MEET THE WINNERS

A yearbook of the winners of the Barron Prize
                  

2023 WINNERS

Note: All of the numbers below, including winners’ ages and amounts of money raised, are current at the time of our winners’ announcement each year.
Leaf indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment. Indicates winners who were honored for projects that benefit the environment.
Articles featuring all of the 2023 winners:
The Week Junior – 10/06/2023

Alexander Knoll

Ability App

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

Idaho

Additional Media Coverage

Alexander Knoll created the Ability App, a crowdsourced web app that serves people with disabilities by providing a road map of accessible public spaces and businesses. The app allows users to search mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive accessibility features at hotels, restaurants, and businesses around the world. It includes ratings, comments, and photos uploaded by anyone interested in supporting accessibility. The app launched in 2020 and is currently available online at TheAbilityApp.com. Alex began his work at age 9 after noticing a man in a wheelchair struggling to open a store’s manual door. When he couldn’t find a digital resource the man could have used to research the store’s accessibility features, he decided to create one.

Alex spent several years brainstorming and developing a prototype app and at age 12, was invited onto Ellen DeGeneres’ show. She presented him with a $25,000 check from Shutterfly to develop his app, and emails of support flooded in from around the world. When he needed more funding, Alex began touring as a keynote speaker, sharing his passion for accessibility and promoting awareness of its importance. He has presented keynotes in Switzerland, Slovakia, and beyond, turning all of his earnings back into his app. His travels have also allowed him to connect with accessibility advocacy groups, people with disabilities, and researchers worldwide. Their insight has helped fine-tune his app and their support has fueled his work. “I’ve learned that when things are important enough to you, you should never give up,” says Alex. “I was told ‘no’ so many times during development of the Ability App but I kept going because I knew it could help so many people.”

Armando Parrish

Project Lorenzo

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

Texas

Additional Media Coverage

ABC News – 12/08/23
Living Magazine – Oct 2023
Armando Parrish founded Project Lorenzo, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness by providing technology certification courses and job assistance to homeless individuals living in shelters. His goal is to help people experiencing homelessness land skilled, high-paying jobs that will allow them to find permanent housing. He is piloting a Skilled Jobs program at a homeless shelter for pregnant women, where volunteers teach classes such as Google Support Professional. Once the women pass their certification test, Project Lorenzo works with Workforce Dallas to help find the women employment. Armando is funding his pilot program through a $10,000 award from the Dallas Foundation. He and his Board of Directors have also raised more than $50,000 through events including their annual 5K run and Music for Change festival. They use a portion of the funds to provide care packages of food, socks, and clothing for people living on the streets.

Armando began his work nine years ago when he first met Lorenzo, a gentleman who has lived for two decades under the highway near Armando’s mom’s office. After years of bringing food, batteries, and toiletries to Lorenzo, in 2021 Armando raised $4,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to provide long-term hotel stays for his friend. Drawn to do something more sustainable, he decided to finally launch the nonprofit he’d been musing about for years — and named it after his longtime friend. Project Lorenzo is now part of the All Neighbors Coalition, a group of 100 Dallas area nonprofits working to end homelessness. Armando has begun talks with a Coalition shelter about expanding his Skilled Jobs program there. “My work has taught me that people are good, and they are generous,” says Armando. “People will contribute to a worthy cause because no one wants to see another struggling.”

Atreya Manaswi

Created Eco-friendly Option for Controlling Pests in Bee HivesLeaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

Florida

Additional Media Coverage

Atreya Manaswi has created a highly effective, eco-friendly, and inexpensive way to protect honeybee hives from virulent pests. His novel blend derived from beer’s volatile composition eradicates beetle infestation in commercial hives without harming bees or the environment. Pests like the small hive beetle — and the toxic pesticides used to control them — are considered leading causes of bees’ decline. Atreya’s blend is equally effective as the leading toxic pesticide and 80 times cheaper. It could save the bee industry $1 billion annually. He began his work at age 12 after a friend’s grandfather tearfully explained his struggle to keep his commercial hives healthy. Determined to help, Atreya dove into the research, brainstormed solutions, and eventually began his research at the University of Florida. Soon after, Atreya’s research was published in the Journal of Applied Entomology.

