Celebrating Changemakers with Big Ideas and Bright Futures
The Students Rebuild Changemaker Challenge gave students and educators the opportunity to shine a light on everyday heroes creating change in the midst of unprecedented challenges. Meet this year’s award winners.
In a year like none other, Bezos Family Foundation program Students Rebuild decided to honor everyday heroes working to make their local communities better. The program’s Changemaker Challenge provided students and educators around the world the opportunity to shine a light on those creating change in the midst of unprecedented challenges.
Throughout the Challenge, Students Rebuild partnered with six organizations that are empowering and supporting students and educators to take action, including BUILD, Creative Reaction Lab, EdLoC, Global Nomads Group, Peace First, and DonorsChoose.
The Students Rebuild team celebrated award winners and presented a special virtual award show at the culmination of the Challenge. The awards show was the culmination of a nine-month process that brought together students from 57 countries and all 50 states. As a part of the celebration, Students Rebuild selected six changemakers to honor for their community change efforts. You can learn more about the awards and watch the whimsical, late night talk show-meets-Academy Awards show for elementary-aged students here and high school-aged students here.
In this uniquely challenging school year, students and educators came together to celebrate Changemakers who spark change in the midst of so many global issues.
“In this uniquely challenging school year, students and educators came together to celebrate Changemakers who spark change in the midst of so many global issues,” said Leonetta Elaiho, Senior Program Manager of Students Rebuild. “We’re so pleased to honor a few exemplary students and educators with a special award.”
By the end of the Challenge, more than 975 teams from around the world created over 49,000 artistic awards for changemakers right in their own backyard. For each award created and shared with Students Rebuild, the Bezos Family Foundation made a $5 donation—$1 million in total—to organizations serving young changemakers working across the globe, and educators leading change in communities throughout the United States.
We’re pleased to introduce you to this year’s Changemaker award winners:
Inari Barrett is a high school sophomore from Springfield, MA. A Peace First grantee, Inari is also the creator of Stories that Need Telling, a space for women of color to share their experiences with healthcare providers in a therapeutic way. Within this project, Inari worked closely with the Women of Color Health Equity Collective to further help promote wellness for women of color and address the racial disparities that lead to the mistreatment of mothers of color in the healthcare system. Believing that authentic change lies in intersectionality and the unique experience of women of color, Inari hopes to create more projects that address the racism and prejudice embedded in so many American systems. She likes to spend her free time eating good food, reading and playing guitar.
As a young boy growing up in the South Bronx in a single parent household, Jamel had a strong desire to teach and become a strong male role model for young people. His purpose as an educator and a mentor is to focus not just on academics, but also on emotional support. Today, Jamel teaches sixth grade in the Bronx to students with disabilities who receive Integrated Co-Teaching services (ICT).
Jamel’s teaching style consists of building strong connections beyond the classroom and authentically getting to know his students. He takes pride in advocating and supporting students with disabilities to ensure they are receiving the support they are entitled to. During the pandemic, Jamel used DonorsChoose to raise funds to create over 360 care packages to support local families. Serving on numerous school committees and community leadership roles, Jamel is truly connected to the community and enjoys serving in high-needs schools. His background, life experience, commitment, and desire for helping underrepresented minorities are leading him towards his ultimate goal, to become a principal in the NYC public school system.
Andy Yung is a pre-K teacher at the Active Learning Elementary School, and grew up in Flushing, NY—the same community in Queens where he now teaches. He is honored to work with students, parents and community members with whom he has a shared identity and shared lived experiences, connecting with his students and their families in a way that is not easily learned.
Through DonorsChoose, Andy has been able to turn his classroom into the ideal play-based learning environment for his pre-K students, bringing in resources that allow them to see themselves in the classroom through the books they read and learning experiences they share. Andy’s experience as a parent has allowed him to experience the sacrifices his parents had to make, and to appreciate and reflect on the difficult ones he does not. He also loves Star Wars to the point where he brought the first Jedi Academy to his school—also through DonorsChoose!
Hailey Richman is an 8th grader from Plainview, NY. From the age of four, Hailey helped act as a caregiver to her grandmother, who lived with Alzheimer’s Disease. Driven by her experience, Hailey has become an Alzheimer’s advocate, and was an invited speaker at the National Alzheimer’s Summit in Washington DC, meeting with representatives to discuss the CHANGE ACT, providing funding for Alzheimer’s research and for family members who are caregivers to Alzheimer’s patients. She is also the founder of Kid Care Givers – which supports young people who have family members living with Alzheimer’s and is the director of Puzzles to Remember, a nonprofit organization which collects and distributes jigsaw puzzles for patients living with Alzheimer’s disease. Hailey is working very hard on a manuscript for her upcoming book: Kid Caregivers: A Manual for Kids About Alzheimer’s Disease.
Hannah Testa is a high school senior from Cumming, GA. A sustainability advocate since the age of 10, she has gone on to become an international speaker, author, and founder of Hannah4Change, a non-profit dedicated to fighting issues that impact the planet. Hannah excels at partnering with businesses and government to influence them to develop more sustainable practices. She has received numerous honors and awards, including the People Magazine's "10 Girls Changing the World", TEEN Vogue's "21 Under 21", Teen Earth Day Hero by CNN, the Action for Nature International Young Eco-Hero Award, and many others. She is a board member for several organizations including Captain Planet Foundation and The HAPPY Org., and a youth ambassador for several other organizations.
Adonis Williams is a high school junior, artist and activist from Seattle, WA. At the age of 12, Adonis was one of eight young people who, in partnership with Our Children’s Trust, sued the Washington State Department of Ecology for failing to adequately protect them and future generations from the effect of climate change. Since then, he has remained deeply involved in environmental activist work across various organizations in the Puget Sound region, including Greenpeace, Seattle Tilth and Plant for the Planet. Adonis dearly appreciates the world’s life support systems and the ecology of the natural world around him – and takes every chance he gets to appreciate the beauty of mother earth, which fuels his activism. His passions also include visual arts, singing, Dungeons & Dragons, backpacking and reading.
Students Rebuild launched in 2010 in response to the devastating Haiti earthquake. The program has mobilized more than one million participants in 83 countries and all 50 states and raised more than $7 million in matching funds for projects like rebuilding schools in Haiti, aiding disaster recovery efforts in Asia, supporting livelihoods in Africa, helping Syrian youth from conflict areas recover from crisis, and supporting empowerment opportunities for youth affected by poverty.