Abby Sher is a writer, performer, and mom to three cool beans. Her memoir, Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn't Stop Praying got lots of awards from people like Oprah. She writes regularly for The New York Times and The Jewniverse and wears a bike helmet to bed.
KATIE EDER, 17, was not a huge fan of writing as a kid. Especially not all the book reports and assignments that she got in school. But after getting injured in figure skating, her parents saw that…she needed a new way to express herself artistically and they signed her up for a creative writing class. It was the first time she experienced the magic of writing in her own voice. Finding your voice on the page is really at the heart of Katie’s organization, Kids Tales. It started out as 10 kids… >> Read More
ASA SCHAEFFER loved playing baseball as a kid. But he also knows what it’s like to be bullied or excluded from games. He saw that this was happening to many kids with special needs. Even in…2nd grade, those who were differently abled were being left out of sports games at recess. Asa decided he was going to give them the chance they deserved. So, he created the Santa Cruz Challenger Baseball League, where players who have physical or developmental disabilities are matched with Little League players as their “buddies.” In the… >> Read More
NATHANIEL GOODMAN was just seven years old when he wandered into his parents’ room and started fiddling with his dad’s camera. Nathaniel had always been fascinated by his dad’s family videos…and saw first-hand how they helped preserve memories, and even feelings. He also felt determined to use his love of filmmaking for communal awareness, to “pan out” from his personal experience of film and see how his lens could include a greater whole. In 2014, Nathaniel started his initiative Filmmaking For Good, producing promotional videos… >> Read More
When MICHAEL IOFFE was a freshman in high school, he cold-called as many business leaders and innovators as he could find to see if they’d come speak at a city-wide series of talks on the northeast…side of Portland, Oregon. He felt like the educational resources for some of his peers was seriously lacking, and he was determined to change that. “No” was the resounding answer. Until one leader paused and said, “If you get a hundred of your buddies together, I’ll do it.” A few years later, TILE, (Talks about Innovation,… >> Read More
JULIE AVERBACH is not princess of the Amazons, nor has she ever wielded a sword or shield, but she just may be related to Wonder Woman. That’s because Julie truly believes in the power of comic…book therapy and the way comics can empower real-life superheroes. As part of a project to earn her Gold Award for Girl Scouts, Julie wrote her own comic book – entitled Adventures From My World – to reach out to people who may feel lost or overlooked. With over 8,000 copies in print and being… >> Read More
OLIVER STERN was born deaf. He underwent 20 surgeries at a very young age and got cochlear implants in order to recover his hearing. His parents describe that incredible moment when he was first able…to respond to their voices as a lightbulb going off. “They’d been banging pots and pans, trying to get my attention for so long,” says Oliver. He went to a school for children with disabilities and was taught how to adapt to his new hearing before transferring into a mainstream classroom. What Oliver learned at… >> Read More
EVAN BARNARD’s favorite memory of growing up in Georgia is volunteering with the Chattahoochee Nature Center and National Park Service. He loved the hands-on experience of connecting visitors with…nature and wildlife. He soon started volunteering with The Nature Conservancy too, where he helped repair a braille nature trail that had been vandalized. He couldn’t understand why anyone would wreck these resources for people with disabilities, and vowed to make nature trails more accessible to all. Nature for All is Evan’s award-winning organization that… >> Read More
When GABRIELLA COOPERMAN started her first lemonade and cookie stand, passerby’s thought it was “cute.” They didn’t know that Gabriella was dedicated and determined. This wasn’t just…something to do with her afternoon to earn a few bucks. This was to raise money for hippotherapy, or therapeutic horseback riding. Cookies for Charity grew out of Gabriella seeing her sister with special needs benefit greatly from hippotherapy. She grew and flourished at Equestrian Connection–a local non-profit therapeutic horseback riding center in Lake Forest,… >> Read More
