2022 POINTS OF LIGHT INSPIRATION HONOR ROLL

The Points of Light Inspiration Honor Roll was created to celebrate acts of service, kindness and civic engagement by individuals who create change in communities around the world. It recognizes the people who take action, in both large and small ways, to improve the lives of others. This year, we continue to see individuals step up like never before. More people are volunteering, using their voices, giving back through work and taking action when they see a need. We are excited to uplift these stories and show how in communities worldwide, the power of people continue to drive us forward.
Meet our honorees!

Nominate an Outstanding Individual

Lucy C. Del Gaudio

Belleville, NJ

Lucy has been volunteering for the Pink Berets since August 2020. She became their volunteer Wellness Lead in 2021 and earlier this year stepped into the role as Chief Operating Officer. She has been hosting weekly virtual yoga and travels to TX often to facilitate retreats and programming. She co-leads advocacy initiatives with Pink Berets founder, Stephanie Gattas. She serves in various boards and volunteers for several veteran service organizations such as the Minority Veterans of America.

Nominated by Stephanie Gattas

Haris Kiani

London

Haris is dedicated to championing social mobility opportunities for young people from low-income backgrounds. Haris has made it his primary mission to work with leading organizations, community leaders and local government to ensure every child has a fair chance at achieving their desired objected and their dreams are not stagnated due to their postcode. “Talent is divided equally; however, opportunities aren’t” is a strong belief system for Haris. He works to increase, support and fulfil the aspirations of young people both in his local area and internationally. Haris is the founder of Diana Award 21′ winning Social Enterprise which has enabled over 500 women to start their own businesses through a micro-financing fund that operates in some of the most disadvantaged communities in Pakistan. Haris is also the co-founder & director of Bubl Venture Studios, the Corporate Venture studio for the world’s largest education company Pearson Plc. He is a Board Member for the GLA’s Young People’s Recovery Mission and a Board Member for the EY Foundation and Partnership for London where he acts as a Digital Health Ambassador as well as advises on policy for young people.

Nominated by Mohammed Barkat

Sri Nihal Tammana

Edison, NJ

Around 15 billion batteries end up in landfills every year, where they start fires, cause pollution and contribute to global warming. But only around 1% of people know about the importance of battery recycling and how to access recycling facilities. When Nihal learned about this, he decided to do something to make a difference. To do this, he started a non-profit organization — Recycle My Battery — in 2019 at the age of 10.

Through Recycle My Battery, Nihal runs educational campaigns to teach people about the impact of batteries and how they can recycle more easily. He also installs free battery bins in schools, libraries and office buildings.

In under three years, the organization has had a lot of success. The bins have collected more than 185,000 used batteries, and the campaigns have reached an estimated 3.5 million people. To help coordinate this, Nihal has recruited more than 200 volunteer school kids, and the organization is entirely run by kids.

To have an even greater impact, Nihal aims to expand to other countries, recruit more volunteers and spread his messages as widely as possible. Currently, he is in the process of expanding operations into Canada, India, with plans for UAE and other countries in the near future

Nominated by Nicole Cirillo

Sindhu Surapaneni

Liberty Lake, Spokane County, WA

When Sindhu Surapaneni was 11 during the 2020 quarantine she taught over 400 free art lessons via Zoom and Facebook Live. When she was 12, she donated $4,000 to an organization that feeds the homeless through her art sales. At 13 years, she is teaching art in-person to local elementary schools that don’t have art programs in their schools. She received a gold presidential award for volunteering over 500 hours. She has impacted thousands of kids experience a world of creativity, empathy and inclusion through her art and stories. She took the initiative to show her support to Ukrainian refugees by working with students from elementary schools in the area to create 1,080 cards to be sent over to the refugees. She creates art on inclusion and diversity to impact the community positively and donates all the funds that she gets from selling that art to the organizations that serve the homeless. “Everyone is
loved here!” She created this art so that every kid who walks by it feels loved and accepted irrespective of all the differences. She is planning on donating 100% of the funds from all her art. Through her journey, she wants to show anyone can impact, influence and inspire anyone at any age.

Nominated by School Teachers

Vivek Turakhia

NY

In his freshman year of high school, Vivek went on a trip to his grandparents’ house in Cambay, India where he visited a disadvantaged school along with his family. When Vivek saw the situation in the school, he knew he had to help change it. The students were sitting on the floor with almost no supplies, and learning from a teacher who had just a chalkboard. After seeing these conditions, Vivek talked to the students and learned that their aspirations were incredibly inspiring with many of them wanting to be doctors, lawyers or astronauts. In the conditions that the students were learning in, it was apparent that they weren’t getting the support they needed to further their academic aspirations, so Vivek formed the organization For the Students, by the Students to help fight for this cause. His first step was working with a local rotary club in Cambay to donate bags of school supplies to all students in the underserved school. Then, back at his home in New York, he spearheaded dozens of drives working with organizations such as local libraries to collect and donate thousands of school supplies to underserved schools across the country and spread awareness of the education epidemic through frequent social media posts.

