Who are the young, outspoken activists standing up for their communities and calling out injustice? Who are the young, outspoken activists standing up for their communities and calling out injustice? Who are the young, creative artists and entertainers who will tell our stories and represent us in the worlds of music, film, television, books and theater? Who are the young, business-savvy entrepreneurs who are not just looking for a job but looking to create jobs by starting their own companies? Who are the young, barrier-breaking scientists and tech geniuses who are already making scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs that will make life better? Who are the young environmentalists and green innovators who are fighting to ensure that their communities have clean air, drinkable water and access to healthy food?


MEET THE RECIPIENTS

Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna | Lauren Seroyer | Jonathan Wynn-Strachan | Zendaya | Khareem Oliver | A’Dorian Murray-Thomas | Alanna Wall | Isaiah Cooper | Toluwanimi Obiwole | Olivia Russo-Hood | Destiny Watford Haile Thomas | Chris Suggs | Nicole O’Dell | Dejah Powell | Clifton Kinnie | Shemar Coombs | Anicca Harriot | Moziah Bridges | Grace Dolan-Sandrino Maya Penn | Victoria Pannell | Michaela DePrince | Simone Manuel | Nicodemus Madehdou


AGUSTA UWAMANZU-NNA

Category: Science and Tech
Age: 18
Hometown: Elmont, N.Y.
Education: Harvard College
Social Media: Twitter

Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna is dedicated to making sure the world’s infrastructure is solid as a rock.

Seriously. Augusta has spent the last several years researching cement and how to make it sustainable. The Harvard College freshman told The Root that her “first love” and “first passion” is cement. “It’s literally everywhere,” she told Crain’s. “We don’t realize the implication it has on the world.”

So after learning that cement is used to seal offshore-drilling projects—and that the 2010 Gulf oil spill was caused because the cement seal was faulty—she set her sights on making a new and improved cement recipe, if you will.

“My goal was to engineer a new cement seal, and I added attapulgite, which is a type of clay, to enhance the flowability of the cement, but also enhance the structure rebuilding, or how solid it becomes when it fills the oil well.”

“I thought cement was just rocks and water in 10th grade,” she said. “I didn’t understand that cement and concrete had this great application and immense application. So I definitely want to communicate with people and share this knowledge because this knowledge has definitely opened my mind.”

Last spring, she was accepted to all eight Ivy League schools and attended the White House Science Fair that April.

JONATHAN WYNN-STRACAN

Category Arts & Culture
Age: 21
Hometown: Miami
Education: Miami Dade College
Social Meida: Facebook

Art saved Jonathan Wynn-Strachan’s life. In 2012, when he was a sophomore in high school, he and his family were living out of a one-bedroom motel room. He’d lost hope that his family’s situation would improve. But after hearing Nat King Cole’s “Smile” on the radio one day, Jonathan knew he had to stop focusing on his own situation and figure out how he could help others.

So Jonathan founded 60 Minutes of Art, a student-led community-service organization that provides arts education to schools in inner-city neighborhoods. To get started, he sent out about 2,000 emails to receive funding for arts supplies for his first class. After hundreds of kind rejection emails, he finally received a box of supplies from a donor, with a note that read.

“Change the world with these supplies.”

He taught 25 people in his first one-hour class, and now, the program has been integrated into eight schools across Miami-Dade County.

The year 2016 was a big one for the organization. 60 Minutes of Art served more than 500 meals to homeless women and children on New Year’s Eve. This year, the organization will launch the Gardens of Hope initiative, to plant fruit and vegetable gardens in Miami to help the homeless community. Ultimately, he told The Root, he hopes to open a “one-stop shop for homeless families,” which would offer rehabilitation resources to the community.

LAUREN SEROYER

Category: Social Justice/Activism
Age: 17
Education: Peachtree Ridge High School
Hometown: Lawrenceville, Ga.

Lauren launched the Community Assistance and Resource Effort Closet in March 2016 with her brother, Grant. The CARE Closet is a food pantry that high school students can use confidentially. She reached out to her friends and local organizations to stock the pantry. And in the last year, the CARE Closet has expanded to schools in four states and has provided food and hygiene products to more than 950 students.

“The absolute most rewarding thing about leading this nonprofit are the anonymous notes of thanks that we receive from students that are using the closet. “there are really no words to explain the feeling that comes from knowing that I am truly helping my peers with a basic need that will make their lives easier.”

The organization was one of two groups that received a $25,000 grant from the local chapter of the United Way. That prize is enough to stock CARE Closets in every high school in Gwinnett County in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

In 2016, Lauren was honored with the McDonald’s 365Black Community Choice Award. She was also selected to participate in HerLead, a leadership program for young women that’s sponsored by Ann Inc. and Vital Voices.

SHEMAR COOMS

Category: Enterprise/Corporate Innovation
Age: 20
Hometown: Philadelphia
Social Media: Facebook

Shemar Coombs wants to add a few minutes to your day. After getting tired of untangling his headphones, he decided to figure out how to solve the problem.

Enter Rap-It-Up, Shemar’s solution to making sure you never have to wrestle with another knot in your earbuds. Rap-It-Up is a 3D-printed phone case that keeps your headphones tangle-free. He thought of the idea in an entrepreneurship class in high school. The class, which was sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, launched Shemar into several local business competitions. Ultimately, he landed at the national Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship Challenge in New York City, where Rap-It-Up made it to the semifinals.

Then, in 2016, his invention earned him a trip to the White House Science Fair, where he got to shake hands with President Barack Obama.

“I told everyone I wasn’t gonna wash my hand for a while,” he told CBS Philly. “Because the handshake was so memorable.”

Shemar is in the production stage of developing this genius idea for the masses. In 2015, NextFab, a Philadelphia-based incubator, agreed to sponsor Rap-It-Up and help Shemar develop his product. Since then, he has also partnered with a 3D-printing company to help build out the prototype for Rap-It-Up to get the product out to the masses. In working to develop Rap-It-Up, Shemar said he’s been energized by the support from others who believe in his idea.

“An idea is only as strong as you believe it to be,” he told The Root. “If you can get people to see the power behind your idea, there’s no ceiling to what you can do.

OLIVIA RUSSO-HOOD

Category: Green Innovation
Age: 15
Education: University High School
Hometown: Deltona, Fla.
Social Media: Facebook

Even after tragedy struck Olivia Russo-Hood’s family, she started looking for ways to help others. After a massive flood in Austell, Ga., destroyed her family’s home, Olivia noticed how many people came to her family’s rescue. So she knew it was time to pay it forward.

“If I hadn’t received help, I would still feel broken down inside,” she told Points of Light. “We were lucky, but I couldn’t help noticing that hundreds of others were displaced and that not everyone was able to get the help that we did. I felt like I needed to give something back.”

In 2012, Olivia founded Save the Earth Projects, with a mission to “live responsibly, raise awareness and give to those in need.” When she learned that more than 300 million shoes end up in landfills every year, she started the project Leave a Good Footprint. In 2016, the organization collected 25,000 pairs of shoes and donated thousands of dollars to charities worldwide. The organization donates those funds to arts and science programs, groups that focus on the global water crisis and scholarship programs.

STEP, which Olivia runs with her mother and brother, has also built vegetable gardens and raised awareness about childhood obesity. In 2015, she received a letter from President Barack Obama for her volunteer service, and was a finalist for the Prudential Award for Community Service.

“Knowing that people are active in their communities and caring and love one another is what makes this all worthwhile,” she told The Root.

If I were a character from Winnie the Pooh, I'd be Eeyore.

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