2020 has been hard on educational institutions thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students in many communities have bounced back and forth from in-classroom to online learning. Many speculate that students have lost their drive and focus; the quality of their education has suffered. But I think young people are adaptable and I continue to read and receive amazing stories about how the pandemic has inspired young people to take action.
One of the annual projects I enjoy sharing is The Gloria Barron Prize which honors 25 outstanding young leaders who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment. The prize was established by author. T.A. Barron and named for his mother, Gloria Barron, who believed every person has the power to make the world a better place. On the December 9 edition of Fearless Fabulous You! I spoke with four recipients of the 2020 Gloria Barron Prize which includes $10,000 to help fund each of their projects. www.barronprize.org
Here are four of this year’s Gloria Barron Prize recipients. A round of applause and a thank you to each of them for reminding all of us the future is in #GIRLPOWER
Kavi Dolasia, age 18, of Mill Valley, California co-founded of Reaching Out with Robotics to increase technology literacy for underserved youth. Her program brings hands-on robotics education to disadvantaged children, students of color, and girls — groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The program also reaches students with disabilities and the elderly. Over the past five years, Reaching Out with Robotics has impacted more than 4,000 students through weekly classes, monthly workshops, and STEM fairs. Kavi has grown her program into eight chapters across California and is working to expand further. www.reachingoutwithrobotics.com
Isha Tobis Clarke, age 17, of Oakland, California co-founded Youth Vs. Apocalypse (YVA), a diverse group of young climate justice activists. The group works to lift the voices of youth – in particular, youth of color – in the fight for a livable climate and equitable world. YVA organized and led the first Bay Area Youth Climate Strike in March 2019, when 2,000 protestors marched and chanted in the streets. The group supports underserved students at local schools, offering guidance for their climate justice clubs and community action projects. www.youthvsapocalypse.org
Isabella Paoletti-Tejeda, age 18, of Yorba Linda, California created Read a Story, Change a Life, a literacy intervention program that has helped more than 2,500 at-risk children learn to read and write. While volunteering as an 8th grader at Higher Ground Youth and Family Services, a local agency that supports at-risk youth, Isabella discovered that nearly 80% of the children there were reading two grade levels below state standards. Her program inspires imagination and builds lifelong readers through storytelling and interactive workshops. Instagram- @readastorychangealife
Annie Zhu, age 17, of Houston, Texas co-founded Fresh Hub to reduce food waste and provide nutritious food to people living in Houston’s food deserts — areas with limited access to healthy options. Her team of 100 student volunteers collects excess fresh food that would otherwise be thrown away and offers it to community members at free monthly markets. Fresh Hub has collected 10,000 pounds of produce, bread, and other foods from grocery stores and bakeries and distributed it to more than 1,400 people. The Fresh Hub app, coded by Annie, notifies people of the monthly markets. www.freshhubhouston.com