Since then, he has worked with the US Department of Agriculture and developed a novel blend. His most recent field trials spanned 12 weeks in the Florida heat and involved 24 hives containing two million bees! He has spoken at the United Nations, and shared his work with beekeepers, farmers, and youth across the globe. Atreya has also published The Bee Story, a picture book that teaches young children about honeybees, their hives, pollination, and the work of beekeepers. He is currently working to advance his project and provide beekeepers and farmers with an easy-to-use and even cheaper method for using the organic blend. “I’ve learned the hardships of beekeeping and how tiring it is to put food on our plates,” says Atreya. “I’ve also come to understand the power that lies in our youth and the capacity that we have to innovate and create change.”

Grace Sun

Melodies for Remedies

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

California

Additional Media Coverage

San Diego Family (pg. 15) – Nov 2023
PEOPLE – 10/11/23
Grace Sun founded Melodies for Remedies, a nonprofit that uses the performing arts to bring healing and joy to senior citizens, including those living with Alzheimer’s disease. In the past three years, she and her team of over 100 student volunteers have hosted 50 large-scale concerts and music therapy sessions. A trained classical pianist of 11 years, she was first inspired by a talent show her middle school organized for a local senior home. Moved by the seniors’ cheers and the conversations she had with them, she realized the power of music to spread joy and forge connections. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Grace felt lost without her usual piano performances and competitions. Knowing that seniors were especially isolated, she gathered a group of peers to perform free virtual concerts for senior homes, family care centers, and hospitals.

Two years later, Grace stumbled across an article about music therapy as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s. Intrigued, she and her team performed their usual classical program for an audience of Alzheimer’s patients — and were met with silence. They decided to overhaul their repertoire, replacing Beethoven sonatas with oldies from the 1950s. At their next concert, the Alzheimer’s seniors smiled, clapped, and sang along with the familiar tunes. An aspiring physician-researcher, Grace is fascinated by the cognitive benefits performing arts can provide and is interning with Alzheimer’s San Diego. Melodies for Remedies is working to increase awareness of the disease and has raised $4,000 to support research as well as music therapy materials. “Through benefit concerts and raising awareness of dementia, I hope to grow my musical cause for the community,” says Grace. “I hope the music we bring can touch more people’s hearts and bring joy to everyone involved in the program.”

Jonah Larson

Jonah’s Hands

Age at Winning Prize

15

Home State

Wisconsin

Additional Media Coverage

La Crosse Tribune – 09/21/23
WXOW TV – 09/21/23
WXOW TV (Alternate Video) – 09/21/23
Jonah Larson founded Jonah’s Hands to use his passion for crocheting to raise $75,000 for school improvements in the Ethiopian village where he was born. He is a crochet prodigy who taught himself the craft at age 5 and was soon winning ribbons at the county fair. When the La Crosse Tribune published an article about Jonah, his humble online store received nearly 4,500 orders overnight. At age 11, he co-authored with his mother a book titled Hello, Crochet Friends and embarked on a book tour to inspire other kids. His story and mission have since gone viral, inspiring 400,000 followers on Instagram and donations to his cause from around the world. Jonah uses his platform to share his message of giving back — specifically, of fulfilling a promise his mother made while adopting him as a baby from Ethiopia. The orphanage nannies there asked that she never let him forget his roots.

A passionate reader, Jonah was disheartened to learn that the village primary school he would have attended lacked a library, so he decided to build one. He auctioned off crochet pieces, among other fundraising efforts, to create a library for the school’s 3,000 students. The library employs staff who can teach children in the evenings who need to farm with their families during the school day. Additionally, Jonah has funded a science lab for the school and an 8-stall latrine for girls. He also bought desks and created a soccer program complete with uniforms, balls, and goals. He is now working to improve the high school. “I’ve learned that the world is both vast and small at the same time,” says Jonah. “I hope my work can help bring the world together, one stitch at a time.”

Mateo Lange

Created a Community Recycling ProgramLeaf

Age at Winning Prize

14

Home State

Michigan

Mateo Lange created a community recycling program in his small town that has raised over $250,000 for more than 50 local youth organizations. He has recycled over two million bottles and cans and has donated 100% of the proceeds to groups including youth sports teams, Scout troops, and the high school band. His funds have also offset school lunch fees for struggling families. Mateo’s initiative has kept several tons of recyclables out of landfills, off roadsides, and out of waterways. It is the largest bottle and can drive in Michigan and one of the largest in the country. He launched his program during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the Governor of Michigan temporarily halted community recycling of bottles and cans. Aware that recyclables were piling up in families’ homes and garages, Mateo decided to hold a two-week recycling drive to benefit his baseball team.

