Innovation in Education Scholarship 2017-08-03T18:13:22+00:00

Scholarship Information

At LA Tutors, we believe that it’s more than just the grades that make a great well-rounded student. Each one of you is creative in his or her own way: some of you blog; others curate documentary photography on Instagram; still others find imaginative ways to solve problems in their public and private lives. Creativity is the air each one of us breathes, but sometimes we get so concerned with grades that we forget that imagination is our natural problem solver.

One way to showcase your creativity is to innovate either by solving a problem, by designing something that helps others solve problems, or by enhancing our relationship with whatever matters to us. Innovation is what brings our technical skills and our hopes together in unique ways.

It also provides opportunities for gaining real-working experience in a chosen field, and gives students the chance to connect with adults outside their circle who might be able to help students get into their top choice college or get an internship. In the end, innovation makes people look at the bigger picture, which is the best preparation for college and for life.

We at LA Tutors are passionate about sparking the creative genius in students and would love to commend those outstanding students who have a made a difference in the lives of others in some innovative or technological fashion. In order to achieve this, we have established a scholarship for students who meet certain criteria.


Must currently be enrolled as a high school or college/university student within the United States or Canada.

Must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 (or the equivalent).

Must be a citizen of, permanent resident of, or hold a valid student visa in the United States or Canada.

Must have designed an innovative project that makes a difference in the lives of others (This could be a website, series of blogs, an app, fundraising event, etc.)

Must submit an essay describing the goal of the particular project and provide supporting documentation.

The essay, idea, or creation must be the applicant’s original work.

All submissions must be uploaded no later than 11:59 pm PST on the 20th of each month. The submission window closes starting the 21st and will reopen on the 1st at 8:00 a.m.

Scholarship winners will be contacted via email and must respond within five(5) days of the date of the email to accept the award. If no response is received within this time, another recipient will be selected.

For complete rules and regulations please click here.

Scholarship Application

Personal Information

Project Information

Upload an essay, letter of recommendation, and photo of yourself before submitting the application by clicking the Upload Scholarship Documents button and uploading files all at once. All of the following documents must be included:

  • Essay - The essay should describe the goal of the particular project and provide the link to access the content such as the blog, app, etc. (if applicable).
  • Letter of Recommendation - The letter should evaluate the quality of the work.
  • Your Photo - The photo should be one taken during project execution.
Add files

Official Rules

LA Tutors 123 Innovation Scholarship 2016-2017 Official Rules


The winning project will be judged on the basis of its creativity, innovation, and user experience. Some of the questions that will guide judges’ selection are the following: Does the project solve a problem, and if so, how persuasively does the applicant present his or her point of view? Does the project aim for originality, or does it repeat what’s already available?

After the 20th of each month, all entries will be reviewed by the panel of three judges.


The applicant of the winning project will receive a one-time scholarship of $500, which may be applied to the following school-related expenses: tuition, fees, books, and on-campus room and board. The scholarship winner will be contacted via email at the address provided and must respond within five(5) days to receive the award. Scholarship funds are provided by LA Tutors 123 and will be paid via mail to the winning applicant.

Submission of Materials

All entries must be entered using the official LA Tutors 123 Innovation Scholarship submission form, which can be accessed above. No other forms of submission will be accepted. All essays must be written in English, and poorly composed submissions will be disqualified. Submissions must be uploaded in either a Microsoft Word or PDF format. Personal information submitted will be used solely for the purpose of awarding the scholarship and to announce the winner on the LA Tutors website. LA Tutors 123 reserves the right to publish content from the submitted essays themselves.


Current LA Tutors 123 employees or their immediate family members are not eligible to apply. Please read additional criteria listed above.


LA Tutors 123 does not use the information provided in the scholarship application to create listings. If the winner fails to contact LA Tutors within five(5) days of receiving the initial award email or fails to follow all submission and criteria rules, LA Tutors 123 reserves the right to award the scholarship to the second place finalist. LA Tutors also reserves the right to feature the pictures of all winners with their school affiliations.

Past Winners


Featured Recipient

Leisha Armijo

Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
School: University of New Mexico

Leisha has developed a green chemistry procedure for the synthesis of a novel magnetic material, a key component in supporting the growth of EV’s and other devices.

Click Here to Read Leisha’s Story

Featured Recipient

Albert Appouh

Hometown: Maplewood, NJ
School: Rutgers University

Albert founded a nonprofit organization, Newark Cares, which seeks to directly address the most serious social, healthcare, and educational problems facing low-income residents and homeless citizens in Newark, NJ.

Click Here to Read Albert’s Story

Featured Recipient

Campbell Weyland

Hometown: Pewee Valley, KY
School: Lafayette College

Campbell developed a composting plan using struvite crystals for his school’s cafeteria foodwaste. His project was a consideration of how he could enhance the nutrient value of compost; he has presented at various local, state, and national conferences.

