What do you do when a second grader tells you he doesn’t know his birthday? Or when that same little boy says he doesn’t even know what a birthday is? Julia Warren was only 16-years-old when she had this heartbreaking conversation as a volunteer at a Title I elementary school in Richmond, Virginia. After she explained to the student, a little boy named Charles, what a birthday was, all he could muster for an answer was, “I think I was born when it was cold.”
In a game where one wrong move can risk your path to victory, Orrin “Checkmate” Hudson encourages young adults and children to not focus on the chess pieces they have lost, but rather on what’s left on the board – and to never give up. Preaching the power of thinking strategically and making better life decisions, Orrin, a 55-year-old from Stone Mountain, Georgia, teaches his students the game of chess through what he calls the six magic words: “Take time to think things through.” These words have connected Orrin with more than 55,000 children in 30 states nationwide and internationally, including trips to the Philippines, India and Canada.
“I don’t want to be the exception. I want to be the person to inspire other kids and provide ways for them to be like me some day, and better," says Heval Kelli. As a young refugee in Georgia, Heval found mentorship and guidance from a local doctor who invested in his future. Now a cardiology fellow at Emory University, Heval is determined to give back to his community by investing his time and experience in the next generation of aspiring physicians.
On April 8, 2013, Gabby Frost opened Twitter and saw that three girls in her network were contemplating suicide. After responding to them directly, she thought, “What can I do to prevent this from happening again?” The answer was Buddy Project. Combining her own experience with social anxiety, and the knowledge she’d learned from friends who had opened up to her about suicidal thoughts and self-harm, and the power of social media, Gabby came up with the idea of an online community where people could make new friends, support one another and become mental health advocates.