 butterfly species, including two imperiled ones. The space is certified by Monarch Watch and the National Wildlife Federation and has won county gardening awards.

Passionate about butterflies since preschool, Duncan began teaching elementary students about the insects in fourth grade. By age 16, he had partnered with the Broward County School District to teach more students about butterflies and conservation, and to establish campus gardens. Around the same time, he learned that Florida’s butterfly counts and diversity were dwindling. Determined to help bolster their numbers, he created Bring Butterflies Back. He built his website as a source of information and inspiration and developed educational materials. Working with the Broward County Butterfly Chapter, he has tagged butterflies, protected threatened species, collected and distributed native seeds, and promoted home gardening. He has also joined scientists for three weeks of field study in Cuba and recently co-led a yearlong butterfly research project with a local university professor. “Leading this initiative gave me a voice to comfortably share my butterfly passion,” says Duncan. “It also awakened the activist in me and taught me the power of a common goal in uniting different entities to effect environmental change.”

Faraz Tamboli

TalkMotion

Age at Winning Prize

14

Home State

New Jersey

Faraz Tamboli invented TalkMotion, a device that helps people who are deaf and aphonic (voiceless) communicate with people who can hear. His device translates sign language into verbal language and verbal language back into sign language. It includes a gesture detector connected to an electronic tablet. When deaf and aphonic people use sign language over the detector, the gesture data is read by an algorithm on the tablet that is trained using Machine Learning to convert gestures into voice. The device then translates the hearing person’s voice into sign language pictures displayed on the tablet’s screen. Faraz hopes his invention will help expand the limited world of the deaf and aphonic, allowing them to communicate in everyday life, talk with their families, and work in jobs they previously couldn’t.

His inspiration stems from his dad’s childhood stories of an aphonic boy who couldn’t communicate verbally, which left the boy isolated and the neighborhood kids frustrated. Familiar with Google’s voice recognition capacity, Faraz began building a prototype to convert sign language gestures into voice. When he realized there was no readily available data for gesture-to-voice mapping, he collected his own – the 1,000 samples of gestures needed to teach his algorithm a 12-word vocabulary. He has tested his prototype to rave reviews at the New Jersey School for the Deaf and is now tackling the next step – collecting enough data so that his device can learn at least 1,000 words, enabling basic conversations. The gargantuan task would involve collaborating with sign language translators to collect 200,000 samples of gestures. He is talking with investors to sponsor this initiative. “I’ve learned that persistence is the only way to face challenges,” says Faraz. “And I’ve learned that so many people in the world struggle with problems. Sometimes we can’t completely solve the problems, but we can try our best to make their lives easier.”

Gitanjali Rao

Inventor, Young Scientist, STEM Advocate

Age at Winning Prize

15

Home State

Colorado

Gitanjali Rao is an inventor, young scientist, and advocate for STEM who conducts workshops for students around the world to support them in creating solutions to pressing problems. In the past three years, she has conducted 335 workshops for nearly 50,000 students in places such as Afghanistan, India, Kenya refugee camps, and rural schools in the U.S. Her workshops guide young innovators through a prescriptive five-step process that she has developed and used for her own innovations. Named America’s Top Young Scientist in 2017, she has invented numerous devices to help humanity. She developed Tethys, a faster and cheaper way to detect lead in water. Her Epione device uses genetic engineering to diagnose prescription opioid addiction and her Kindly initiative helps prevent cyberbullying. Her latest project detects harmful water-borne parasites quickly and accurately via a genetically engineered biosensor.

Gitanjali leads workshops nearly every weekday by partnering with STEM organizations, museums, schools, refugee camps, and Girl Scouts, among other groups. She supports more than 200 K-12 students each week and is working with global organizations like UNICEF to extend her reach. Questions and feedback from her workshops prompted her to write her recently released book, A Young Innovator’s Guide to STEM. Corporate and individual sponsorships allow her to provide the book free of charge to many students. Sponsors also fund local science fairs to encourage innovation from rural schools. “My work has shown me the inequality in students’ opportunities worldwide and that things I take for granted like clean water and qualified teachers aren’t available everywhere,” says Gitanjali. “I feel a moral responsibility to share the mentorship I received at an early age and I want to inspire students with a can-do attitude. I also hope my workshops highlight the need for innovation earlier in our educational curriculum worldwide.”