Nominated by Jigisha Turakhia

Ankita Sundar

Cupertino, CA

Ankita is a passionate advocate for quality education and gender equality for girls worldwide.

Addressing the education disparity in her community, she co-founded a non-profit organization, Digital Educate, whose mission is to provide education, mentorship, and access to digital media to marginalized communities worldwide. She teaches free programming and leadership classes to youth. During the Covid pandemic, she taught 350+ students globally. To promote girls’ participation in STEM, she led a girls coding contest on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 80+ girls from 10 states and 3 countries.

She is also the founder and host of a podcast, Power2LeadHER, that connects women change-makers to aspiring young women leaders in high school. She interviews women leaders across industries on their leadership journeys. Her podcast has reached 400+ people from 14+ countries and she continues to build an inclusive community that allows young women access to these opportunities.

Nominated by Gowri Narayan

Dr. Amber D. Gray, DBH

Wildomar, CA

Dr. Gray has been helping victims of violent crimes for three decades. A survivor of violence herself, Dr. Gray vowed to always help those in crisis get to a place where they could make safe and good decisions for their health. And she has always made good on her vow.

An unfortunate event would change the course of Dr. Gray’s life and how she not only interacted with the community, but with victims of violence and providers as well. After returning to the workforce from a brief hiatus, Dr. Gray was informed by a colleague that an individual she knew had taken their life, after being retraumatized during a legal process. Dr. Gray was devastated. When she asked what happened, the staff responded, “We were short advocates and unable to provide the appropriate help the individual needed.” Dr. Gray began to wonder how she could help prevent future tragedies from occurring. She started volunteering 10 to 15 hours a month with victim services agencies. She also started a business to assist providers in being more trauma-informed in their care delivery. She felt that it was imperative that she created a way for service providers to always have assistance if they needed it. To date, Dr. Gray continues to help resource victim services agencies.

Nominated by Rebecca Ax

Joshua Crans

Bothell, WA

Joshua Crans, a US Navy veteran, is a passionate advocate for volunteerism and environmental innovation. His impact resonates at Verizon and beyond, both regionally and globally. At Verizon, he serves as Citizen Verizon and Green Team Champion partnering with nonprofits and mobilizing employees to volunteer on habitat restoration activities. He has contributed hundreds of volunteer hours over eight years and encouraged other employees at various Verizon PNW offices to contribute to their communities.

Joshua has spearheaded initiatives to reduce plastic waste in consumer products and diesel consumption as well as electronics recycling. He represents Verizon as One Young World Ambassador, a global forum for young leaders. In 2019, he introduced carbon “calorie” labeling to empower consumers to make informed choices. In 2020, he was one of three global winners for his innovative work “Advancing Zero Wealth Concentration via Micro-stocks”.

Undoubtedly, Joshua epitomizes an inspiring commitment to volunteerism!

Nominated by Azmeena Hasham

Jean Vaught

Hephzibah, GA

Jean has been volunteering for over 15 years on the streets, with different organizations . Her husband’s job has over the years had the couple moving to different locations throughout the state of Georgia. That never stopped her from becoming involved with organizations like The Bridge Ministry in Atlanta. She has also served with Fish for Kids in Monroe, GA. Jean has been instrumental in setting up and running Backpack Buddies and Family Promise, and feeding the homeless in Savannah. She’s also gone into camps and had bible studies for the past several years with Golden Harvest.

While she has a 501c3 organization, Jean believes there are great organizations out there that need some helping hands. She wants to love those whom society has deemed unlovable, clothe those in need and feed the hungry with unconditional love. In 2005, she began mission work in Peru that continues today. Every summer she goes into the streets, schools, orphanages, hospitals and prisons showing those in a developing countries that they are loved.

Nominated by Paul Vaught

Ruby Tilghman

Panama City, FL

Ruby Tilghman, 17, of Panama City, Florida, is a fierce Fine Arts advocate, founder of the non-profit, Many Mini Musicians and author of “Ruby’s Recital,” a children’s book about finding your passion. Having identified a key component disappearing from her school district’s curriculum due to budgetary cuts, Ruby built an organization, compiled a board of community professionals to oversee it, partnered with an accredited foundation and provided Fine Arts grants directly to classrooms. Over the last six years, Ruby has hosted community concerts featuring young musicians to raise money to support Fine Arts programming throughout her state and positively impacting thousands of students. She is also the founder of the Youth Community Arts Alliance where she mentors students across the country on how to impact their own communities through Fine Arts initiatives. She has inspired countless young artists and given them the tools to pursue their passions and use their unique gifts to enact positive change.