Click Here to Read Campbell’s Story

Featured Recipient

Katie Curran

Hometown: Hyannis, MA
School: Columbia University

Katie founded Project Next Generation, an international not-for-profit organization with a mission to inspire the next generation of young female leaders to participate in politics and affect positive change worldwide.

Click Here to Read Katie’s Story

Featured Recipient

Whitney Scott

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
School: West Los Angeles College

Whitney established Nice Girls Club, an organization based off of a book series she authored, to help young girls develop compassion and understanding for their peers through group readings and discussion.

Click Here to Read Whitney’s Story

Featured Recipient

Sharon Lin

Hometown: New York City, NY
School: Stuyvesant High School

Sharon founded BitxBit Camp in 2015 in order to provide opportunities for for underprivileged students to learn computer science. BitxBit Camp has since expanded nationwide into a school-year online mentorship program and has ultimately garnered a network of over 1000 students and educators.

Click Here to Read Sharon’s Story

Featured Recipient

Sydney Stepney

Hometown: Atlanta, GA
School: Benjamin E. Mays High School

After seeing the success of her science experiment, Sydney decided to expand her project to help develop three more aquaponic systems for her community and has partnered with her school’s food provider to help grow fruits and vegetables for students of the Atlanta Public School community.

Click Here to Read Sydney’s Story

Featured Recipient

Josh Kaplan

Hometown: Scottsdale, AZ
School: Rancho Solano Preparatory School

In an effort to keep up with our ever-evolving digital world, Josh Kaplan developed a patent-pending prototype of a keyboard called the BrailleBoard designed to allow both the blind and visually impaired to comfortably use handheld technology.

Click Here to Read Josh’s Story

Featured Recipient

Madison Badrawi

Hometown: Rogers, MN
School: Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising

Madison Badrawi was inspired by a young girl’s story and with the help of her school and community, organized a 5k fun run, a dinner benefit, sold T-shirts, and held a rally, raising over $95,000 for Juvenile Batten’s Disease research.

Click Here to Read Madison’s Story

Featured Recipient

Sanzio Angeli

Hometown: Midlothian, VA
School: Clover Hill High School

Sanzio Angeli partnered up with his good friend Dylan and broke the world record for most number model rockets launched simultaneously, successfully launching 3,973 rockets and raising over $20,000 for breast cancer research.

Click Here to Read Sanzio’s Story

Featured Recipient

Mary Grace Henry

Hometown: Greenwich, CT
School: Convent of the Sacred Heart

Mary Grace Henry created her foundation, Reverse The Course, and has raised over $80,000 in an effort to help empower the young women in Kenya, Uganda, Paraguay, and Haiti through education. Reverse the Course, along with its collective partners in different countries, has supported 45 girls and paid for 115 years of education to date.

Click Here to Read Mary Grace’s Story

Featured Recipient

Lauren Maunus

Hometown: Palm City, FL
School: South Fork High School

Lauren Maunus is a bright, motivated, young woman who has spearheaded a campaign to comprehensively label food allergens in her school district. She was invited to testify in front of the House Sub-Committee on Education on this topic, and continues to raise awareness for food allergies as well as other activism.

Click Here to Read Lauren’s Story

Featured Recipient

Matthew Kaplan

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
School: Tesseract School

Matthew Kaplan is a high school senior in Phoenix, Arizona with a passion for social activism. He is the creator of The Be “Open to New Experience” (Be O.N.E.) Project, a community building and anti-bullying prevention program for middle school students.

Click Here to Read Matthew’s Story

Matthew Kaplan

When we were little, my brother, Josh, and I went on epic adventures, confined only by our imaginations and the walls of our backyard. Since I was older (by an entire year AND a half) and Josh was braver, I had the big ideas, and Josh carried them out.

Time moved on, and so did we – on to bigger ideas and bigger adventures and, eventually, to middle school. Our year and half age difference put us two grades apart. We stayed close, but developed different sets of friends. Then, in fifth grade, things changed for Josh. Kids he had once been friends with started bullying him. They sent him texts telling him he was stupid and worthless. Somehow, he believed them.

I knew the kids who were bullying my brother. They weren’t bad kids. Yet, inexplicably, once they were armed with cell phones and social media, they launched words at him that were far more harmful than sticks and stones. To Josh, their words were more like arrows, piercing right through him. Technology enabled these kids to be anonymous and removed from his reaction. I wanted somebody to make them understand the pain they were causing. By the time I finished eighth grade, I’d realized: the ‘somebody’ to do something would have to be me.

I created Be ONE: The Be “Open To New Experiences Project”, a community-building, peer-to-peer program for middle schoolers. It’s not enough to tell kids not to be bullies. Most kids won’t connect that you may be talking to them. Instead, I use games and guided discussions to foster empathy through shared experience. During the program, kids begin to see that they share the same struggles. They realize they are powerful, and that they can wield their power to build each other up, rather than tear each other down. I do a presentation, including slides of myself and of celebrities, then and now, to demonstrate the enormous amount of change that happens between the beginning of middle school and the end of high school. Be ONE provides a non-judgmental opportunity for kids conclude for themselves that they do not want to be the reason somebody else gives up before having a chance to reach their potential. Apologies are offered and accepted, friendships are repaired, bridges are built, and self-esteem grows.

