Class of 2022 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 2022 class of Young Scholar Ambassadors. Please take a moment to learn about their service projects, in their own words.
Alex A., 15
Arin P., 14
Teens for Vaccines
My project, Teens for Vaccines http://teensforvaccines.org, is a youth organization with ambassadors across many states in the U.S., dedicated to promoting the life-saving power of vaccines and community responsibility. We help teens and adults find trusted information, hold educational events for teens to interact directly with medical experts, consult with nonprofits and state health departments for teen outreach, report disinformation on social media, and champion legislation for public health and vaccine equity, including empowering teens to self-consent to life-saving vaccines.
I founded Teens for Vaccines during the 2019 measles outbreaks, when many distraught teens of vaccine-hesitant and anti-vax parents were going to Reddit to know how to get vaccines to protect themselves. I spent my sixth-grade summer researching vaccine hesitancy in New York, close to Rockland County, the site of a measles outbreak and tremendous dissonance on mandatory vaccination laws. The summer had a lasting impact on me. Back home, I convinced my mother to sign the petition for SB276, a bill to ban fraudulent medical exemptions in California, which ultimately became law. Soon, I started. Soon, I started blogging and helping teens and young adults on Reddit find trusted vaccine sources. On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, I connected with vaccine advocates and organizations worldwide, notably in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Africa, and Australia. In June 2020, the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy recognized my advocacy.
With guidance from the Davidson Ambassador Program, my project has now grown to a nationwide network of teen public health ambassadors in over 15 states. I am deeply grateful for our project to have received honors from the Whitehouse, President Joe Biden, and national and international media for its ongoing impact. I truly believe that with educating and empowering youth, we can overcome vaccine hesitancy and eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases, making our world a safer place. Join us!
Caroline G., 17
The World in Us
In an increasingly globalized world, cultural awareness is more crucial than ever to social, academic, and professional success. And yet, far too many kids still grow up in communities where they aren’t exposed to cultures outside their own. The World in Us is a youth-led nonprofit seeking to bridge this gap by eliminating cultural ignorance from its roots and cultivating the next generation of global citizens through youth-for-youth education.
Our initiatives have served hundreds of students across 14 countries. These initiatives include elementary school cultural discovery camps, high school intercultural exchange programs, writing competitions, podcasts, a global chapters program, and guest presentations taught in partnerships with schools and community organizations.
The World in Us is funded by grants from the U.S. Department of State, the International Writing Project, and America’s Promise, among others. Through it all, our international team is guided by the belief that every child deserves to experience both the joy of celebrating their own identity and the joy of discovering new, diverse cultural perspectives.
We’d love for you to join us on our journey — just visit www.theworldinus.org to learn more or get involved!
Dylan N., 19
Originally started to provide examples of good, productive discussions among teens by showcasing taped dialogues between myself and other students around the country, Philosophy Dialogues has also evolved to include an interview segment. I interview professionals with experience in the world of debate and discourse, and ask them to share their thoughts and ideas as well as provide tips to young people on how they can improve discussions in their lives.
Thus far the discussions have covered topics such as the ways we can approach and view language, the moral responsibilities of government, how we place importance on something, and more. For the interview series, I have interviewed Roger Sorrow who is a trained professional for the Center for Nonviolent Communication, Erik Gross who works on the Aspen Institute’s Better Arguments Project, Patrick Clark who, among many things, is a Philosophy and English tutor, and finally Vanderbilt Philosophy Professor Scott Aikin. You can find all these recorded and published on the Philosophy Dialogues channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-jyC2bWUu5tT1b5cEOg1nw
Elena H., 16
MILES (Musical Instrument Lessons for Every Student)
This project was born of my many years studying piano. When I was three years old, my grandmother died and told my mother that I must take piano lessons. She left the money for the first five years, and I have continued with the instrument ever since. I consider myself very fortunate to have had this musical opportunity, which has given me a passion for music, a channel of self-expression and a craft I can hone my entire life.