When his drive brought in over $7,500, he resolved to continue it and to donate the next round of funds to another youth organization. He has done this continuously for three years, working every weekend to sort, clean, and stack recyclables in large trailers located at the convenience stores his family owns. The same recycling company that for years has picked up bottles and cans from the stores now does so in support of local causes. Mateo runs his program under the umbrella of his community’s nonprofit youth baseball team, the Northern Michigan Cyclones. He is one of 15 students across the country serving on the Youth Advisory Council for the Kroger company’s Zero Hunger/Zero Waste initiative. “I’ve realized that it’s important to get involved because if we don’t, who will?” asks Mateo. “I would much rather be a part of the solution than believe that someone else will eventually fix the problem.”

Matias Habib

Developed an Eco-Friendly Japanese Beetle PesticideLeaf

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

Illinois

Additional Media Coverage

Aurora Beacon News – 09/26/23 | PDF
WBBM Newsradio – 09/26/23
Matias Habib developed an eco-friendly pesticide to combat the Japanese Beetle, an invasive species that devastates U.S. agriculture each year. His patent-pending foliage spray, a natural mix of plant oils and amino acids, qualifies as an EPA minimum-risk pesticide. Matias spent his early years in southern France, where his family’s plum orchard was surrounded by other organic farms. After moving to Illinois, his family planted apple, cherry, and peach trees, only to see them decimated by Japanese Beetles in the summer of 2019. An avid 4-H member, Matias set up a lab in his garage, determined to discover natural ways to repel or kill the beetles. He studied century-old USDA research on plant oils, experimented with different formulas, and then presented his work at the Illinois 4-H State Fair. He won the championship in Entomology and a judge from the University of Illinois encouraged him to turn his research into a commercial bio-pesticide formula.

Matias used a $1,000 cash prize from an innovators contest to launch his TerraBuster business. He purchased ingredients in bulk, built a website, and hired his friends to fill bottles and glue on labels. He sells his products at the local nursery and online to commercial farmers and home gardeners. Matias is passionate about promoting sustainable farming and Integrated Pest Management. He has helped Harambee Gardens, a community garden in an underserved neighborhood of Chicago, address its Squash Bug infestation by developing a prototype bio-pesticide powder. He was recently honored as a 2023 Youth in Action winner by National 4-H. “Through this experience, I have overcome social anxiety and developed confidence in my ideas,” says Matias. “And I have learned that by following our passions, we can all make a positive impact.”

Nathan Elias

InvasiveAILeaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

Texas

Nathan Elias developed InvasiveAI, an app that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify invasive species and predict their spread. The app, which classifies invasive species with an accuracy of 97%, has been deployed to agricultural workers, farmers, and citizen scientists. The app runs offline so that farmers can use it anywhere. It allows users to upload an image of a plant or any other species and learn if it’s invasive. If so, the app provides information about the species along with its predicted spread at various intervals. These future spreads are calculated via algorithms that account for environmental factors like rain and wind speed. Users can also report the location of an invasive, adding to the app’s database of 5,000 invasive species.

Nathan began his work four years ago after his grandfather, a longtime farmer, lost his rice paddies in Southern India to a new and aggressive invasive plant. Determined to help, Nathan began creating an AI tool to help farmers identify invasive species. When he struggled to find a comprehensive dataset, he built his own, taking thousands of plant photos on his iPhone. He also spent hours talking with farmers and worked with University of Texas researchers to develop his algorithms. Field tests across the U.S. brought a collaboration with Texas and the U.S. Parks and Wildlife Service that allows app users to request help from local experts in managing invasive plants. Nathan has also field tested his app in India and has shared his work in journals and at conferences around the world. “Growing up, I’ve always felt that creating impact was something only ‘the experts’ could do,” says Nathan. “Creating InvasiveAI has been a transformative experience for me because I have realized that regardless of my age, I can have a direct impact on the world.”

Rafi Ahmad

Operation Viridis Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

Illinois

Additional Media Coverage

Diversity in Action – Jan/Feb 2024
Rafi Ahmad founded Operation Viridis, a nonprofit climate justice initiative that addresses environmental racism in his hometown of Chicago through the planting of trees in disadvantaged neighborhoods. He exposes the correlation between historical Redlining (a discriminatory lending practice) and the considerably greater risk of extreme heat and flash flooding faced by low-income and minority communities. Rafi advocates for trees as a highly effective, cost-efficient, climate-friendly, and scalable solution to fortify impacted communities against increasing environmental threats. The City of Chicago offers trees to all residents free of charge, though most are planted in wealthy neighborhoods rather than low-income and minority ones. Since the trees are offered on a first come, first served basis, Rafi’s work focuses on increasing awareness of the trees’ availability in the city’s most heat-vulnerable neighborhoods. He and volunteers spread the word door-to-door and through a postcard campaign that includes a QR code for learning more about the issue and for requesting free trees. His team is well on their way to facilitating 2,000 tree plantings in 2023 (out of 15,000 free trees the City of Chicago plants every year).