Jordan Reeves

Born Just Right

Age at Winning Prize

15

Home State

Missouri

Jordan Reeves co-founded Born Just Right (newly named Design With Us), a nonprofit that inspires kids with disabilities to design innovations based on their own differences and experiences. She leads workshops across the U.S., teaching STEAM and design skills to other kids with limb differences and helping them see their disability as an opportunity in the design world. She also advises companies like Mattel and Keds on how to think about disabilities in designing toys and products that are more inclusive. In her 2019 autobiography, Born Just Right, she shares her story of growing up in an able-bodied society and encourages kids who are different to offer their lived experience and creativity to the world.

Jordan made waves at age 11 when she invented a prosthetic arm that shoots biodegradable glitter. She named it Project Unicorn and decided to use the excitement and attention it generated to help change the conversation around disability. Born Just Right provides a platform for her efforts. She has spoken at TEDx events and conferences and has worked with Mattel designers to develop a Barbie doll that uses a prosthetic leg. She has also launched Make Just Right to help create brand new design skills and job paths for kids and adults with disabilities. Jordan hopes Make Just Right will help change the statistics that indicate people with disabilities are less likely to land full-time jobs. “I spoke up, and new opportunities helped me change how the world talks about and views disabilities,” says Jordan. “I want to grow my nonprofit into something bigger – to reach more people and inspire more creativity.”

Michael Platt

Michael’s Desserts

Age at Winning Prize

16

Home State

Maryland

Michael Platt created Michael’s Desserts to use his love of baking to help others. For every sweet treat he sells, he donates one to someone in need. He also founded P.L.L.A.T.E. – Power, Love, Learning, and Access To Everyone – to address food insecurity. Through P.L.L.A.T.E., he has distributed thousands of healthy non-perishable snacks to underserved kids. He ultimately hopes to expand the initiative into a pay-what-you-can grocery store. He also advocates for the need to address hunger, especially in children, and hosts bake sales and baking demonstrations as fundraisers for the national nonprofit No Kid Hungry. As a GivingTuesday Spark leader, he encourages donations to nonprofits that combat hunger and other needs on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving each year.

Diagnosed with epilepsy at age 9 and advised to cut back his involvement in sports, Michael decided to pursue his passion for cooking and baking. He began his business as an 11-year-old and resolved to use it as a way to help others. He started small, baking cupcakes and delivering them to kids at domestic violence shelters. He has grown his offerings to include Freedom Fighter Cupcakes, original creations designed each month to honor “the people who inspire us to be better, solve big problems, and change the world.” His cupcakes have honored freedom fighters Dr. Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, and Malala Yousafzai, among others. Michael introduces his monthly cupcakes via video to his 12,000 Instagram followers, explaining each freedom fighter’s contribution and how they’ve inspired him. “My dad tells me to do what I love in service to others,” says Michael. “That’s why I chose to use Michael’s Desserts to help people – to support them with their basic needs so they can pursue what they love to do and make a difference with it.”

Miles Fetherston-Resch

Kids Saving Oceans Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

9

Home State

Florida

Miles Fetherston-Resch founded Kids Saving Oceans to fundraise for ocean, beach, and marine conservation and to educate kids about saving our oceans, one choice at a time. He has raised more than $18,000 by selling t-shirts, hats, and stickers made from recycled or sustainable materials. He donates all proceeds to organizations that help oceans, including Surfrider, Mote Marine Lab, and Black Girls Dive. He hopes to donate one million dollars by the time he turns 18. Miles has organized beach clean-ups to remove litter and invasive species and sets up his Kids Saving Oceans booth at community events. He has hosted Earth Week events at his school, challenging students to see how little trash they can generate and gifting them metal straws. He has also inspired his school to ban single-use plastics and has successfully lobbied his City Council to ban plastic straws.