However, not everybody has this opportunity: the chance to start learning an instrument early in life, opening many doors in the future. This is why I am starting an organization, MILES, to give free musical instrument lessons to students whose families couldn’t otherwise afford them. I will recruit several musically talented volunteers in a variety of instruments to help me teach local students. MILES will also give these students free access to instruments so they can practice without the burden of cost. The ultimate goal is for this organization to expand to other communities around the state of Wisconsin, toppling the barriers to high-quality music instruction and spreading the gift of music.
My website is mileslessons.org.
Elliot W., 14
The Book of Life
In Hong Kong, many children live below or at the poverty line, with reduced access to educational necessities like books and school supplies. An estimated 181,000 children below 18 years old are living in poverty in Hong Kong, and child poverty can mean lags in education, malnutrition, health problems, feelings of hopelessness, and more. Children living in poverty are also more likely to attend schools with significantly fewer funds.
For a household of four, poverty is defined in Hong Kong as having a monthly income of USD 2,700 or less, far too low for living expenses within the expensive city of Hong Kong. More than 200,000 citizens live in tiny spaces, either in cramped subdivided housing or dehumanising cage homes, in order to afford a place to live.
The Book of Life is trying to alleviate this dire need by providing these children with free supplies required at school. By utilizing a number of different methods of fundraising, we can provide a path for these children to raise themselves out of their circumstances and give them much-needed hope.
Eshwar V., 17
Through the program Sanitatem Mentis, I will design a curriculum for mental health to be taught in local middle schools. The curriculum will incorporate activities, discussions, worksheets, and videos. It will focus on topics like mental health disorders, their portrayal in mass media, and how to eliminate the social stigma that envelops mental illness. For example, there is a video that explains, using intense imagery, how depression weighs down on one’s soul and eventually controls them (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc). The program will also teach students best methods of maintaining emotional well-being and a healthy mind. Our purpose is to make mental health a topic that is more mainstream while also setting students up for success by teaching them best practices for dealing with stressors.
Gracie S., 16
Iridium Tutoring, Ltd is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonproﬁt organization that provides free, unlimited, and personalized virtual tutoring sessions and drop-in homework help. The program oﬀers free opportunities for grades K-12 on all curricular subjects: Math, Science, English, Social Studies, Foreign Language, Test Prep, College Prep, as well as Competition Math, Programming, Fine Arts, and more.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has given the 150 Iridium volunteers the cause of reducing educational disparities by making learning more accessible and completely free. Iridium seeks to serve students who do not receive sufficient attention in the classroom, those with limited educational resources, and those with parents who are occupied with work or separated by language barriers. Emphasis is placed on the relationships between tutors and students of similar ages, as trust and reliability allow for the interactions that lead to success and fulﬁllment. Furthermore, Iridium works to inspire today’s youth in making impacts on their communities and to encourage students to take pride in their progress. Iridium has provided 5500+ hours of free tutoring to 300+ students in the country.
Julianna G., 16
Smoky Mountain Computer Science Girls
Lauren S., 16
Students Connect is a group dedicated to helping students engage on a deeper level with their school and community. The project was initially a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With increased social isolation, what started as a small group of students meeting each day for study hall sessions blossomed into a program and school club with students dedicated to helping those around them by forming sincere relationships. In the early stages of the pandemic, we found that even though we had met daily for the purpose of discussions regarding school, we had also grown closer to each other and had strengthened our relationships, despite the fact that we had not seen each other in person for several months. It was at this point that I began to envision growing this project. I also saw the connection between the individual and the community, and how the strengthening of this relationship could be beneficial. Thus, I began to grow Students Connect, making it into what it is today.
Students Connect currently focuses on connections with younger students. The group has written letters to elementary school students, created cards for the local Children’s Hospital, and visited classrooms to ease the transition from elementary to middle school. However, the project has undergone several major changes since its inception, and I have learned and grown along with Students Connect. Created as a response to COVID-19, the project has shifted in direction and broadened its scope as the pandemic has lessened in severity. Students Connect has also experienced a change from online to in-person activities. I have learned much about adapting to new situations and about the significance of flexibility. In the years to come, I have no doubt that Students Connect will continue to grow and bring students closer to their communities.