Rafi traces his project’s roots to personal experiences that engendered a long-standing commitment to social justice, most notably the 2018 contentious merger of his affluent and majority-White middle school with a neighboring and struggling majority-Black school. As many of his friends fled the district, Rafi chose to stay and launched a peer math coaching program for students in need. He is keenly aware that the need for climate justice extends far beyond Chicago, and is pursuing partnerships with the goal of scaling Operation Viridis to the national level and beyond. “Operation Viridis has opened my eyes to the power and potential of youthful curiosity and creativity to drive impactful social change,” says Rafi. “It has also renewed my faith in our ability to address climate change.”

Rahul Vijayan

Farm to Tray Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

16

Home State

Texas

Additional Media Coverage

KPRC Houston – 11/20/23
Rahul Vijayan created Farm to Tray to provide schools with hydroponic gardening systems that allow students to grow fresh produce for their school lunch programs. He has distributed more than 150 hydroponic grow kits to 23 schools across five districts. His nonprofit helps Houston area schools — many located in food deserts — grow peppers, tomatoes, microgreens, and lettuces to fuel students. The program addresses food insecurity, educates students about sustainable agriculture and the importance of healthy eating, and teaches STEM concepts. Rahul’s kits are being used in AP Environmental Science courses and in elementary school classrooms. He is also collaborating with Houston Methodist Hospital to provide hydroponic kits for cancer patients interested in creating a healing garden.

Rahul launched Farm to Tray after noting the lack of fresh produce served to students who rely on school meals. He figured growing produce hydroponically could help while using 90% less water, zero soil and pesticides, and less space than traditional gardening methods. He sought help from Moonflower Farms, a local hydroponic vendor, who agreed to provide grow kits for the program. To spark interest in his idea, Rahul organized a hydroponic symposium for educators and invited a former manager of the International Space Station Food System at NASA to serve as a panelist. Nearly 50 educators attended and each left with a classroom hydroponic microgreens kit. Since then, Rahul has built a team of 15 student volunteers and has received grants from Earth Force and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots. He hopes to expand his program to every public school across the country. “I want to influence and improve children’s day-to-day lives,” says Rahul. “Farm to Tray is allowing me to do that and make a tangible impact for thousands of students.”

Rania Zuri

LiTEArary Society

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

West Virginia

Rania Zuri founded the LiTEArary Society to end book deserts and support early childhood literacy for disadvantaged children ages 3 to 5. Her nonprofit has donated over $200,000 worth of new books to more than 21,000 children in Head Start, the federal program for preschoolers who live at or below the poverty line. She organized the West Virginia Head Start Road Tour in her home state to hand-deliver a new book to each of the nearly 7,000 children in the state’s Head Start program. For many, it was the first book of their own. She followed that tour with a similar one through all of Appalachia. Thanks to donations from Scholastic and Laura Numeroff, author of the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series, Rania has now hand-delivered or sent new books to Head Start programs in every state.

Her work stems from her own love of books and the comfort they brought as a child. She first learned about book deserts — areas where it’s difficult to access books — while establishing a small library for migrant girls. Rania decided to form a network of book clubs called The LiTEArary Society where members could discuss books over tea (one of her loves), host community read-alouds for children, and gift new books to them. Her entirely youth-led organization now has over 500 members across thirteen states, along with chapters in Europe and Asia. She recently wrote and illustrated a series of Appalachian-themed children’s books to help fund her work. Through a U.S. Senate Resolution, she and U.S. Senator Manchin of West Virginia are working to establish National Early Childhood Literacy Awareness Day. “On my West Virginia Head Start Road Tour, I saw enough of the struggle to want to be a part of the solution for the rest of my life,” says Rania. “My passion for books has found a purpose.”