Miles began his work at age 6 as a concerned shark lover, worried about the way we treat sharks as well as our oceans and beaches. He offered to donate his piggy bank’s $13 to conservation efforts but his mom challenged him to think bigger. He believes passionately that our actions matter and hopes to “inspire regular people to do more for the ocean.” He wrote his recently published picture book, Kids Saving Oceans: Olivia Makes a Difference, to inspire future environmentalists. “I’ve learned how important it is to find my voice and speak up for our oceans, even if it scares me,” says Miles. “I want people to know that every choice to do better matters, and all our individual choices multiplied by a lot of people will add up to a big difference.”

Olivia Seltzer

The Cramm

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

California

Olivia Seltzer created The Cramm, a daily digital newsletter that summarizes the news for Gen Z since “you can’t change the world unless you know about it.” Committed to educating and activating her generation, she wakes up at 5:00 each morning to read the news and rewrite relevant stories in a way that speaks to teens and young adults. She then sends The Cramm via email, text, social media post, video, or podcast to readers and viewers in 113 countries, garnering 2.5 million monthly views across all its platforms. She is currently writing a book, to be published by Philomel, that will give young people the background to the current events shaping the world.

Olivia’s inspiration began soon after the 2016 election, when fears of the President-elect’s stance on immigration swept through her group of middle school friends – most of them Latinx and many with undocumented parents. For the first time, she felt a personal connection to current events. She also realized that though she and her peers talked about the news nonstop, none of them were actually following it daily — and that without it, they couldn’t work to address problems. She immediately tried researching the news and rewriting it for her generation. Within a few weeks, she’d bought the domain name thecramm.com with money from her thirteenth birthday, had taught herself coding to build a website, and had sent out the first edition of The Cramm. Since then, she has overcome extreme shyness to speak about her work around the world. She has also built a team of 500 global ambassadors who help translate The Cramm into numerous languages and grow its reach. “In creating The Cramm, I’ve stepped far outside my comfort zone,” says Olivia. “While working to help others, I’ve ended up helping myself more than I ever could have imagined.”

Rachel Park

Curieus

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

California

Rachel Park founded Curieus, a nonprofit that brings hands-on science to underserved kids to spark curiosity and increase diversity in STEM. Her team of 150 high school volunteers has provided free weekly after-school science programs to more than 3,000 at-risk youth. From a small start at her local Boys & Girls Club, she has grown Curieus to 21 chapters across Silicon Valley, New York, and London, among other locations. She has garnered $18,000 for her program from groups such as Google and GoFundMe Gives Back. When the pandemic shut down her program sites, she and her team developed and distributed educational videos, free science experiment kits, and live online workshops, reaching families across the globe.

Rachel launched her program as a high school freshman after noticing the huge disparity in her biology classmates’ science preparedness. She did some research and learned that 89% of students in one of her school’s two feeder districts came from low-income families and from schools that lacked STEM classes. She realized the irony that in Silicon Valley, too many students were being left behind in science and technology. Determined to address the inequity, she spent months contacting schools, developing curriculum, building a website, and creating a 20-page manual. Accidentally misspelling “curious” one day, she named her program Curieus after pioneering scientist Marie Curie. When the pandemic hit, her team developed Curieus in Quarantine, a hands-on science video curriculum with viewers worldwide that has been adopted by five U.S. school districts. For families with limited access to technology, Rachel launched Curieus Cares — boxes of free science materials and experiment booklets that her team has hand-delivered to more than 800 families. “In starting Curieus, I’ve gained confidence in my ability to act boldly and engage my peers,” says Rachel. “The experience has sparked my life’s mission to address inequities through the power of social entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Shreyas Kar

Community AI

Age at Winning Prize

16

Home State

Kentucky

Shreyas Kar founded Community AI (Artificial Intelligence) to support students in building AI-driven projects that help communities and the environment, unleashing the power of AI for good. His nonprofit team is designing projects to conserve water, reduce school violence, combat human trafficking, diagnose Parkinson’s Disease, and track wildfires, among other initiatives.
Community AI provides free online workshops and support for hundreds of students from 23 countries and 27 U.S. states. Shreyas has also launched and supported high school AI clubs in Kentucky, Arizona, and Missouri. He is currently developing his Sustainability and Community AI Fair – a science fair that will award substantial funding from corporations to promising AI-for-good projects around the world, including grants to support low-income students in pursuing their ideas.

