8 young people who inspired us in 2018
These kids and teens are taking an active role in making their communities safer, stronger, and more inclusive.
Throughout 2018, we came across incredible stories of young people whose volunteering and fundraising efforts became powerful forces for positive change. Here we take a look back at five of the most inspiring stories from the young philanthropists featured on The Renewal Project this year, from the three siblings who emerged from a tragic and debilitating accident with a mission to prevent distracted driving, to the 10- and 11-year-old nonprofit founders who joined forces for a cross-country giving tour.
One of the most powerful stories of the year was Allstate agency owner Mark Tucker’s article about the Berry siblings, who were injured and lost their parents in a distracted driving accident. Tucker was so touched by the kids’ story that he and his wife joined them as co-founders of their One Life is Enough (OLIE) organization to help spread awareness about distracted driving. Together, Tucker and the kids—Peter, Aaron, and Willa—are actively working in schools to educate young people. The siblings even went door-to-door to help Texas lawmakers pass a statewide ban on texting while driving. It’s an inspiring story of young people motivated to spread positive change in the wake of a tragic accident.
Vision and perseverance helped 16-year-old Kevin Barber turn an idea he first encountered as a TED Talk into a nonprofit that provides meaningful work opportunities for the homeless community in San Diego. Barber’s organization, Wheels of Change (WOC), was based on a similar program from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The premise is simple: A few times a week, interested homeless individuals can get picked up and assigned jobs around the city for $11.50 per hour. At the end of the workday, WOC offers to bring them to a shelter and connect them with social services. “Today, WOC is a nonprofit startup with a $230,000 annual budget that, after our pilot period ends, will eventually employ 200 homeless people monthly,” Barber wrote in May.
Nine-year-old Henry Adelson made a big splash with his essay sharing his experience volunteering with Trash Hero New York. The organization is committed to cleaning up New York City’s Hudson River, and Henry hopes that one day their work will help make the Hudson a safe place for people to swim, fish, and enjoy other activities in and around the river. In the article, Henry talked about how his class oyster trap helped him learn about the river’s ecology, and why he’s excited about sharing his experiences with his teachers and classmates at school.
When Britton Struthers saw TV footage of Hurricane Maria pummeling Puerto Rico, she immediately thought of her relatives living on island and started brainstorming ideas for how she could help. The high school student from McLean, Virginia, not only wanted to raise money for people affected by the hurricane, but she also wanted to do it in a way that honored her Puerto Rican heritage. The result was Wepa!Thon, a celebration of Puerto Rican culture overflowing with traditional foods, music, arts and crafts, and dance from the island. The event exceeded her expectations, with around 500 attendees and nearly $14,000 raised that went to a local charity and to purchase much-needed supplies for families in need.
Our favorite collaboration of the year happened between two young nonprofit founders who joined forces for a coast-to-coast effort to help the homeless. Khloe Thompson and Jahkil Jackson kicked-off their cross-country volunteering tour, called Project Kares, in Los Angeles by packing 120 bags of necessities like shampoo and soap to hand out to homeless individuals. They then traveled to Las Vegas, Atlanta, New York, Washington, and Chicago. As the project came to an end, Khloe said: “It’s hard to pick just one moment that was my favorite because it was all so great. Who knows, you might see us again doing this in other cities.”