Be ONE is changing middle school cultures in public, private and charter schools throughout Arizona. In just four years, more than 1,600 students have participated in Be ONE. I have taken Be ONE to schools in California and Virginia, the City of Phoenix Youth Ambassador program, local community groups, and libraries in Scottsdale and Glendale. Through speaking engagements and a PSA airing soon on The Disney Channel, I am reaching millions more. Someday, Be ONE will be in every Arizona middle school and The Be ONE Project will be a national non-profit organization based here in my home state. I may only be one person, but every person can Be ONE.

To learn more about The Be ONE Project, visit:


Lauren Maunus

January 18, 2002. One moment we were frolicking on the beach; the next, I watched in horror as my two-year-old sister nearly died from eating a cashew. Rachel was diagnosed with a life-threatening tree nut allergy, and our family was told that just one bite of a nut could be fatal. Rachel’s life became a minefield, and I could not merely hope that she would be safe. I had to stand up for her, serve as her advocate. This seminal moment prescribed my path as an agent for change.

I soon learned that there were six million other children just like Rachel, who lacked access to critical allergen information at school. Federal law mandates that all food items identify allergens, but shockingly, this does not apply to public schools. I was determined to seek solutions to the notion that they were destined to live their lives in fear.

As a freshman Youth in Government delegate, I drafted a bill to improve best practices in school food allergy management, and was awarded “Best Bill in the House.” After this success at the State Assembly, I began a grassroots campaign, engaging the support of local legislators, School Board Members, and medical and education organizations. I reached out to a national software company, and helped to develop innovative software which identifies allergens for all menu items. Despite much opposition, I convinced my school board to pilot this technology in my home district, making Martin County a pioneer in comprehensively labeling food allergens. However, I was not satisfied reaching merely .6% of Florida’s students; I aspired to take my voice to Tallahassee.

Eager to communicate a compelling argument to unreceptive legislators, I trekked to Florida’s capital only to encounter myriad special interests and red tape. These objections, however, only intensified my resolve and commitment. I quickly learned how to cultivate new ideas in a culture that rewards the status quo, and sought to elicit change rather than impose it. I ardently lobbied the Senate President, Commissioner of Agriculture, and the Governor to profoundly change our state’s current ineffectual policy. After two years of steadfast negotiation and collaboration, the Department of Agriculture introduced guidelines and implemented the software in all 67 school districts, benefiting Florida’s three million students. Additionally, the Senate sponsored a State Proclamation in recognition of National Food Allergy Awareness Week, and I received a letter of commendation from Governor Scott. Consequently, I was invited to speak at Food Allergy Research and Education’s Annual Teen Summit and was awarded their National Food Allergy Innovation Award for Making a Difference. The success in creating a safer school environment for Rachel and her peers motivated me to expand my initiative federally. Throughout the past year, I have joined forces with Members of Congress, the USDA, CDC, FDA, and Let’s Move! to work together to accomplish this goal. The pinnacle of my advocacy was meeting with Michelle Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House, leading to a letter of commendation from the First Lady. I have also been invited to testify in front of the House Sub-Committee on Education to introduce allergen labeling as an amendment to the USDA Child Nutrition Act.

My experiences have opened my eyes to the privilege of democracy and the potential for positive change despite pervasive bureaucracy and opposition. I have learned firsthand that everyone’s story matters; no voice is too small. This concept became my call to action in my TEDx talk, “The Persuasive Power of Passion: From Love to Legislation” which I presented at the Miami Opera House to an audience of over 1,200 people last year.

Additionally, I was selected as a keynote speaker at Girl Power Day: “Model This: Girls, Leadership, & Making a Difference”, where I delivered a speech titled “Youth Advocacy: Transforming Passion into Action” to 500 teenage girls. The initiative is also featured in SafeKids Worldwide Blog, AllergyHome Blog, Allergic Living Magazine, and Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

What began as a labor of love ultimately empowered me to find my voice as an advocate and reinforced the principle that I cannot simply be a bystander to injustice. I am now driven to pursue advocacy in other arenas and am further inspired to champion my convictions. At Brown University, I envision broadening the scope of my activism to engender progress in the field of international relations, promoting human rights as a critical vehicle to transcend oppression and resolve global conflict.


Mary Grace Henry

My journey began at the age of 12 when I wanted to find a way to make a life-changing difference for one girl somewhere in the world. So, with determination and a bit of luck, I decided to create my own business and a foundation called Reverse The Course. I taught myself to sew and began making reversible headbands to earn the money needed to pay for one girl’s education.

Now 18, I’ve designed and sold about 12,000 hair accessories at boutiques, holiday fairs, through my website and through retail stores in five states. To date, from business profits as well as donations and grants to my foundation, I’ve raised over $80,000.

