Davidson Young Scholars - 2013 Ambassadors

The purpose of the Ambassador Program is to foster learning and civic engagement through community service, volunteerism and leadership in highly motivated and mature Young Scholars. The following group represents the 2013 class of Young Scholar Ambassadors. Please take a moment to learn about their service projects, in their own words.

    Age: 13
    Lives in: Corralitos, CA
    Project Title: Jungle Heroes


    Jungle Heroes gets kids involved in saving orangutans and raises money and awareness for the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center in Borneo, Malaysia. I am going to run campaigns and activities that other kids can participate in and bring into their own schools. Together we can give the orangutans a chance.

    When I was 10 years old, my family and I went to Borneo. I saw orphaned orangutans at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center and learned about how they will be extinct in approximately 10 years if they don’t get help soon. Their habitat is being destroyed to make room for palm oil plantations. I wanted to make a difference and be a part of saving them. I couldn’t wait to take action. If you would like to get involved, visit us online at JungleHeroes.org or on Facebook.

    In our free time, my family and I go to lots of remarkable places like Indonesia, Japan and Italy. When we are on trips I like to read and study the language of the country we are in. But when we are home in California, I am very happy to be outside hanging out with my chickens and swinging on my rope swing.

    Name: Matthew
    Age: 16
    Lives in: Novi, MI
    Project Title: G.A.T.E. - Gifted And Talented Education


    Public schools in my community currently have no funding for gifted education. As a result, there are very limited opportunities for elementary-age gifted children to be together and be challenged with appropriate material. I hope to remedy this by offering a series of after-school classes designed to intellectually stimulate gifted elementary school children and provide opportunities for them to be surrounded by other kids like themselves.

    When I was younger, my state cut all funding for gifted education. As a result, there was nothing for gifted students like me in the public schools. Luckily, my parents had the ability to homeschool me and were active in local gifted groups so that I could be with similar kids and learn at a faster pace.

    In my free time, I enjoy playing a variety of sports, especially hockey. I play hockey for the local high school. I am also in Boy Scouts and hope to earn the rank of Eagle fairly soon.

    Name: William
    Age: 13
    Lives in: Austin, TX
    Project Title: The Luxasphere Project


    The overall goal of The Luxasphere Project is to inspire a large conscious-raising international youth movement of utopian eco sustainability through the lens of architecture, design and innovative business. The Luxasphere strives to catch the attention of youth and teens early so that they are invested in these areas once they become adult consumers.

    My biggest inspiration for The Luxasphere Project is one of my mentors, Dr. Rachel Armstrong. Dr. Armstrong’s specialty is Living Architecture, she is a Senior TED Fellow. I met Dr. Armstrong when I was running the Architecture Lecture Series for Northwestern’s GLL and I asked her to be a guest presenter. Through my interest and study of architecture, I became dedicated to getting kids and teens interested in an achievable and realistic utopian view of sustainability.

    In my free time I enjoy music, writing, playing guitar, swimming, reading, coding, rowing, rock climbing when my Legg Perthes allows, making and designing things, studying architecture, discovering science, movies, and hanging out with my friends and my family.

    Age: 15
    Lives in: Monterey, CA
    Project Title: Music Counts


    Music Counts is a program that was founded to help dying music programs in local schools, in my case Monterey County. A group of student-musicians play at churches, schools, and convalescent homes around the county and collect donations for playing. We then take that money and donate it to the music directors of the public schools with the intention of buying new instruments and music. Eventually, we hope to not only save local music programs, but also save music programs in Monterey County. Check us out on the web at MusicCounts.com

    When I heard that California budgets were starting to cut into local music programs of schools three years ago, I wondered how we could deprive so many children of even tasting this world just because there wasn’t enough money to provide them with instruments. I knew I had to do something, but didn’t know what to do. The answer came quickly when I was invited by a local convalescent home to perform; I would gather groups of other student-musicians and perform at convalescent homes, churches, and the other places I had previously played for alone, to help raise money for these dying-out music programs. Thus began the organization I now call Music Counts, which currently consists of some of the best local student-musicians from over a dozen high schools and colleges, all of whom readily asked join.

