Meet the inspiring and caring Power of Children Award winners who have been changing their communities and world for more than fifteen years! They have filled immediate and long-term needs with food, clothing, shelter, tutoring, and comfort. They have worked to solve challenges, like bullying, technology illiteracy, and social stress felt by children and adults with autism. They have advocated for justice by combatting bullying and child sex trafficking. They have brought joy to others by building community gardens, organizing school supply donation drives, and repurposing used bikes.
Grade 11 (2018–2019 school year)
Hometown: Highland Park, Illinois
Project: Cycle Forward
A silent problem facing impoverished women around the world is gaining awareness and assistance thanks to the efforts of Sophie Draluck. Sophie was stunned to learn that many women regularly miss school and work because they do not have access to female sanitary products. “I realized that when women cannot afford tampons and pads, they are effectively unable to participate in their communities, putting them at distinct disadvantages academically, socially, and economically,” said Sophie.
The high school student founded an organization she named Cycle Forward, which not only raises money and collects donations of feminine hygiene products for women in her own Chicago community, but she also partners with pantries and shelters in several other United States locations, England, and India. Sophie has convinced several schools to provide free sanitary products in their restrooms.
Sophie intends to use her Power of Children Award money to purchase more sanitary products and to identify and support entrepreneurs who produce products locally rather than importing the expensive foreign products.
Grade 11 (2018–2019 school year)
Hometown: San Jose, California
Project: Serene: A Biomedical System and Mobile Application for Autism
“Why is this student rolling on the asphalt while everyone just watches him,” wondered Raghav Ganesh when he saw an autistic student experience an emotional outburst at school. “As a seventh grader, I felt very sad and wanted to help,” said Raghav. He has helped by designing a customized wearable device that alerts people on the autism spectrum to better identify stress factors that can lead to meltdowns. He’s watched it work for several of his autistic friends. “I strive to prevent meltdowns from being a hurdle for the autistic,” said Raghav.
His system, called Serene: A Biomedical System and Mobile Application for Autism, also helps caregivers recognize signs that stress is building and allows them to proactively help reduce the stress for their patients. Serene was recently named the best production-level mobile application by the large American autism research initiative, Spark for Autism.
Serene is available on Google Play and Android Smartwatches. With the Power of Children Award money, Raghav hopes to partner with hardware suppliers and assembly providers to distribute the wearable devices to more families.
Grade 10 (2018–2019 school year)
Hometown: McCordsville, Indiana
Project: Every Leaf Has a STEM
Every Leaf Has a STEM—is what high school student Ptolemy Henson named his project when he decided to combine his passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) with his desire to help and teach young children.
Ptolemy felt fortunate that his family could afford to send him to a multitude of science camps. Realizing that other children in his school district were not as fortunate, he started a free after-school program for kindergarteners to teach them some basic science through fun, interactive experiments. School leaders were so impressed they asked him to expand his club to additional elementary grades in several schools. “In my community, there is a large need for educated individuals in STEM careers,” said Ptolemy. “I believed that the project was important because it eventually allows students an opportunity for increased income and a larger workforce at the same time.”
Ptolemy intends to use his Power of Children Award money to buy additional materials for his after-school club, and to expand the program into the local public library.
Grade 6 (2018–2019 school year)
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Project: Project I Am
When a young elementary student began addressing the needs of the homeless in Chicago, President Barack Obama and basketball superstar LeBron James took notice. After the parents of then 5-year-old Jahkil Jackson explained to him why they couldn’t buy homes for all the homeless he saw sleeping on the streets, he began formulating a plan. By the time Jahkil was 8, he was creating what he calls “Blessing Bags” for his organization named Project I Am. His hygiene and toiletry bags have made an impact on more than 20,000 lives and have made their way around the globe to Switzerland, Africa, Puerto Rico and Guatemala. In addition to helping homeless people, Blessing Bags have been distributed to hurricane and volcano victims.
“The project makes a difference when I share my journey with other young people through speaking engagements. I have been influencing the future generation to make the world a better place and to keep the power of good going forward,” said Jahkil.
Jahkil says he will use the Power of Children Award money he receives to purchase more bags, products, nonperishable snacks and supplies.
Grade 8 (2018–2019 school year)
Hometown: Zionsville, Indiana
Project: Emma’s Bundles of Books and Joy
For hospitalized children, books can transport them to happier, healthier places. Emma Meyer knows this. At the end of 3rd grade, she was diagnosed with a rare white blood cell disease. Following a year of unimaginable treatment, the then 9-year-old girl, described as humble and unassuming, boldly began her journey to bring comfort to other young patients through books. She created Emma’s Bundles of Books and Joy which began at Riley Hospital for Children and has expanded into several Indiana hospitals, schools and shelters.
Emma says of her project, “more than 12,000 books, 500 toys, 800 bookmarkers, 250 children’s gifts, and 20 blankets have been given to schools and hospitals since 2013. The expression on a child’s face of joy makes it all worth it in the end.”
Emma organizes book drives and fundraisers to supply her organization with books and resources. She plans to use her Power of Children Award money to begin expanding her project nationwide and start providing multi-language books, audio books, and eBooks.
Grade 10 (2018¬2019 school year)
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland
Project: Teens vs. Trafficking
An estimated 300,000 children are kidnapped around the world each year and sold as sex slaves. This is the fate of approximately 46 children in America every day. Those stunning revelations spurred Summer Steinmiller into action. “I had learned in school that the 13th amendment, which formally abolished slavery in the United States, passed in 1865. Here we were, over 150 years later, and girls like me were being forced into sexual slavery via the Internet,” said Summer.
An organization called Teens vs. Trafficking was founded by Summer. It has a threefold mission—to raise awareness about sex trafficking; to connect U.S. teens to their congressional representatives; and to encourage other governmental and industry action to combat the problem. Summer has appeared before Congress several times and is credited in part with helping persuade lawmakers to pass two laws to help stop child sex trafficking. One law enabled police to shut down an Internet site which heavily promoted child sex trafficking.
With her Power of Children Award money, Summer wants to enhance her website and provide backpacks to victims filled with clothes, hygiene items and gift cards.