With the money we have raised, Reverse The Course Foundation to date has supported 45 girls and has paid for 115 years of education in Kenya, Uganda, Paraguay and Haiti. Education funding includes tuition, boarding, uniform and textbook costs. I partner with proven organizations with team members in the U.S. and on the ground in the countries we operate to ensure that the money is being used appropriately. Through these local partnerships I also gain insight into which schools in each country are strong and staffed by well-trained teachers.

The girls supported by Reverse The Course live in extreme poverty and face additional, horrific obstacles: early marriage, early childbirth, female genital mutilation, HIV/AIDS, rape and violence. Yet, give these girls just one chance – an education – and they will become their communities’ and their countries’ solution. Each girl’s education will help her earn an income, help her support her family and stimulate her community’s economy. By receiving an education, they also will have a greater opportunity to live longer, healthier lives and have fewer, healthier, educated children.

Reverse The Course was created as a sustainable charity. While our primary mission is to fund girls’ education in poverty-stricken countries, we also educate a large audience here in the U.S. about the issue of gender inequality. Through speaking directly with thousands of customers at event sales and speeches to high school students, women’s groups and service organizations, people young and old have become active participants in our movement to “reverse the course” of girls’ lives through education.

Leading by example, Reverse The Course inspires people from all parts of life to take action in whatever way they can to make a difference in the lives of others. Please see the links below to learn more about this unique model of social entrepreneurship.


Sanzio Angeli

The idea of controlling over 30 pounds of solid rocket propellant instantly intrigued me.  Since I developed a passion for model rocketry in elementary school, I have always wanted to do something more, something greater than launching modest model rockets.  One evening when my friend Dylan was over for dinner, we thought it would be a cool idea to launch more than one model rocket at once, after all, how hard could it be?  After some initial investigating, we found that the Guinness World Record for the most model rockets launched simultaneously was held at a staggering 3,130 rockets, all launched within a 5 second window.  I immediately began to brainstorm creative ways on how to economically and physically break this record.  Unfortunately, Dylan’s mother has been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer.  Dylan and I both have seen her struggle through countless rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries. With the struggles of breast cancer so ingrained in Dylan’s life, I decided to turn our event into a breast cancer fundraiser.  Thus, Rocket4theCure was born.

After the initial excitement wore off, I soon realized what we had gotten ourselves into.  Luckily, as an Eagle Scout of Troop 1893, I was well prepared for the task at hand.  I began in January of 2014 with preliminary emails and big picture logistics such as location and rocket suppliers.  After what seemed like hundreds of phone calls, meetings, deals, and re-evaluations, I had all the details in place to start fundraising for this event.  Donors, for a small fee, could “sponsor a rocket” and get a loved one’s name on the body of a rocket.  By July, the project was rolling full steam as rocket assembly groups worked over eight-hundred man hours on rocket construction alone, and rocket sponsorships were coming in by the hour.  Website, media outreach, and logistical planning consumed my days as other, last minute issues arose.  Eventually, the two thousand total man hours spent on the project culminated as we began to make final preparations for launch at the Chesterfield County Fairgrounds.

Launch day, 5:45 p.m., October 26th, 2014.  The Rocket4theCure team had been wiring rockets together since 6:00 a.m., and our launch window was closing as the airspace clearance time dwindled.  My knees trembled when I pushed the automated thirty second launch sequence.  As the countdown reached zero, I knelt down in front of the launch control.  That split second before launch, that surreal moment when time stood still and my surroundings fell perfectly silent, brought together every emotion experienced throughout the project.  A sudden roar rumbled throughout the complex as 4,087 rockets flew into the air with smoke trails marking their paths.  I could hear thunderous popping sounds when parachutes deployed.  As the smoke cleared, 3,973 successfully launched rockets gracefully and silently fell about the pavement.  After verifying the record had been broken, we let the 500-person crowd run out onto the field while hugs and high fives were shared by all.  Besides raising $20,155.40 for breast cancer research and putting Rocket4theCure in the Guinness Book of World Records, I felt a strong sense of contentment knowing I directly contributed to finding a cure for my good friend’s mother.


Madison Badrawi

Meet Reese McKenna Donnay. Reese is just like any other typical eight-year old girl. She loves to draw, paint, and play soccer, but above all else, Reese loves to spend time with her younger brother Cade, and her parents Ryan and Sara. Unfortunately, Reese faces unique challenges that most girls her age don’t face. Reese has Juvenile Batten’s Disease, which is a disease that attacks the nervous system and causes blindness. Worst of all, this disease has no known cure and an average life expectancy of 19 years old.

When my fellow high school DECA members and I learned about Reese and her battle with Juvenile Battens Disease we knew that we had to do everything in our power to help her and other patients of JBD. Reese’s father, Ryan, is an influential teacher and coach at Rogers High School, and often helps with our DECA chapter. Ryan Donnay’s special connection to the Rogers community and Rogers DECA Chapter is the reason we decided to Rally for Reese. Our goal was not only to raise money for Reese and her family, but to also give hope. Hope for a brighter future, and hope that there will be a cure found for Juvenile Batten’s Disease.