    Age: 16
    Lives in: Fremont, CA
    Project Title: Gifts of Arts


    My mission for Gifts of Arts is to share my knowledge and enjoyment of arts and crafts with fellow students and other people. At the same time, I hope to encourage them to give back to the community by holding workshops at local libraries and donating the crafts that they make. Our goal is to show the importance and the impact of the arts in communities.

    After the budget cuts of last year, I saw many arts and music programs have to go from public schools. In order to prevent this from happening at our schools, students within our community decided to fundraise through garage sales, car washes, and other small-scale local events. To continue inspiring the arts in others, I decided to start my Gifts of Arts club at my high school and hold workshops at local libraries. Visit us on the web or email us if you would like to get involved!

    I enjoy doodling, making arts and crafts, reading books, re-watching Ghibli Studio films, and spending time with my family in my free time.

    Age: 15
    Lives in: Austin, TX
    Project Title: Harmonies for the Elderly


    Harmonies for the Elderly involves musical performances at nursing homes all over the Austin area in an effort to entertain and provide therapy to the elderly residents. My music group (comprised of students of all ages from schools across the city) plays a variety of pieces, with emphasis on recognizable songs that are relevant to a senior audience.
    Research in the field of music therapy has shown that when familiar rhythms, tones, and chords are played, people with debilitating diseases respond in astonishing ways. For example, I have seen on several occasions that nursing home residents who cannot remember my name can suddenly remember all of the lyrics to a familiar song that I am singing. Music therapy shows extraordinary promise for the elderly because it has the ability to control emotions, encourage participation, promote lively movement, and partially bring back memories. My goal is to provide these benefits to the cognitively impaired while also educating the community about what music can achieve. I hope to incorporate actual music therapy into my performances by engaging the audience to participate in the creation of music as well as in its enjoyment.

    For more information about my project, please visit here.

    Age: 14
    Lives in: Reno, NV
    Project Title: Farm  Fresh for Kids


    The mission of Farm Fresh for Kids (FFFK) is to help low-income children (and families) incorporate more fresh produce into their diets, while promoting small-scale local farmers. Studies have demonstrated that many low-income families face challenges in bringing nutritious food to the table. In addition, the meager SNAP benefits lead to the purchase of cheap, unhealthful, and filling foods. The result is that those considered "low-income" tend to have less healthy diets and be at greater risk for health problems than other groups.

    The program would also benefit small-scale Nevada farmers, who have been losing out to the convenience and prices of large supermarkets. Supporting these farmers, especially those using minimal levels of chemicals, will both help the environment and keep money in the local economy.

    FFFK aims to facilitate this urban dweller – farmer connection by distributing coupon books to needy children via their doctor(s). Each coupon is redeemable for free fresh produce at nearby farmers markets. These coupons will be provided along with simple-to-follow nutritional information, simple tasty recipes for certain vegetables, and some fun activities to engage the interest of elementary-school children in healthy diets.

    Age: 16
    Lives in: Scottsdale, AZ   
    Project Title: Science Circle of Arizona


    The Science Circle connects motivated high school students with seasoned research professionals to discuss significant challenges confronting our generation. The Science Circle aims to provide educational enrichment through rigorous exposure and meaningful dialog. Ideally, the program will serve as a sustainable framework for the larger community and science circles elsewhere.

    In September 2010, I discovered the Arizona State University Math Circle, where research mathematicians at ASU guide participants through rigorous topics of mathematical inquiry. This model, which emphasizes collaboration and discovery, seemed like it could enrich scientific education as well as mathematics. This was my inspiration for starting The Science Circle. Check us out online here: https://sites.google.com/site/sciencecircleaz/.  

    In my free time, I enjoy reading, hiking, and whisking chocolate ganache, occasionally in that order.

    Age: 15
    Lives in: Putnam, CT
    Project Title: STEM4Kids


    The goal of STEM4Kids is to promote STEM education for kids of all ages by utilizing games, puzzles, articles, and cool STEM news. Along with live presentations for parents, educators, and kids, STEM4Kids features a combination of reviews, links, and comments made on my blog. You may also follow STEM4Kids on Facebook or Twitter.