Shreyas began his work in middle school while volunteering in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. He wanted to connect eager donors with the actual needs of those affected by the storm and created Right Charity, a well-received app that inspired him to do more. He began building complex projects that used AI to unite missing children with families and to alert public utilities about water leaks. Realizing the power he held to make a difference, he launched Community AI to see what sort of impact a group of like-minded students could make. To shore up his own knowledge, he took third-year college courses in Math and Computer Science and accessed training through IBM and Stanford University. He most recently launched the Community AI Academy, where volunteer tutors help students master the prerequisite skills needed to learn AI. “Every second and late night I’ve spent on my volunteer work has helped me feel fulfilled,” says Shreyas. “Despite all the challenges along the way, the joy I gain when I finish creating a project that could benefit the community motivates me to continue working on more.”

Sonja Michaluk

Protects Wetlands and Drinking Water Sources via Bioassessment Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

New Jersey

Sonja Michaluk works passionately to protect wetlands and drinking water sources using a novel bioassessment method she created. For more than a decade, she has collected scientific data and shared it with policy makers to help conserve ecologically sensitive wetlands, critical habitat for threatened species, wildlife corridors, and old growth forests. Through her Conservation Communities Initiative, she has protected more than 50 acres of wetlands in densely populated Central New Jersey – and is working to preserve 250 more. Her years spent streamside have also led to the identification of a threatened amphibian species and protection of its habitat.

Sonja grew up playing in ponds and peering under rocks. As a 6-year-old, she became certified to do freshwater monitoring and began sampling macroinvertebrates in her local stream. When she learned that a proposed natural gas pipeline nearby would threaten the stream, she threw herself into data collection and research, determined to protect what she loved. As an 11-year-old terrified of public speaking, she presented her findings to over 100 people at the pipeline’s final public hearing and was told, “This room was full of opinions. You’re the only one who brought data.” Her testimony resulted in significant changes to the pipeline’s construction that protected her stream. In recent years, Sonja has combined technologies from genetics, ecology, and statistics to create a new freshwater bioassessment method that may form the basis of a much-needed global standard for evaluating stream health. Working with The Watershed Institute, she has designed a community lab capable of the genetic work her new method requires. Sonja also conducts workshops, develops curricula, and literally wrote the definition of “macroinvertebrate” for Encyclopedia Britannica. “I’ve experienced the power of rigorous data and have learned that perseverance leads to better solutions for everyone,” says Sonja. “I’ve also learned not to be intimidated in a room of adults; everyone has a voice to make a difference.”

Vivian Wang

Linens N Love Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

California

Vivian Wang co-founded Linens N Love, a nonprofit that rescues gently-used hotel linens and donates them to shelters that support women and children, people experiencing homelessness, veterans, and animals. Since launching her project in 2014, Vivian and her team of 500 student volunteers have kept more than 45,000 linens out of landfills. Instead, the repurposed towels, sheets, blankets, and pillows have brought comfort to over 10,000 individuals in need. Volunteers hand-deliver the linen donations to shelters and often include small toys, toiletries, and notes of encouragement. Vivian is currently working with a team to code an app called Linens N Love Connect to expand her project, inspire more people to make sustainable decisions, and reach her goal of repurposing 100,000 linens.

