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Youth Perspectives

Youth Perspective: The Barron Prize Winners 2017

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Established in 2001 by author T.A. Barron, the Barron Prize annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment. The top fifteen winners each receive $5,000 to support their service work or higher education.

Here are some of the 2017 prize winners:

Abbie Weeks, age 18, of Colorado created Ecological Action, a non-profit that provides solar energy to underprivileged communities and advocates for sustainability through education and political action. Her team has installed solar panels for a school at Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in rural Uganda and for a U.S. military veteran’s home on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation in South Dakota. Abbie’s group, which she launched three years ago, has also replaced her high school’s cafeteria styrofoam trays with reusable ones and is working with town officials to place a fee on single use plastic bags. When Abbie was introduced to the founder of Nyaka and learned of the school’s need for reliable electricity, she saw it as the perfect opportunity to pair her passions for environmental sustainability and human rights advocacy.

She set to work raising the $10,000 needed for the project, organizing and performing in a classical benefit concert named Notes for Nyaka. She then purchased the photovoltaic system and worked with a local trade school to learn how to install it. With 800 pounds of supplies packed in their luggage, Abbie, a friend, and three teachers lugged the gear through airports from Denver to Kampala, and then drove it the final ten hours to Nyaka. After two weeks and a great deal of creative problem-solving, the school had electricity. Abbie has since forged a partnership with Grid Alternatives, a non-profit solar company that is providing training and support for her continuing solar projects. “Through environmental and humanitarian action, each of us can improve our piece of the world,” says Abbie.

Siblings Rupert and Franny Yakelashek, age 13 and 10, of British Columbia have worked tirelessly for three years to persuade the Canadian government to join over 110 countries around the world that have legislated environmental rights into their constitutions. So far, they have convinced 23 municipalities to make Environmental Rights Declarations, formally recognizing citizens’ rights to clean air, healthy food, safe drinking water, and access to nature. They have also co-hosted events such as Victoria’s Earth Walk and have spoken to hundreds of their peers about the importance of becoming civically and environmentally engaged.

Rupert and Franny began their campaign after learning about environmental rights at events hosted by Dr. David Suzuki, renowned environmental activist. A few weeks later, the siblings led a rally outside Victoria City Hall and convinced the Mayor and Council to make a municipal Environmental Rights Declaration. Since then, the two have made the same appeal to all 43 municipalities on Vancouver Island and are leading a campaign to pass a Provincial Environmental Bill of Rights. At the Federal level, they’ve met with local Members of Parliament and written to the Prime Minister. “I’ve always cared about the environment and I’m more passionate than ever to do my part to make a positive impact,” says Franny. “You don’t have to be of a certain age to start creating the world you want and need,” adds Rupert.

Joshua Williams, age 16, of Florida founded Joshua’s Heart, a non-profit that has distributed more than 1.5 million pounds of food to over 350,000 individuals in South Florida, Jamaica, Africa, India, and the Philippines. He has raised over $550,000 and forged partnerships with businesses including Walmart, Unilever, and TJ Maxx. In addition, he has rallied more than 12,500 youth and 3,500 adult volunteers to join his cause, and has created a Junior Advisory Board to help guide his organization and execute his programs.

Joshua began his work to “stomp out hunger” at age 5, when he gave a homeless man the $20 his grandmother had given him as a gift. More than a decade later, he has built an organization that not only provides hunger relief but also addresses literacy and nutrition. His Backpack Program makes sure that children head home from school for the weekend with a backpack full of food. He is also teaming with Whole Foods to offer cooking demonstrations on how to prepare easy, nutritious meals. “I tell young people that they can do something about the world’s problems NOW,” says Joshua. “You don’t have to wait until you are older to make a difference.”

Please link here for more information on the Barron Prize.

Media Contact: Liz Ammirato   845-621-2005


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