Rishab Jain

ICOR/Biomedical Researcher

Age at Winning Prize

18

Home State

Oregon

Additional Media Coverage

KXL FM News – 11/22/23
KOIN TV – 09/28/23
Rishab Jain is passionate about using biomedical engineering to help people. He has spent years researching ways that artificial intelligence can improve health outcomes, including cancer treatments. That research led him to develop a new biomedical tool called ICOR which aims to enable the rapid production of vaccines and address the rising cost of pharmaceuticals. His tool uses AI to improve codon optimization, a problem within synthetic biology and bioengineering. Optimized codon selection results in increased protein output which can improve the mass manufacturing of vaccines as well as medicines like insulin, reducing costs and saving time. ICOR also has extensive applications for improving the efficacy of recombinant protein drugs, gene and mRNA therapies, and DNA/RNA vaccines.

When Rishab first developed ICOR, other scientists suggested he patent his groundbreaking work, noting two biotech companies’ interest in acquiring his research. A firm believer in open science, he instead published his work at age 16 as the first author in a peer-reviewed, open access scientific journal. Doing so allows any researcher, scientist, or citizen to access his research and use his methodology free of charge. Rishab points out that in developing countries, his type of tool could significantly enhance R&D and pharmaceutical industries, providing better and cheaper drugs for people. He also placed an MIT open-source license on his work which allows anyone to redistribute, modify, and adapt ICOR. Since then, Rishab has heard from numerous researchers who are using ICOR and citing it in their publications, including a biopharmaceutical company using his methods for their work on cancer treatments. “It’s our responsibility as scientists to ensure that our work has a positive impact on society,” says Rishab. “I’m thrilled to see the impact my research is having and the potential it has to make a difference in the world.”

Rory Hu

Bee Advocate and Researcher Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

13

Home State

California

Additional Media Coverage

Bay Area Parent,

Teen Focus Edition (pg. 15) – 2023
Rory Hu conducted yearlong research that yielded a viable way to prevent Colony Collapse Disorder, a problem plaguing beekeepers and threatening the ecosystem. Disheartened by a news article about honeybees’ decline, she dug into existing research to learn more. She discovered their rapid decline is due partly to a loss of learning and memory skills caused by pesticides used to kill bee parasites. With impaired learning and memory, bees are unable to navigate and gather food, ultimately causing collapse of the entire hive. Rory found prior studies indicating compounds in tea and coffee have a positive effect on honeybees’ olfactory learning and memory. She decided to test whether the compounds could actually repair damage caused by pesticide exposure rather than just enhance the learning and memory of healthy bees.

To start, she needed bees, and it took months to find a beekeeper willing to work with her. She spent more months devising experiments to test the bees’ visual and olfactory learning. She struggled to create a bee “harness” to safely hold each bee as she presented it with different food stimulants to test its learning. Rory spent late nights and every weekend on her work, feeding the bees on a rigid schedule and collecting data. Her research suggests that compounds found in tea and coffee can repair and even improve honeybees’ learning and memory after exposure to pesticides. The findings are crucial since beekeepers could add the compounds to what they feed bees, improving bee and hive health. Rory has won awards for her work at international science fairs, including the Broadcom Masters, the nation’s premier middle school STEM fair. “I realized just how far my passion could drive me,” says Rory. “By pushing my limits, I achieved what I’d previously considered undoable and found dedication I didn’t know I had.”

Shrusti Amula

Rise N Shine Foundation Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

17

Home State

Maryland

Additional Media Coverage

PEOPLE – 10/11/23
Shrusti Amula founded the Rise N Shine Foundation in 2019 to reduce food waste in her community in order to feed those in need and combat climate change. Her nonprofit runs food recovery and composting programs in Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland’s largest school district, and its surrounding community. Shrusti’s school food recovery program collects students’ uneaten, unopened food that would otherwise be thrown out – nearly 9,000 items each month – and makes it available to students in need, especially those who are food shy and food insecure. The program currently operates at 39 schools and is slated for all 209 district schools within a year. Shrusti and her team also support 12 schools in composting their food waste, diverting approximately 1,500 pounds of food per school each month from the incinerator. Compost Ambassadors oversee operations at each school and help students adopt green habits. The program’s success inspired Maryland legislators to introduce two bills to establish a grant program to support school composting statewide.

Shrusti created a postcard campaign in support of the legislation, recruiting student leaders at 50 schools and collecting a total of 17,000 postcards. She hand-delivered them to 31 delegates and senators. She also testified in support of the bills which passed unanimously, allocating $1.25 million for school composting across Maryland. Outside of schools, Rise N Shine rescues surplus food daily from grocery stores and restaurants, supporting programs like the food pantry Shrusti organizes each month for formerly homeless individuals. Her community food recovery efforts have provided over 150,000 meals valued at $225,000. “I’ve learned that persistence is key and to not be discouraged by setbacks,” says Shrusti. “I’ve also learned the value of being a solutionist — someone willing to work hard to ensure change — instead of just an activist.”