ELIAS ROSENTHAL used to eat sugary cereals, orange soda and ice cream. For supper, he’d defrost a frozen enchilada before his ice cream. But after seeing Dr. Robert Lustig’s 60 Minutes interview…“Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” he felt like he had to change his eating and thought patterns. And he had to help his friends and family do that too. Elias credits Benjamin Franklin’s famous advice: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” So Elias created Teens4Health.org, an organization… >> Read More
BEN HOFFNER-BRODSKY says growing up in Davis, California gave him a strong sense of civic duty. It felt natural to him to get involved with Youth Leadership Davis (YLD) as an intern. Through the YLD…program, high school students undergo rigorous training so they can serve at homeless shelters as informed volunteers. The Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter (IRWS) in Davis was never “supposed” to work, as it enlists mostly untrained and unpaid volunteers to help with shelter services. But Ben says because of YLD and the amazing community he grew… >> Read More
SHIRA STRONGIN has known “something was off” since she was a child. When she suffered a severe back injury right before her 10th birthday, it became clear that her health was a serious issue. She…has had numerous incorrect diagnoses, major surgeries and hospital stays. In fact, Shira and her family are still looking for definitive answers about her strange and debilitating symptoms. But that hasn’t stopped Shira Strongin from living. A few years ago, Shira founded Sick Chicks, a community of young women who are each facing illness or… >> Read More
Sydney Kamen knows it’s not fun to talk about hygiene, but it is necessary. When she was just 15, Sydney was running disaster response food drives and later came to serve as a volunteer emergency…medical technician in several developing countries, including Haiti, Rwanda, Myanmar, and Nicaragua. She witnessed first-hand the role of poor sanitation and how a lack of soap spreads infectious diseases globally. So, Sydney came home and created So Others Are Protected (SOAP). The concept is simple, yet genius. SOAP collects unused soaps from regional luxury hotels, then… >> Read More
The Challenge: About 15 million children in the United States today are living below the federal poverty threshold. They struggle to get clean clothes, healthy food, and emotional support.
The…Solution: Celebrate U. The Teen Who’s Making A Brighter Future: Talia Eskenazi of New York, NY. Talia Eskenazi and her best friend, Chase Kauder, liked organizing birthday parties—for friends, friends of friends, parents of friends of friends, you name it. They also liked doing volunteer work for underserved schools and communities. One day they realized… >> Read More
The Challenge: Children with developmental disabilities are too often overlooked when it comes to organized sports.
The Solution: San Diego Chill.
The Teen Who’s Making A Brighter Future:…Isaiah Granet from San Diego, CA Isaiah Granet started playing ice hockey at age 4, and he’s sure it’s given him the confidence and collaborative spirit that fuels him today. While doing research for his bar mitzvah, Isaiah noticed that there weren’t as many athletic opportunities for children with developmental disabilities and was determined to… >> Read More
The Challenge: There are so many young people who want to be trailblazers, but where do they begin?
The Solution: High School HeroesX.
The Teen Who’s Making A Brighter Future: Eli Wachs from…Bryn Mawr, Pennslyvania Eli read a book in high school that changed his life. And in turn, the lives of many young people. The book is called “Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis, and Eli was inspired by one of Diamandis’s messages—that youth are as capable as anyone at… >> Read More
The Challenge: Hospitalized children often have nothing to play with or inspire them.
The Solution: Kayla Cares 4 Kids
The Teen Hero Who’s Making This World A Better Place: Kayla Abramowitz…from North Palm Beach, Florida. Kayla is only 14 years old, but she knows what it’s like to spend time in the hospital. She was just 6 when she would first show symptoms that would eventually be diagnosed as Crohn’s Disease, Juvenile Arthritis, and Eosinophilic Colitis. The eldest of three children, she also spent time… >> Read More
The Challenge: Bullying affects students all over the world and can be traumatizing.
The Solution: The Validation Project.