    Throughout my life, I have seen kids both my age and older struggling with math and science, ultimately rejecting these topics entirely. The world needs future scientists, engineers, technology experts, and mathematicians to solve problems and respond to situations such as famine, disease, and natural disasters. The aim of my project is to promote an early interest in STEM. The STEM fields have always been my favorite subjects, and I hope that others can come to appreciate them as well with a little help from STEM4Kids. I am available for speaking engagements.

    In my spare time I enjoy hanging out with friends, surfing the Internet, playing video games, practicing Tang Soo Do and leading my Boy Scout troop.

    Age: 14
    Lives in: Reno, NV
    Project Title: The Write Site


    Some students need one-on-one attention to improve in writing, but lack resources to engage a private tutor. The Write Site will connect students who need this kind of assistance with qualified young tutors. The Write Site is entirely free.

    Some young people also need encouragement to write. The Write Site includes an online magazine whose purpose is to galvanize young people to write. The site also holds creative writing marathons and workshops that will encourage young minds to work on their writing skills. One marathon might involve collaboration between several participants – each one takes a character and writes chapters from that character’s perspective. The chapters would later come together into a cohesive story. I also help budding authors with what I learned on my self-publishing journey. The Write Site is located at https://sites.google.com/site/thewritesite7/.

    I was inspired in the summer of 2011 when I had been tutoring a friend of mine and I moved away. She made me realize that some students need help with their writing, and their parents might not have the time or ability to supply this assistance. I recognized this void and decided to take action to fill it.

    Age: 11
    Lives in: San Jose, CA
    Project Title: Save our Sharks (SOS)


    Save Our Sharks (SOS) is all about sharks. Millions of sharks are killed each year by shark finners, who cut off the fins of a shark, then toss the dying or dead shark’s body (sans fin) back into the ocean. The reason behind this practice is the high demand for shark fin soup. SOS will help teach children that sharks are not scary man-eating machines and that shark finning is a brutal practice.

    We are also raising money to purchase a shark tag, which will allow scientists to study where this shark goes and help make sure that those areas are safe for sharks. When we reach our goal of $2,000 for the shark tag, you will be able to track our adopted shark through Google Earth.

    I decided to take action after watching a film about shark finning at the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival. The films were amazing, but they showed the horrific images of sharks being finned and thrown back in the ocean! I was so scared, and I realized I needed to help these helpless animals not only because this practice is inhumane and cruel, but because they are an absolutely vital part of our ocean's ecosystem. Without sharks, the marine food chain would be destroyed.

    Age: 12
    Lives in: Plano, TX
    Project Title: Kids Teach Kids


    KidsTeachKids addresses the need for under-performing math students to receive personalized tutoring from other, more advanced math students. My ‘big picture’ goal I have is to eventually expand to many schools nationwide, and use online classrooms to connect students to tutors who may be in another city or state. Eventually KidsTeachKids will host an online scheduling platform, allowing students to schedule meetings with KidsTeachKids tutors via the Internet.

    The inspiration for KidsTeachKids came to me this summer when I was tutoring two students, a second grader and an eighth grader. So much effort went into connecting me (the tutor) with the students in need, finding a location to hold the tutoring sessions, scheduling meetings and other logistics, that I thought there must be a better way. By setting up regularly scheduled office hours and working with teachers to identify struggling students, many of these issues should be alleviated and access to quality tutoring greatly improved.

    In my free time, I enjoy playing with my younger sister, tinkering with LEGO robots, playing video games, and doing ‘puzzles’ like the Perplexus.

    Age: 16
    Lives in: North Royalton (Cleveland area), OH
    Project Title: En Kephalos Science Journal


    En Kephalos Science Journal (http://ekteenscience.com/) is a peer-reviewed science journal in which high school students would be given the opportunity to not only publish their scientific research (in the form of research papers) but also write about current cutting edge research that is being performed in the scientific world. All the content for En Kephalos is supplied by teens, and all the reviewing, editing and publishing is also conducted by teens. My “big picture” goal for this project is to promote interest in science among high school students and support those students who are doing science research.