Vivian’s inspiration stems from childhood, when she and her sister would play hide-and-seek among the linens in the storage room of the motel near Disneyland where their parents worked. Linens with slight imperfections (like coffee stains and pen marks) were designated for the landfill, given hotel franchises’ rigorous standards. As she grew older, Vivian realized the linens didn’t have to become part of the 17,000,000 tons of textiles the U.S. discards each year. She and her sister began delivering these linens to shelters, and Linens N Love was born. Vivian has grown her nonprofit into 35 chapters with hundreds of volunteers across 15 countries including Canada, Bangladesh, and Singapore. At her annual Leadership Training Summit, she teaches chapter leaders about the waste generated by the hospitality industry, presents sustainable practices, and offers support with skills like managing linen donations. “My motto is ‘Why wait?’,” says Vivian. “I’ve realized that age doesn’t define my ability to make change in the world. It’s just a matter of converting passion into action.”

HONOREES

Chloe Mei Espinosa

Skip the Plastic Straw Leaf

Age 15, California

Chloe Mei Espinosa created Skip the Plastic Straw to raise awareness of the harmful effects of single-use plastic straws and to discourage their use. She has convinced five Orange County, California school districts – a total of 245 schools – to eliminate plastic straws in their cafeterias. The move keeps more than 15 million straws out of landfills and oceans. Two local hospitals and 1,600 visitors to her website have also pledged to ditch plastic straws. Chloe Mei has served on Delta Air Lines’ Green Up Youth Advisory Board to help make the airline more sustainable and serves as a youth mentor for the Ocean Heroes Network, which supports young changemakers. She started her campaign in sixth grade after researching plastic pollution for a school project. Since then, she has spoken to more than 14,000 students at schools, camps, and youth organizations. Determined to continue her outreach during the pandemic, she and her sister Ella Lin launched the Sustainable Sisters YouTube channel, where they review eco-friendly products and share ways we can all protect the environment. “I’ve learned that it’s possible for one person, whether you’re age 8 or 80, to make a difference for our oceans and environment,” says Chloe Mei. “All it takes is passion and the will to start the journey to make Earth a better place.”

Ella Galaski-Rossen and Cash Daniels

The Cleanup Kids Leaf

Age 11, Ontario, Canada, and Tennessee

Ella Galaski-Rossen and Cash Daniels created The Cleanup Kids to educate children about the environment and inspire them to help protect it. They are especially passionate about reducing plastic pollution in oceans and have challenged children around the world to join them in picking up one million pieces of trash by the end of 2021. Both kids love scuba diving and marine animals and have lobbied to help pass shark fin bans. They have also helped ban the captivity of dolphins and whales in Canada and are now working to do the same in the U.S. Ella and Cash met two years ago as the youngest participants at the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, which supports young people in protecting oceans. Inspired by the Bootcamp and each other, they launched The Cleanup Kids to coordinate their environmental efforts. They create and post weekly conservation videos and visit schools to talk about the importance of protecting rivers and oceans. The two also recycle aluminum cans to fund monofilament receptacles where fishermen can properly discard fishing line. “We’ve learned that our voices matter and so do our actions,” say Ella and Cash. “We’ve also learned that people do care. They want a more sustainable life but often just don’t know where to start. We want to be lights to be followed and leaders to be heard.”

Ellie Zimmerman

Interns 4-Good

Age 18, New York

Ellie Zimmerman created Interns 4-Good to connect tech-savvy teens with nonprofits in need of their skills. In three years, she has matched more than 12,000 remote volunteer interns with nearly 300 nonprofits to help with projects like website design, social media, and Photoshop. When the pandemic hit, Interns 4-Good was overwhelmed by homebound high schoolers looking to volunteer. Ellie put them to work helping families and teachers struggling with online learning. She organized hundreds of high schoolers as virtual tutors for underserved students. In New York City, she paired bilingual volunteers with overwhelmed parents to connect their children with online school. Other volunteers launched a technology hotline, created educational videos, and organized a virtual summer camp for 250 kids in need. Ellie hatched the idea for Interns 4-Good during the summer after her freshman year. She crafted a business plan, won $400 for it in a competition, and used the prize money to file for nonprofit status. Since then, she has built a Leadership Team of twenty high schoolers from across the country. “This experience has sparked my passion for social change through entrepreneurship,” says Ellie. “It has also reminded me that doing something important is hard, but that the true measure of success lies in the decision to keep trying.”