The Rally for Reese fundraiser had four major components: T-Shirts and donations, a 5K fun run, a dinner benefit, and finally Rally for Reese week. From the T-Shirts and donations component of Rally for Reese, the Rogers DECA Chapter sold an outstanding 2,074 shirts at $15 per shirt. Additional donations were also accepted with each shirt and the Rogers DECA Chapter raised an amazing $60,504 for the Donnay family! Even troops overseas in Iraq sported Rally for Reese shirts, and gave their full support to the fundraiser.

We started planning the Rally for Reese 5K Fun Run and Dinner Benefit and decided that they would be held on September 21st, 2013. The 5K Fun Run began at 10AM and was held at a local church. Runner registration was $25 per runner, and there were over 550 participants raising an additional $13,075 for the Rally for Reese fundraiser! The dinner benefit was held immediately following the 5K Fun Run at a local country club with a spaghetti dinner served to guests, and a local band “Drop Tailgate” for entertainment. The Rally for Reese dinner benefit activities included face painting and crazy hair for the children attending, as well as a mystery wine event and silent auction for adults over 21 years of age. The Dinner Benefit had over 400 attendees, and helped raise and additional $5,316 for the Rally for Reese fundraiser.

The week following the 5K fun run and dinner benefit, our DECA chapter hosted Rally for Reese week to help give students and staff that were unable to attend the previous events the opportunity to support Rally for Reese. Rally For Reese Week consisted of four sub categories: Ribbons, Reese’s Pieces, Handprints for Reese, and finally the local business benefits. The ribbons, which we’re wearing now, are teal, for the color associated with Juvenile Batten’s Disease, and hot pink, for Reese’s favorite color and were sold during lunch along with Reese’s pieces candies. Students and staff were also given the opportunity to paint their hands teal and pink and place their handprint on the Handprints for Reese banner that would be displayed in the cafeteria. These activities helped strengthen the bond between staff and students at Rogers High School, including Ryan Donnay. Finally, Cherry Berry and local restaurant,Maynard’s, were generous enough to donate 100% of their proceeds on a designated day that would be directly donated to the Donnay family. In total an additional $16,449 was raised for the Donnay family, but more importantly Rally for Reese Week helped increase community involvement and support for the Donnay family.

This lead to the conclusion of the Rally for Reese Project, but not the end of the Rally for Reese story. A massive $95,504 was raised for the Donnay Family that would be used towards medical bills and a much-deserved family vacation on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas. Our Rally for Reese project raised something more important than money… it raised hope. Hope that one day there will be a cure for Juvenile Batten’s Disease. And hope for a brighter future. This Rally project also benefited our Rogers DECA Chapter by enhancing our skills in leadership, social intelligence, and understanding the importance of community service.


Josh Kaplan

In our ever-evolving digital world, it has become more important than ever to create technology geared towards social inclusion. Because of technology’s impact on the way we communicate with others, we have to consider those who do not have access to technology because they have no means of using it. One in ten Americans suffer from blindness or a severe visual impairment, and yet there are very few products on the market currently that are cost-effective and convenient to use. Smartphone apps do not provide the functionality a blind user would need to use their smartphone, while wireless Braille keyboards are not convenient and distract from the smartphone experience.

The BrailleBoard is a unique blend of practical design and portable functionality, while providing social inclusion for those who often face social disconnect. The BrailleBoard is a flip-open protective keyboard case connectable to smartphones via Bluetooth. However, what makes the BrailleBoard so distinctive is the patent-pending design: rather than featuring normal keys on the keyboard, the BrailleBoard is retrofitted with both Braille letters and large-print, contrasting letters. Its navy blue and white color scheme is suited for the individual requirements of a user with a visual impairment, while the clear Braille overlay provides blind users with the same sensory experience of a full-size Braille keyboard, in a compact design. The BrailleBoard grants both blind and visually-impaired users alike the ability to use handheld technology comfortably.

The BrailleBoard truly has the power to change the world and the way we view handheld technology. Unlike most pieces of technology, the BrailleBoard is equipped with the power to create inclusion. Both youth and adults are utilizing the power of the smartphone, both in social environments and the workplace. Ismael Herrera, a member of EmpowerTech and teacher of blind students, stated that the “BrailleBoard will open a whole new world of opportunities for blind people.” The BrailleBoard has the potential to positively impact the lives of every blind or visually-impaired teenager by creating a sense of normalcy for the teens using a smartphone.

And yet, the power of the BrailleBoard extends beyond teenagers. Dr. Michael Washburn, the former Vice President at Nestlé North America, who also has a severe visual impairment, said about BrailleBoard: “I think this idea deserves to be prototyped, fully-developed, and tested. I travel a lot, and would much prefer to use a BrailleBoard and leave the laptop at home!” He firmly believes that the BrailleBoard can impact the lives of blind and visually-impaired adults who don’t want the hassle of a smartphone application or a wireless keyboard.

