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.
It’s not that Helena Zimmerman, 17, doesn’t like after-school extracurriculars or hanging out with her friends. As she says, “I’m a teenager, too.” But her favorite place to go on any…given afternoon is the community center, where she teaches baking, budgetary planning, English as a second language, and entrepreneurship. And thanks to her non-profit, TeensGive.org, she now has a growing team of volunteers right there beside her. Helena and her co-founder, Max, thought of TeensGive because they always loved community service and wanted to make… >> Read More
Michaela Weinstein, 16, loved her hometown of Albany, California. It was small enough that she could walk to her friends’ homes and recognize all her neighbors, yet large enough that she could…always discover something new. But then, two years ago, Albany became the epicenter of a civil rights storm. Michaela was just a first-year at Albany High School when a series of racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist incidents happened. Like many of her classmates, Michaela was shocked and horrified — and knew that things had to change.… >> Read More
Natalie Hampton was nervous but excited for her first day of seventh grade. She was starting at a new school — her mom’s alma mater — and she was determined to make the halls feel like…home. But in a few short months, she was attacked twice in school. After being threatened a third time, Natalie decided it was time to leave — and to make sure no one else had to endure this kind of isolation and bullying. So Natalie created a free mobile app called Sit With Us. The… >> Read More
Sara Blau, 17, grew up on Long Island playing softball, basketball, tennis, and soccer. She’s convinced that being part of a team shaped her both on and off the field. As she says, “Playing on a…team is extremely rewarding and fun. I get to feel like a part of a greater whole.” Sara also recognizes that team sports are a privilege not everyone can afford. Cleats, shin guards, bats and balls, even sneakers can be prohibitively expensive. So Sara created Game Changers New York, a non-profit whose mission is to… >> Read More
As a child, Adam Sella, 18, spoke English and Hebrew at home, and learned German in school. As a teen, he studied Arabic in Morocco. It was on that trip that he met likeminded teens who were helping…refugees. So, Adam came back to the United States and started a club at his Cincinnati high school, called STAR - Students Together Assisting Refugees. In the past three years, Adam’s organization has raised over $26,000 from donation drives, collected over 750 household items which they distributed among 266 refugee families, and helped nine resettled… >> Read More
There were almost 70,000 fatal drug overdoses by the end of 2017, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Each one of those deaths was uniquely tragic — and Stephanie Reifman wants…their stories to be heard. Stephanie first started researching the opioid crisis in 2013, after she heard about Cory Monteith’s overdose. Monteith was on the TV show Glee; he played Finn Hudson, a fun-loving jock who worries he’ll lose his cool factor when he tries out for the glee club. Off-screen, however, Monteith was facing… >> Read More
As a young teen, Genevieve Liu lived on the south side of Chicago and treasured the sound of leaves crunching underfoot in the fall, the smell of fresh-made pizza, and singing “Leaving on a Jet…Plane” with her dad, a celebrated pediatric surgeon. But on August 5, 2012, everything that Genevieve knew and trusted was shattered as she witnessed her father drown in Lake Michigan. He was heroically attempting to save two boys who’d been pulled in by the undertow. Genevieve’s family and community were in shock. As they tried… >> Read More
Yardena Gerwin, 18, has lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for most of her life. She’s a savvy New Yorker who knows where to get the saltiest pretzel and the best way to get discount tickets…to a Broadway show. But when Yardena was 15, she suddenly lost the ability to speak, write, or even think clearly. She was hospitalized for almost two weeks. The doctors, however, couldn’t find anything clinically wrong with her — and a team of male psychiatrists decided she was suffering from something “psychological.” Yardena and her… >> Read More
It was a sunny weekend afternoon, and Daniel Zahn - aged 19 at the time - didn’t need to be inside studying. But, as he looked at the heads bowed in concentration and heard the tapping of computer…keyboards, he knew he was right where he belonged. A little over a year ago, Daniel co-launched F.O.R.M Consulting, which stands for Future Opportunities Reached by Mentorship. Through F.O.R.M., Daniel conducts essay-writing seminars and pairs college student-mentors with prospective students from underserved communities. Mentees get feedback on their writing and learn about scholarship opportunities. So… >> Read More
Even before #MeToo became a viral hashtag, Minnah Stein — aged 14 at the time — was working to educate and empower younger generations about sexual assault and harassment.
As she says,…“sexual assault and harassment don’t start in the workplace or in college. They begin much earlier. K-12 schools are breeding grounds for harassment and assault, and I want to stop this problem at the source.” After hearing a report on NPR that 1 in 5 girls will be sexually assaulted while in college (as will… >> Read More
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