Te’Lario Watkins

The Garden Club Project Leaf

Age at Winning Prize

15

Home State

Ohio

Additional Media Coverage

Farmers’ Advance – 12/18/23
Newark Advocate – 12/07/23
Spectrum News 1 TV – 10/10/23
Te’Lario Watkins created The Garden Club Project to help end hunger in his community and to encourage kids to eat healthier. He has donated more than 300 pounds of produce to food-insecure families and has helped create a garden at a local school. He has also supplied more than 300 vegetable seed kits to schools and community groups. He recently completed installation of a 30’ x 60’ hoop house on his one-acre farm, land that was donated to honor his commitment to the community. The plastic-covered structure will provide protection for his produce and extend the growing season. Te’Lario first started gardening through a Cub Scout project at age 7. When it ended, he tried growing mushrooms in his basement and soon had far more than his family could eat. He began selling them to friends under the name Tiger Mushroom Farms.

Eight years later, Te’Lario runs a thriving business that provides fresh mushrooms to local stores, restaurants, and farmers’ markets. He has also published a children’s book titled Te’Lario’s Amazing Mushroom Farm where he shares his story and encourages kids to be determined and kind. Increasingly aware of food insecurity in his community, in 2020 he decided to grow produce for those in need and launched The Garden Club Project. He recently hosted several at-risk teen groups at his farm to introduce them to gardening and to share what he’s learned about the power of perseverance and a positive attitude. Te’Lario has been honored as a Hunger Hero by No Kid Hungry and speaks often at schools and organizations, encouraging kids to Dream Big. “My community is in need and I’ve learned that I have a lot to give,” says Te’Lario. “I hope to inspire the next generation to work toward their passions and to make a difference in their community.”

HONOREES

Brynne Rhodes

Pink Lemonade Stand Challenge
Age 14, California

Brynne Rhodes co-founded the Pink Lemonade Stand Challenge, a nationwide campaign aimed at raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research. The initiative inspires individuals, corporations, and communities to host pink lemonade stand themed events. Volunteers share free pink lemonade, honor loved ones who have faced breast cancer, and “flash the ribbon” – the campaign’s signature move. In the past five years, Brynne’s efforts have inspired thousands of volunteers in 37 states who have raised more than $185,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation toward prevention and a cure for the disease. She launched her campaign at age 7 while her mother was in treatment for breast cancer – the third generation in her family to face the disease. Brynne has created how-to videos to inspire volunteers and has developed a college intern program where students help fuel her campaign and gain business experience. She teaches younger students about the disease and the importance of volunteerism through her Pink Lemonade Day initiative for K-12 schools during Breast Cancer Awareness Month each October. Brynne has also inspired NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis (aka The Bus) to join her cause, along with retailers including Vineyard Vines and Lilly Pulitzer, which have hosted stands and donated funds. “My goal is to inspire people everywhere to #MakeAStand and make an impact,” says Brynne. “I love that our supporters can raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research in a hopeful way that brings communities together.”

Jason Starr

Tutor Partnerships
Age 17, New York

Media Coverage

River Journal – 10/05/23

Jason Starr founded Tutor Partnerships to provide free local tutoring to students in need. His group pairs high school volunteers as in-person tutors with elementary and middle school students within the same school district. He has grown his program to 29 schools across several states, with each chapter led by a local high school student. Jason’s work grew out of his experience volunteering as a virtual tutor during the Covid-19 pandemic. Frustrated by the challenges of connecting with students online, he set to work reviving the dormant in-person tutoring club at his high school. With a fine-tuned model, new leadership team, and support from his school district, the club met with resounding success. Early in 2022, Jason created Tutor Partnerships to expand the program’s impact to other schools. His nonprofit has been selected as part of the National Partnership for Student Success, President Biden’s call to action to help students recover from critically lost learning during the pandemic. “It feels good to have gone beyond my original goal of helping students learn,” says Jason. “When families tell me what a difference my program has made for them, I feel happy to have created meaningful change in my community.”