As a patent-pending product with an initial prototype, the next step towards placing the BrailleBoard in the hands of every blind and visually-impaired smartphone user is the development of the keyboard case. I had the incredible opportunity to pitch the BrailleBoard to a group of investors through an organization called SEEDSPOT, a socially-geared business incubator based in Phoenix, Arizona, where I received first place, a monetary prize, and the chance to work with experts in the field of technology. In the next year, we will have created a finalized prototype of the BrailleBoard, which will have gone into production. For those who face social disconnect due to their visual impairments, the power of the BrailleBoard is undeniable. Although the goal of production in the next year is ambitious, the tangible social change as a result is far more encouraging.


Sydney Stepney

As a ninth grader, I was given the assignment to test which alternative growing method including: aeroponics, aquaponics, hydroponics, and traditional gardening would grow plants faster. During the second semester of my junior year, I used this assignment to develop my science fair project on the macronutrient retention rates between the same alternative growing methods used to enhance urban agriculture. Based on the results of both experiments, the aquaponic system not only grew the plants quicker, but also retained a higher percentage of macronutrients. Aquaponics is the growing of plants using only water and the fecal emission of fish as a natural fertilizer. Conclusively, the aquaponics growing model was the most efficient.

Using this information, my science teacher and I decided to design a larger scaled model in our school’s greenhouse. It was quite successful as within two weeks, the kale plants we grew had grown up to 12 inches. Subsequently, we grew other vegetables and within 6 weeks, had a greenhouse full of mature plants and herbs ready to be picked. We were contacted by our school system’s nutrition program and decided to distribute this food.

Since the greenhouse is property of the school, everything we grow is used for non-profit purposes. We give to school system nutrition program, and community members who exercise around our school and stop by to view the garden. We also conduct free pop-up farmer’s markets for the same. To date, we’ve started three public aquaponic systems for two local churches, a MARTA train station, and a local elementary school.

Since the debut of the aquaponic garden, it has given the school and myself a lot of publicity. In April of 2016, we were contacted by FOX 5 News to do a cover story on the achievement of the greenhouse project and its impact on the community. The article can be viewed by using the following link: With all of its success, we are now partnered with the school’s #1 food provider to grow fruits and vegetables for students of the Atlanta Public School community.


Whitney Scott

In May 2016, I wrote a book titled Nice Girls Club: New Best Friend. The novel tells a story about a young girl, Brianna, who is challenged to reflect on her mean behavior and accept people for who they are. She has some experiences that empower her to be kind to others and exercise empathy. All of these experiences help her to build positive relationships with her family and peers.

I was inspired to write this young girls book series after observing how the young girls within my community interacted with one another. I discovered that girls could possibly recognize their own limitless potential and appreciate themselves if they were exposed to a more positive lexicon and context. My observations forced me to reflect on my own childhood and some challenges that I faced with self confidence, body image and bullying.

I established Nice Girls Club to empower young girls to be kind and develop self-confidence and self-awareness. Through my book and organization, I encourage girls to love their own unique characteristics and build positive relationships with others. My ultimate goal is
motivate girls to discover the greatness they have within.

Nice Girls Club provides workshops and book readings to girls. Our book readings are followed by thoughtful discussions about challenges that girls face in everyday life. Our interactive workshops allow girls to interact positively with their peers and embrace their own unique qualities. These workshops challenge girls to view situations from multiple perspectives. This encourages them to empathize with others and become more compassionate and understanding.

Read my blog and obtain more information about me, the book and Girl Empowerment Workshops at


Sharon Lin

BitxBit Camp was founded in 2015 after receiving a $3000 grant from the National Center for Women & IT AspireIT. The organization’s objective was to provide opportunities for students in inner-city schools especially minority middle school girls to learn computer science with students from a similar background.

Through a weeklong summer day camp, thirty underprivileged students from the greater New York City area learned the basics of website development in HTML and CSS, Javascript animations in web browsers, programming Sphero robots, and developing Android applications through MIT App Inventor tools. Their camaraderie helped bring success to the first session of the program, as well as inspiring the program to continue for the next year.

The next season, not only did the program receive yet another grant, but it was able to earn $10,000 in sponsorship from Microsoft, Intel, and Sphero, helping to bring the program to fruition once more, and to help expand nationwide into a school-year online mentorship platform for minority students interested in computer science alongside the annual summer camp program.

With a wide-ranging demographic pool, the students were able to engage in areas of discussion including race relations, feminism, and social justice, inspiring websites and mobile applications that were dedicated to combating prejudice and inequality. Mentors ranging from professionals in software engineering to high school and collegiate-aged students helped provide guidance to build dozens of creative and innovative projects throughout the year.

Furthermore, the first meetups and the annual end-of-year gala were organized in 2016, featuring panels and speakers ranging from CEO’s and entrepreneurs to data scientists and researchers. Ultimately, BitxBit Camp has garnered a network of more than 1000 students and educators, and has been profiled in Fusion Magazine, Fox News, ABC News, Sinovision, Imagine Magazine, Key Club Magazine, Women 2.0, and the White House Champions of Change.