Evan Nied

Planting Shade Leaf

Age 17, Virginia

Evan Nied founded Planting Shade, a nonprofit that works to increase the planting and growth of trees worldwide. He has organized students in planting 7,000 trees across Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, California, and Costa Rica. Alarmed by the impacts of Hurricane Florence on his hometown of Virginia Beach, he founded Planting Shade in 2018 to help alleviate flooding. Evan and his team have planted trees at universities, city parks, campgrounds, and on private property. He has expanded his reach by creating student-led chapters in several states. He has also built partnerships with state forestry centers and hardware stores to secure seedlings and donations of planting equipment. Additional support comes from corporate sponsorships and from individual donors. Evan also leads workshops for K-12 students about the importance of conservation and environmental activism. “I’ve learned through hard work and perseverance that anything really is possible,” says Evan. “I have the power to tackle issues head-on and make an impact on my community and the world.”

Jordan Phillips

Cozys for the Cure

Age 17, South Dakota

Jordan Phillips sews and sells coffee cup sleeves through her Cozys for the Cure initiative to help fund breast cancer treatment and research. She has donated more than $120,000 to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to support mobile mammogram units in southeastern Ohio, the area of Appalachia where Jordan was born and that carries the highest breast cancer death rate in the country. She began her work at age 11 as a way to support her mom when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. An avid sewer, Jordan crafted a few dozen fabric coffee cup sleeves and posted about them on her mom’s Facebook page. Within a year, she had raised $6,000. Soon after, Walmart carried her Cozys as a seasonal product in 1,600 stores and sold more than 200,000 of them, donating part of the proceeds to Susan G. Komen. During the pandemic, Jordan temporarily shifted her focus to make more than 1,000 masks for frontline workers in her community. “Cozys for the Cure has taught me that my passion and purpose lie in helping others,” says Jordan. “I’m excited to continue this project for years to come and to focus my career on leading companies that address social problems and create change.”

Lana Anderson

Small Things Matter

Age 16, Maryland

Lana Anderson founded Small Things Matter, a nonprofit that empowers young people to support underserved youth and their families. This past year, her group distributed 1.2 million pounds of food, 6,000 new books, and 25,000 handmade crafts to families in need. Small Things Matter consists of a food distribution program called Kokua Foods (for the Hawaiian word that means selfless giving), a literacy program that provides free books to children, and a crafting for charity initiative that involves kids in service. These three programs come together at weekly distributions where families in need can choose fresh produce, meat, pantry items, and hot meals, along with hand-crafted items made by youth volunteers. Children can also choose new books to take home. Lana has grown Kokua Foods to serve 1,000 families each month and has inspired hundreds of volunteers to help with distributions. “This past year, when so many neighbors were in need, I witnessed a massive outpouring of support,” says Lana. “It’s inspiring to see people love and help each other like that, and it fills me with hope for the future.”

Levi Grimm

JEE Foods Leaf

Age 18, Ohio

Levi Grimm is the acting director of JEE Foods, a student-led nonprofit that reduces food waste and fights hunger by collecting excess food and donating it to those in need. The group of high schoolers rescues food from restaurants, stores, and farms and distributes it through food pantries and schools. When the pandemic hit and the need for food increased dramatically, Levi initiated a partnership with the USDA’s Farmers to Families food box program to establish JEE Foods as a distribution hub for excess produce. After sorting out the daunting logistics, in May 2020 the group received its first semi-trailer delivery of 10,000 pounds of produce. A year later, JEE Foods was coordinating the weekly delivery and distribution of more than six semis of food — nearly 250,000 pounds — across Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. To date, the group has distributed over five million pounds of food to 70 nonprofits, supporting more than 400,000 food-insecure families. Levi’s team is now working to renovate a retired bus into a mobile market that will bring fresh produce, dairy, and meat to areas considered food deserts. “Through my work, I’ve come to understand the role compassion plays in the world,” says Levi. “I’ve learned that true success and fulfillment come from improving the lives of others.”