    I decided to take action on this issue when I came to realize that while high school students are given the opportunity to showcase their research at science fairs and other presentations, they have a very difficult time getting their work published. Giving them this early exposure and experience with the formal peer-reviewed publishing process will improve their familiarity with it and therefore increase future publishing success.

    I like to read, play golf, dance, and bake in my free time.

    Age: 13
    Lives in: Currently living in Doha,
    Project Title: Comedic Creative Character
    Education (C3E)


    The purpose of Comedic Creative Character Education (C3E) is to educate elementary-aged students about important values like respect, responsibility, trustworthiness and honesty. Appreciating these values will serve these kids well throughout their lives. My target audience will learn these things through comedic and educational skits, which will be performed by older students at their schools. I am currently writing the scripts for the skits and will be performing them at my school soon, as well as creating videos of the skits to be viewed by others who would like to do the same. Because of the comedic and fun nature of the skits, the important values taught will stay with the audience for a long time.

    I came up with the idea for Comedic Creative Character Education because it combines my interest in writing with my passion for theatre as well as my interests in character education and helping others.

    Some of my favorite things to do are acting in theatre, playing the saxophone, reading, writing (poems and short stories), and building with LEGOs.

    Age: 16
    Lives in: Chapel Hill, NC
    Project Title: Debate Circle


    The goal of the Debate Circle is to sharpen the communication skills of all students. To achieve this goal, students in the Debate Circle will engage in debates about selected topics such as: the status of democracy in the United States, or the benefits and costs of post-9/11 security measures. Another component of the program is to have students participate in real debate tournaments to hone their competition skills and experience before high school.

    My motivation for the Debate Circle originally came from the fact that many middle school students in my area did not have an opportunity to debate. When they arrived at high school, they did not perform well in their first debates. While some students did have strong debate skills, their speaking skills were not developed well enough to complement those debate skills.

    I founded the Debate Circle to provide students the opportunity to improve both their debate and public speaking skills by gaining real debate experience in middle school as preparation for the rigors of high school debating. One of my goals is to have my students participate in an actual debate competition by the end of eighth grade. I believe this kind of experience is the best way to sharpen the skills of middle school debaters in preparation for high school debate.

    Age: 14
    Lives in: Wexford, PA
    Project Title: Books All Around


    Through Books All Around, I would like to share my passion for reading with those who are not as fortunate as I am. I will collect books via book drives and distribute them to orphans in third world countries, hospitalized children here in the United States, and to servicemen abroad. I have already collected and donated more than 1,000 books to a literacy program at a local health center here in Pennsylvania, so we are well on our way!

    Some day, I would like to help build a library or an orphanage with a library. I also want to start a reading program so that those who cannot read can still enjoy books. I was inspired to take action on this issue because I am an avid reader, and I can’t imagine life without books.

    When I am not fencing or playing my harp, I absolutely love to read books!

    Age: 14
    Lives in: Austin, TX
    Project Title: The NESTENE Project


    The NESTENE Project aims to fight against, and raise awareness of, dangerous carcinogenic compounds commonly found in plastics and other consumer goods. These compounds may negatively affect a person’s health, as well as the health of their children. I intend to do this by educating the public about how to avoid such products, presenting alternatives, and by campaigning against their production. While I plan to start with my community, my hope is that The NESTENE Project will eventually have a broader public effect.

    I was first exposed to the presence of chemicals with negative effects on the health through a girls' magazine I was writing for at the time. I discovered, while researching an article, that many plastic containers used to hold food contain Bisphenol-A, which mimics estrogenic activity and can contribute to early puberty in females. I later learnt that similar compounds in plastic products were known carcinogens whose effects could sometimes be genetically transmitted. After realizing that anyone could be subject to such a compound like BPA and that genetically-transmitted cancer was a problem much more dire than I had originally thought, I decided to take action. I certainly hope that by appealing to the goodness of a slightly more selfish aspect of fundamental well-being- a person’s own health- it will speak for itself.

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