The Teen Who’s Making A Brighter Future: Valerie Weisler of New…York, NY. Valerie Weisler knew what it was like to be shy. As a high school freshman, she was so quiet, she was accused of being mute. But when she saw a fellow student being bullied, she spoke up and said, “You matter.” His response, that her words “validated” him, in turn inspired her. Thus,… >> Read More
The Challenge: Limited access to books in low-income communities.
The Solution: Bags of Books.
The Teen Who’s Making A Brighter Future: Alexa Grabelle of Voorhees, NJ
Alexa remembers being…10 years old when she heard the term “summer slide.” It’s common for students to regress a bit academically during the summer months when school is out. But Alexa learned that “summer slide” was a lot worse for kids in low-income communities, because there was a severe shortage of books and learning opportunities. Alexa decided… >> Read More
PROBLEM: The homeless population in the U.S. continues to hover around 550,000. In the colder months, homelessness is particularly life-threatening.
SOLUTION: Warm Winters.
THE TEEN WHO’S…MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Corinne Hindes of Walnut Creek, CA. In 2011, Corinne Hindes saw a homeless man in her neighborhood dressed in only a t-shirt and jeans, even though it was frigid outside. Corinne had been an avid ski-racer her whole life and she noticed that the Lost and Found at the ski resort where… >> Read More
Problem: Juvenile delinquency and recidivism rates are very high in the United States.
Solution: Taft Teen Court.
The Teen Who’s Making A Difference: Michael Mottahedeh of Calabasas,…CA. Michael’s parents came to America from Iran to find religious freedom and opportunity. When they raised Michael, they made sure he understood that all people were entitled to equal opportunities and a chance at justice. In ninth grade, Michael’s English teacher saw his passion for the justice system and introduced him to Teen Court—a… >> Read More
Problem: Education funding cuts too often leave schools without vital programs.
Solution: Rim High Literature Club
The Teen Who’s Making A Difference: Laurielle Schwab of Running Springs,…CA In 2014, Laurielle’s former elementary school lost the funds for its reading program. Laurielle was already in high school, but she was determined to give back to the community that nurtured her. She pulled together a group of friends and brainstormed how to bring reading resources back to the school system. And thus, Rim… >> Read More
The Challenge: Nearly one in five people in the U.S. have special needs, and yet we still have trouble teaching special needs awareness.
The Solution: Autism Advocacy.
The Teen Who’s Making A…Brighter Future: Alexandra Jackman from Westfield, NJ. Alexandra Jackman was 8 years old when she met a young girl with cerebral palsy at summer camp. Alexandra wanted to say hello, but she didn’t know how. That’s when she realized that there was nothing holding her back except for her own fear and misperceptions. From that… >> Read More
The Challenge: There are over a million schoolchildren in the United States today who don’t have basic school supplies.
The Solution: Performing for Pencils.
The Teen Who’s Making A…Brighter Future: Jessica Goldberg, 17, of St. Louis, Missouri. Jessica has been dancing and acting for over a decade. She also has a heart of gold. While volunteering as a teaching assistant at St. Louis Aim High, Jessica was shocked to see how often her students lacked the basic tools they needed. She decided to… >> Read More
The Challenge: Starting political conversations among high school students is no easy task.
The Solution: The Fight Apathy Campaign.
The Teen Hero Who’s Making This World A Better Place:…Andrew Plotch—hailing from Fair Lawn, New Jersey—was sick and tired of hearing about the latest tabloid news and complaints from his peers about feeling powerless. Andrew has always believed in the power of each individual and was determined to bring his high school friends along on his mission to affect the world positively. He started… >> Read More
The Challenge: Over 15 million children in the United States aren’t sure where their next healthy meal will come from. At the same time, childhood obesity is still hovering at around 17%.
The…Solution: Go Healthy St. Louis. The Teen Hero Who’s Making This World A Better Place: Sophie Bernstein, who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and always wanted a vegetable garden. For her bat mitzvah project, Sophie planted a garden big enough to help supply the local food banks. That’s when she saw first-hand how much… >> Read More