Maanit Goel

Washington Youth ORCA Leaf
Age 17, Washington

Media Coverage

Seattle Times – 12/04/23
Seattle’s Child – 10/18/23

Maanit Goel founded the Washington Youth Ocean & River Conservation Alliance (WYORCA) to protect Pacific Northwest orca and salmon. His group of teen volunteers teaches other students that Snake River Chinook salmon face extinction, which threatens the Southern Resident orcas that feed on the fish. His team further explains how dams along the lower Snake River endanger salmon by creating reservoirs where warm waters stress the cold-water fish as they return to Idaho to spawn. Maanit leads his peers in “advocaSEA,” lobbying legislators to remove the dams and replace them with renewable energy, an idea supported by scientists, tribal leaders, and conservation groups. He has engaged over one thousand teens in letter-writing campaigns, rallies, and marches at the state Capitol. More than 1,100 students signed statements he drafted to federal officials requesting the removal and clean replacement of Snake River dams. His group’s efforts led Washington Senator Murray and Governor Inslee to issue statements advocating for full renewable energy and infrastructure replacement to enable the dams’ removal. “I’ve seen the influence young people can have on policy matters, even before we can vote,” says Maanit. “The superpower of youth is in refusing to compromise when it comes to the future of our planet.”

Maya Gowda

SEED Leaf
Age 18, Florida

Maya Gowda founded Students for Environmental Education & Discovery (SEED), a K-12 climate literacy program that has reached over 100,000 students in 173 schools. Her free, comprehensive curriculum focuses on the impacts of climate change and aligns with National Science Standards. It has been adopted by Miami-Dade County Public Schools as part of the district’s K-5 Earth Day curriculum. Maya and her team of high school volunteers teach students at schools and youth organizations across Miami. They also provide virtual presentations and pre-recorded videos to students in five other countries. Maya has built partnerships with the Miami-Dade Public Library system, the South African World Health Organization, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She is currently working with peers to translate SEED modules into Spanish, French, and Hindi, among other languages. She is also developing additional curricula strands along with hands-on kits to help students apply and experiment with SEED concepts. A companion app in the works will allow students to test their knowledge gained from SEED modules. “Encouraging other youth to join me in tackling climate injustice has ignited a fire in me — a fire that will continue to burn as I work with my generation and plant the seeds for change,” says Maya.

Paisley Elliott

Paisley’s Pals
Age 10, Texas

Media Coverage

Living Magazine – Oct 2023

Paisley Elliott founded Paisley’s Pals to support refugee children around the world. She has raised $50,000 to create SHINE boxes, portable Montessori-based school kits containing easy-to-assemble lap desks and benches that can be shipped in an airplane’s overhead compartment. Paisley began her work in preschool after hearing a story about refugees and immediately collected over 200 stuffed animals for children fleeing Syria. Determined to make a bigger difference, she and her family raised $20,000 to build a school near a refugee camp in Greece, only to have the refugees relocated far from the school when the camp burned down. Paisley resolved to create portable classrooms for other refugee children and worked for more than a year to lay the groundwork for bringing SHINE boxes to the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement in Western Uganda. In 2022, she and her family traveled to the settlement where they partnered with the Refugee Innovation Center to set up SHINE boxes and establish digital skills training, menstrual health, and bike share programs. Paisley continues to support those initiatives and recently broke ground on the PeaceMaker Preschool at the settlement. “I’ve learned that even the smallest bits of kindness matter,” says Paisley. “I believe you’re never too young to change the world and that my generation is full of young changemakers ready to lead the way.”

Sawyer Anderson

Water Works Leaf
Age 13, North Dakota

Media Coverage

Valley News Live – 10/06/23
In Forum – 10/03/23
KVRR – 09/19/23

Sawyer Anderson founded Water Works, a nonprofit that brings clean water to people in poverty-stricken Zambia. She has written and illustrated Water Works, a children’s book about the water crisis, selling more than 18,000 copies to fund clean water initiatives. Sawyer began her work at age 8 after hearing her father’s stories of the water crisis in Zambia following his visit to the country. Moved to help, she decided to sew and sell bags like the beautiful one her dad had brought back from Africa. It was made from chitenge, a bright African wax cloth commonly used to make dresses, bags, and baby carriers. Sawyer has inspired hundreds of kids and volunteers to help sew more than 1,400 chitenge Bags of Hope, which she sells for $50 each – the cost to provide clean water to one person for a lifetime. Thanks to partnerships with international nonprofits Wellspring for the World and World Vision, Sawyer has raised $1.2 million and built 85 clean water wells. “I will not stop until I can help bring clean water to every person that is without it,” says Sawyer. “We all matter and a kid really CAN make a difference.”