Sarah Goody

Climate NOW Leaf

Age 16, California

Sarah Goody founded Climate NOW, a youth-led organization that empowers young people to use their voices in speaking up for climate justice. Her group has educated more than 10,000 youth around the world and has given presentations at nearly 80 K-12 schools. Climate NOW’s team of 35 young volunteers teaches climate education basics, including ten simple actions students can take to help the planet. Her group also supports Climate Action Clubs at schools across California and connects kids as volunteers with climate justice initiatives. Every Friday throughout 2019 and 2020, Climate NOW hosted Bay Area climate strikes with Seniors for Peace, teaming with senior citizens to demand climate action. Sarah began her work in middle school, largely inspired by Greta Thunberg, and struck outside of San Francisco City Hall every Friday for 50 weeks. Realizing how little her peers knew about the climate crisis – and how powerless they felt in doing something about it – she created Climate NOW to inspire youth to use their voices for change. “I’ve learned that I want to shape my life around social justice work,” says Sarah. “I can’t imagine a life where I’m not dedicating my whole self to helping others and speaking up for those without a voice.”

Sascha Pakravan

Words4

Age 16, Hawaii

Sascha Pakravan founded Words4 to promote educational equity and to provide reading resources that are accessible to all Hawaiians. He has professionally recorded and posted on his nonprofit’s website nearly 80 free videos of him and his sister reading aloud. His engaging videos feature well-loved children’s books and have garnered nearly 100,000 YouTube views in the past year. Sascha is passionate about cultivating literacy across Hawaii, where one in six adults are functionally illiterate and nearly half of public school third graders don’t meet state assessment standards. His inspiration stems from his own frustrating experiences in elementary school and from his long-held belief in the power of education. He spent a year researching literacy initiatives and surveying over 100 parents to land on his read-aloud videos as a low-cost, high-impact strategy to address illiteracy. He also worked with educators and librarians to learn guided-reading techniques, which he incorporates into each video. He has recently added a Reading Buddies program, connecting twenty local high schoolers with elementary students as reading guides and mentors. “Leading Words4 has exposed me to diverse perspectives and deepened my commitment to Hawaii,” says Sascha. “I’ve learned openness and patience and hope to embody these ideals throughout my life.”

Shayen Patel

Alley-Oop Kids

Age 17, California

Shayen Patel founded Alley-Oop Kids to provide athletic equipment and positive sports experiences to underserved youth. In six years, his nonprofit has raised more than $50,000 and impacted over 20,000 kids globally. Alley-Oop Kids also provides free summer sports camps and gives foster kids the chance to attend professional sports games. Shay has built partnerships with the local school district, nonprofits, schools in India, and the NBA. He began his program as an 11-year-old, inspired after basketball practice at his local Boys & Girls Club, where he noticed players had little of the gear they needed. He resolved to help and raised $6,000 to purchase new shoes, uniforms, and balls for all 50 players. He has raised additional funds by organizing raffles, 3-point contests, and bake sales featuring his famous chocolate chip cookies. During the pandemic, Shay launched the Alley-Oop App to connect people with extra sports gear (and gently-used laptops for virtual schooling) with those who needed it. “I’ve learned that real growth happens outside of one’s comfort zone and usually after more ‘noes’ than ‘yeses,'” says Shay. “Though I’ve impacted lots of kids, I won’t be satisfied until all children have the opportunity to play sports and get an education.”

ABOUT US

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a program of the nonprofit organization Young Heroes Project, 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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Media inquiries and other questions:

Barbara Ann Richman

Executive Director

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Questions about the online application:

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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

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Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes | P.O. Box 1470 | Boulder, CO 80306

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Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

P.O. Box 1470

Boulder, CO 80306