Katie Curran

Only 20% of Congress is comprised of female elected officials. How do we tackle this problem? I discovered a solution through developing a project for youth, led by youth. In 2013, I founded Project Next Generation ( (PNG), an international not-for-profit organization. PNG’s mission is to inspire the next generation of young leaders to affect positive change worldwide. This organization delivers tuition-free educational programs for thousands of elementary, middle and high school students.

Through PNG, the problem I am addressing is women’s participation in politics. I strive to inspire females to immerse themselves in the political process and run for office one day. My goal is to mentor girls in their formative years and bridge the gender gap. I teach girls communication skills and provide them with the resources as well as confidence to create change.

The success of can be seen through the numbers. I hold no-cost workshops throughout the year for thousands of students. I write grants to fully fund the classes for all my students. I’ve raised over $70,000 to hold tuition-free workshops. The program’s impact spans across 4 continents: North America, Asia, Europe and Africa. I have presented my work at the United Nations, United States Senate and the Davos Congress Centre (World Economic Forum) in Switzerland. I developed a college video series to inspire youth to attend college. It has reached over 70,000 students online. Post workshop surveys show that participants have won their student council elections and received scholarships to top universities thanks in part to the resources of PNG. Some international business partnerships PNG has established are with Coca-Cola and National Geographic. WBZ-TV CBS Boston and PEOPLE Magazine have conducted interviews with me and published segments about my organization (see links below).

My project has received international recognition for its groundbreaking success. I received “The President’s’ Volunteer Service Award” by President Barack Obama. I have been named “Massachusetts Top Volunteer” by Prudential Insurance. I received “The Princess Diana Courageous Citizen Award” by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. I have also been named the “Outstanding Youth Philanthropist of the Year” and “The American Red Cross’ 2016 Youth Hero”. I have worked on a video project at MTV studios in Times Square to encourage young people to vote. I plan to continue expanding in the future.

Volunteerism is integral to who I am. I have a pay it forward attitude and desire to give back to the community that has invested so much in me. I feel overjoyed each time I see my impressionable students dream bigger and speak louder. There is no better time than now for young women to hit the ground running and be leaders. Media Recognition

People Magazine
CBS News “Eye on Education” Video Segment
The White House
The Cape Cod Times


Campbell Weyland

In the spring of 2015, I was approached by one of my professors in the Civil Engineering department. He asked me to help him revive a previous research team in order to develop a composting plan for the school’s cafeteria food waste. That summer I stayed on campus (Lafayette College) with another student and began learning about the methods that would be needed to test the different nutrient values in the compost we would eventually create. Since the research had stopped in 2011, none of the methods were up to date and we had to make sure that they were still viable. After a summer spent developing a methodology book, I began testing that fall on compost batches we created from our own food waste at school. The funding we had received was from the Engineering department to help solve the Food Security/Nitrogen problem associated with runoff stemming from agriculture operations. Lafayette College was picked for an initiative program created by President Obama to solve 14 challenges that would help alleviate world issues.

Nitrogen and Phosphorous are added to agriculture systems to provide plants with the energy they need to grow. However, everyday we lose many of these nutrients in runoff. My project was a consideration of how we might enhance the nutrient value of compost – essentially engineer a compost with higher targeted nutrients. This was important because we used food waste from our own dining services to help form a food loop to help conserve our precious natural resources. The compost batches we had created originally were not even close to same value of nutrients as commercial fertilizers. However, many of these commercial fertilizers are petroleum based and result in the release of nutrients too quickly for the plants to actually utilize it.

In the spring of 2016, I began my literature review to figure out ways in which to increase the nitrogen content. Through this research, I discoverd that the compound struvite had been used as a fertilizer before in regular soil, but never in compost. That spring, I began creating struvite at a wastewater treatment plant. This is a compound that is nitrogen and phosphorous rich and acts as a slow release fertilizer. Over the summer, I added them to our compost and found that the crystals did not fully dissolve before 8 weeks. If we can implement this on a large scale at agriculture operations we could cut down on a lot of the waste. If agricultural operations collected their runoff and made their own struvite crystals, they could add it to their food waste and then use it as fertilizer on their own operations. Food is thrown away before it reaches the stores because it is not visually appealing. If farmers create this food loop, it would minimize the amount of phosphorous countries mine every year by reducing the need for it. As for nitrogen, it would be contained in the cycle and farms could create their own small scale nitrogen cycles.

The most exciting and enjoyable times of my two year research project was when I was able to present at local, state, and national conferences. I enjoyed networking with fellow environmental enthusiasts in the field and talking about the products they were developing. I was able to present my ideas to well connected and highly educated people in the field.


Albert Appouh

Community service and volunteerism are core to who I am as a person. In 2008, I was hospitalized in a mental institution with bipolar disorder comorbid with paranoid schizophrenia. After I was released, I stayed at home most of the time recovering, but I felt a sense of emptiness and misery. Then, during one of my therapy sessions, my case worker told me a phrase that would forever become my philosophy of community service: “The happiest people are not those who are getting more, but those who are giving more.” She explained that there have been studies that prove that volunteering helps alleviate depression. Therefore, I made it my 2009 New Year’s resolution to perform more community service. Little did I know that I know that I would ultimately become a leader in service work.