Lilah L., 15
Bridge to Coding
My project’s goal is to provide a “bridge” to keep middle school girls interested and engaged in computer programming. I will collaborate with a community partner to set up a coding club and an annual Hackathon for girls on Long Island. This will allow girls to increase their confidence and skill in coding, provide female role models, and assure girls that STEM really is for them.
Mark L., 16
The Lighthouse Initiative
Mark is the Founder & Executive Director of The Lighthouse Initiative — the first youth-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to democratizing filmmaking for students globally.
Each of us is unique and different, but many young people still struggle to find their individual voices in our crowded world. Unfortunately, many young people often overlook filmmaking as a way to express themselves since they perceive it as being reserved for only the wealthy with fancy equipment. However, Mark’s personal experience has exemplified that this is grossly untrue. Mark was able to produce an award-winning film about a dedicated educator with just his parents’ cell phone, a free editing program, and a strong desire to make a movie! And, Mark strongly believes that filmmaking is a unique way for students to express themselves, share their opinions, and have their voices heard about different issues in their communities.
The Lighthouse Initiative’s website: https://www.lightfilmfest.org/
Mark’s First Movie: https://bit.ly/TheLighthouseFilm
Nathan Y., 14
In this time of uncertainty, many people, especially teens, are confused by often-biased and scattered information about COVID-19 vaccines. My project targets teens and provides them a reliable, bias-free platform to answer vaccine-related questions and posts the latest vaccine news. I started with a Biotech Club to inform members about vaccine development and vaccination options, and extended my work with Vaccine Newsletters. I am now attending events distributing informational flyers, and firmly believe that awareness and combatting hesitancy is the key to ending the pandemic.
Sravanth M., 18
Essence of Education
Childhood poverty is a huge problem that many children face today. It has many drastic effects, including physical disabilities and mental illness. What is truly tragic is the extreme difficulty of leaving the cycle of poverty, which traps people in the downward spiral of low mental health and low income. A lack of good education is a huge source of poverty, as there are very few jobs that will accept them without a high school diploma. Since poverty-stricken families don’t feel motivated to send kids to school, our vision is to educate these impoverished children and their families to attain an excellent education, experience the benefits of education, impact their communities, and raise them to be disciples and leaders. For the project itself, we felt that education would be the biggest need to address when it came to these students. So, we came up with Essence of Education. We also plan to host Mother’s Club and Father’s Club to empower and teach families about everything from nutrition, health, and wellness to self-esteem, and spirituality. To make this possible, this project team will work with local volunteers, community leaders, students, and area youth with critically important after-school reinforcement programs that help these children to be competitive. My inspiration for this project was the North South Foundation’s scholarship program for poor students. I noticed that they targeted a wide range of students entering professional education – my vision is to target kids to complete high school by providing a supplemental education or sponsoring them for education. After the project is put into practice in one local area (Kamsallipallem village in India), we will be expanding to other parts of the world in hopes of doing our part to help the universal problem of poverty. Our purpose is to essentially help students get through high school, whether that be through tutoring them or sponsoring their education.
Timothy L., 15
In 7th grade, I participated in my school’s economics club, which was the first time it was ever offered. I was fascinated by all the different concepts we were taught, and proud to have won first place in the Economics Challenge, Middle School Division. This sparked my interest in planning my own savings and spending more efficiently, which I noticed many children did not know how to do. They had no concept of money and did not properly understand or appreciate its value.
Thus, my project is a money management program called “Money Matters,” which will provide an incentive for kids to learn about budgeting and investment. I will provide age-level specific education, spanning elementary school, middle school, and high school. The curriculum will be engaging yet informational and sprinkled with class-participation and short videos. There will be an app for students to track their own money savings, and to enter in long-term investment goals. My hope is that students will go back home and apply the curriculum to their everyday life, even once the class is over.