Sriram Bhimaraju

Seas Brighter Leaf
Age 17, California

Media Coverage

Bay Area Parent,

Teen Focus Edition (pg. 15) – 2023

Sriram Bhimaraju founded the nonprofit Seas Brighter to help protect oceans from plastic pollution through new technologies and educational materials. He has invented an electrocoagulation system to remove microplastics from water and hopes it can be used in community wastewater facilities. In lab tests, his device removed nearly 90% of polluting microplastics. He has also developed a smartphone app called SAAGARA that reads labels on personal care products and allows consumers to determine if the ingredients are safe for them and marine life. His free app is available in Apple and Google app stores. To reach kids, Sriram has created coloring books that teach environmental concepts and include artwork submitted by students from around the world. He has also written children’s books featuring animals impacted by plastic pollution and climate change. His educational materials have reached over 10,000 students across India and the U.S., with printing costs covered by sponsors. The materials have been translated into Telugu, Malayalam, and American Sign Language (for the hearing impaired). Sriram’s passion for ocean conservation stems largely from his love of scuba diving and exploring coral reefs. “I firmly believe that anything we can do for the planet starts with the little actions we can all take,” says Sriram. “I also believe it’s incredibly important for younger generations to take an active role in preserving the environment.”

William Winslow

The Food Drive Kids
Age 17, North Carolina

Media Coverage

Triangle Family (pg. 8) – Nov/Dec 2023
WTVD TV – 10/09/23
Triangle Family “Family Talk” – 09/21/23

William Winslow founded The Food Drive Kids to address childhood hunger, which impacts one in five children in his community. In the past 10 years, he has collected and donated over 70,000 pounds of food and raised more than $80,000. The donations allow him to continually stock local school food pantries and backpack buddy programs, as well as his network of nine Little Free Pantries. Located across the community and open 24/7, the pantries contain food and toiletries for anyone in need. William provides sustainable hunger relief by building gardens at schools in neighborhoods with limited access to fresh produce. He began his work in first grade when he collected food for kids in need at his school. The next year, he recruited over 150 volunteers and collected 9,000 pounds of food and $11,000 in donations. He continues to organize an annual large-scale, one-day food drive with the help of his brother and dozens of volunteers stationed at local grocery stores. He also organizes seasonal donation campaigns and inspires sports teams, Scout troops, and Rotary Clubs to host food drives. “I believe that hunger, particularly childhood hunger, is a problem we can solve through emergency and sustainable relief,” says William. “I’m working hard to make a difference and hope I’m inspiring others to do the same.”

Zach Gottlieb

Talk with Zach
Age 17, California

Zach Gottlieb created Talk with Zach, a Gen Z wellness platform with a worldwide following that aims to combat the youth mental health crisis. He hosts live conversations with mental health experts, celebrities, and teens about self-worth, relationships, and gratitude. He hopes to change the culture that stigmatizes mental health and to increase teens’ access to wellness education. Zach’s work was inspired by the death of his grandfather at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, which left him in need of connection at a time of extreme isolation. In June of 2021, he grabbed his phone, created an Instagram account, and introduced the idea of a community where teens could have much-needed conversations. Nearly overnight, teens around the world responded and Zach has now reached more than 300,000 Gen Zers in 19 countries. He has also built a team of teen volunteers who help with graphics and outreach for his platform. He has run workshops at esteemed universities and underserved high schools, and has spoken at conferences including the Aspen Ideas Festival. “I’ve come to see that I’m capable of more than I ever imagined,” says Zach. “And I’ve learned that there is nothing more powerful for teens than learning from each other and growing healthier together.”

Zoe Terry

Zoe’s Dolls
Age 16, Florida

Zoe Terry founded Zoe’s Dolls in 2011 to support girl empowerment and combat bullying through programs that promote self-expression, a healthy lifestyle, and volunteerism. Her nonprofit has donated more than 50,000 black and brown dolls to girls of color across the U.S. and in Africa, India, Cuba, the Netherlands, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Haiti. She has expanded her work to include school-based Zoe’s Dolls clubs, which give students opportunities to serve disenfranchised communities of color. As the head of her school’s club, last year she led 100 student volunteers in raising $20,000 to create gardens and renovate buildings at four underserved schools in Miami. Zoe began her work in kindergarten when she was bullied because of her skin color and hair texture. Determined to turn a painful experience into something positive, she began distributing dolls to empower girls of color like herself. Her other initiatives include the Loving the Skin I’m In Creative Expression Contest and an annual Black History month exhibit at her school featuring student artwork from across the community. “I know that I’ve made a difference for thousands of girls through something as small as a doll that reflects their image,” says Zoe. “I have found strength and courage through Zoe’s Dolls. I have found my purpose.”