Since 2009, I have been heavily involved in service work and leadership within several organizations and community initiatives. Through my involvement, I had the opportunity to collaborate with various charitable groups and 501(c)(3) organizations in the metropolitan Newark, NJ area. Over the course of these relationships, I noted a profound gap between the resources dedicated to addressing issues such as hunger, disease, and poverty in Newark and the actual need levels of those fighting on the front lines. In response to this, I founded a nonprofit organization, Newark Cares, which seeks to address directly the most serious social, healthcare, and educational problems facing low-income residents and homeless citizens in Newark, NJ as well as to provide assistance to other charitable organizations who lead this fight on a daily basis. I have developed initiatives to drive targeted daily traffic (at least 500 visitors) to to raise awareness and donations, which have resulted in a threefold increase in the number of volunteers and donations to these Newark-based charities and nonprofits over the past year alone. Newark Cares represents my effort not just to serve and lead, but to innovate.

My philosophy of education is that the key to happiness is to selflessly help others. Following this philosophy, I have made a remarkable influence as lead manager through my hard work in my non-profit organization, Newark Cares. I can attest that I have saved many people’s lives and in the process, I saved myself.


Leisha Armijo

While working on an academic research project at the University of New Mexico, I became interested in using my knowledge of materials engineering to revolutionize the electromechanics industry. The manufacturing industry is presently responsible for the production of a significant amount of toxic waste which must be disposed of properly, often by incineration, which releases these products of combustion reactions into the atmosphere. The EPA has introduced a standard for green chemistry which is not enforced, at present, but should be used if we are to conduct responsible research. I began this project in the interest of extending environmentally sound green chemistry procedures to produce a novel material that could be used in electric vehicle motors. This will reduce green house gas emissions, and lower “carbon footprints,” which has beneficial implications for all life on this planet. Another motivation for this project is reduction of our dependence on foreign child labor, which is inherently unethical. The results of this project will not only alleviate child labor, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and mined minerals, but eventually reduce overall green house gas emissions and toxic waste!

All motors require magnetic materials for their operation. The strongest magnets in production today rely on cobalt-iron or iron and rare-earth metals; however, continued use of these elemental compositions in large-scale manufactured materials raises serious concerns, which are becoming more apparent as their use continues to increase. More than half of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where it is mined, often by the exploitation of children to labor in unspeakable work conditions, making most of the cobalt trade highly unethical. In addition, analysts at Macquarie Research project cobalt deficits of 885 tons by next year, 3,205 tons in 2019 and 5,340 tons in 2020; corresponding to a deficit increase of 503 percent! Magnet producers use rare-earth metals such as neodymium, dysprosium and terbium, mined primarily in China. Supplies of all three of these rare earth elements are vulnerable not only due to the increasing demand, but also the likelihood that China will restrict exports in response to the limited supply. The U.S. Department of Energy projects worldwide production of neodymium oxide to total 30,657 tons in 2015, with the most conservative estimate showing that the demand for neodymium will exceed the supply by about 2020. This project seeks to solve many of these aforementioned problems.

Under this project, I have developed a green chemistry procedure for the synthesis of a novel magnetic material. This highly-magnetic iron-nitride powder, free of rare-earths and cobalt, is produced from abundant, low-cost materials which are ethically mined and traded in the U.S. The use of this material in electric vehicles (EVs), for example, will significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the U.S. each year by encouraging the use of clean alternatives to oil and coal. Developing alternatives to the use of rare earths will also reduce our dependence on these materials and will have a positive impact on our national economic and energy security. The transportation and electric power sectors account for nearly 75 % of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions each year. Better magnets would support the widespread use of EVs (not to mention their contribution to the wind power industry), significantly reducing these emissions. The U.S. spends nearly $1 billion every day on imported petroleum; improvements in magnet technology would enable a broader use of EVs, which would help insulate our economy from unexpected spikes in the price of oil and dependence on imported petroleum.

The commercialization of this material is now underway, and its incorporation into electric vehicle motors and other devices will no doubt result in the numerous benefits to mankind that led to its realization. Completion of my degree will hopefully help me to achieve this goal and to influence other synthetic chemists and materials engineers to popularize environmentally friendly green chemistry methods. I also used the opportunity afforded me during the development period to mentor numerous students, describing green chemistry, the material, the process of invention disclosure, and to provide overall instruction to students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, and to spark the interest of younger students in STEM. Over 20 high-achieving high school interns were selected to assist with this project, and talks on this project were given to over 100 middle school and numerous elementary school students. Through this project, I spent many hours above my normal work requirement volunteering for outreach to encourage students in STEM. Therefore, this project has had, and will continue to have far-reaching impacts on all-levels of students as well as professionals in the field.