Nominated by Nancy Tilghman

Khloe Thompson

Yorba Linda, CA

Khloe is an international philanthropist with the heart of gold. Khloe started how own charity at the age of 8 to support women experiencing homelessness, she uses her platform to inspire and motivate other youth to be change makers and one a year she installs water pumps and bathroom facilities in schools that don’t have access to clean safe water. Through the years Khloe has been a community leader. Khloe has lead community service projects that span from organizing hygiene events in homeless communities, providing essential mask during the beginning of the pandemic, providing, leading global youth activations, helping other youth identify and find their passions, supporting youth in Ghana, supplies over 10,000 kids with school supplies, and the list goes on. Khloe is an example of how one person can make a ripple effect to inspire other youth around the world to be change makers. Khloe knows that one person can’t ham the world, but one person can make a difference. Khloe has inspired so many and helped other youth see their potential by being a great role model. With all that Khloe does, she is a dual enrollment student that has excellent grades.

Hannah Walton

United Kingdom

Hannah has struggled with mental health conditions since age 8. She had to leave school at 14-years-old due to her mental health worsening to the point she could no longer attend.

After years of struggling for support and exhausting her options, Hannah felt defeated, but the pandemic gave her new motivation to support the next generation. After the schools closed due to COVID-19, she was still out of work but wanted to do all she could to help so she began to volunteer. In 2020, she volunteered 250 hours over six months.

Hannah then launched a youth-led access initiative, One/Third Project, and has since brought on several volunteers to help provide academic, employability and emotional services to young people with disrupted educational histories.

Hannah has since been nominated for a few awards, been featured in media outlets and been invited to a number of events as a guest speaker on behalf of young people across the UK. She is grateful to have a small platform to give a voice to those who may have been left behind by the systems in place currently. If her experiences can help just one young person, she has done a good job in her eyes.

Nominated by Amanda Allen

Ashley Kyalwazi

Carmichael, CA

Ashley Kyalwazi founded The MV3 Foundation when she was a second year medical student at Harvard Medical School. Ashley is the daughter of Michael and Winnie Kyalwazi- Ugandan immigrants who came to the U.S. seeking opportunities that were not afforded to them growing up in a country being run by a dictatorship. As a first-generation, low-income college student hoping to become a physician, Ashley faced many challenges on her path to becoming a medical student and recognizes the impact that meaningful mentorship and early exposure to careers in medicine had on her educational trajectory. In 2020, in her second year of medical school, Ashley founded The MV3 Foundation in order to bridge the gaps that exist for many Black students who hope to enter into health or biomedical science fields. In doing this, her goal was to create a national community that supports young Black scholars across the country by increasing access to academic and professional mentorship and resources, so that they feel empowered to not just see themselves in these fields, but confidently believe in their ability to be positive change makers throughout their careers. The Foundation completed a 6-month pilot program and begins its inaugural program this Fall.

Kaysie Holeman

Fountain Valley, CA

When COVID shut the world down, Kaysie knew immediately that it was imperative to keep the community together and engaged – even if distanced. Her long-time dream came to fruition and she started the nonprofit Orange County Children’s Museum.

Since the shutdown they have implemented over 150 events, activities, classes, virtual family nights, arts & crafts, take-and-make kits, DIY decor, food truck nights, parades, scavenger hunts, game nights, holiday celebrations, graduation parades, online contests, a 5K, time capsules, educational materials, free photo shoots, mobile DJ parties, car parades, homemade gifts for hospice patients and more! While 2020 was hard, she’s thankful for it. It allowed her to show her girls that we are able to endure hard things; we don’t give up, we can thrive in the midst of uncertainty, it’s okay to be scared, and it’s also okay to be brave. And to always act with a kind and philanthropic heart. Her hope is that they were able to, or one day will be able to, recognize that we kept our sense of community close to heart, and did our best. In the middle of every awful situation, you can always find people helping. We are the helpers!

Peter A Morici

Brooklyn, NY

For the last 53 years the Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South Auxiliary Police with 13 police precincts and over 800 volunteer police officers under my command. We patrol the streets and Houses of Worship in our commands ensuring the safety of the communities. I also created the first F.E.M.A. Community Emergency Response Team in NYC in 2002 Battery Park city CERT then Port Richmond CERT in Staten Island, Brooklyn South CERT in Community District 14 Brooklyn and finally New York 1 CERT in Borough Park Brooklyn. All these teams after I created and trained them as a FEMA CERT Instructor were grandfathered into NYC Emergency Management. In 2004 I trained the entire New York State Guard Division of Military and Naval Affairs at Camp Smith NY. In the same military capacity I was the Logistics Section Chief on the podium at Pier 92 the backup home of NYC Office of Emergency Management, and was the only one on duty when Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harber Queens and set up the Command Post and all equipment necessary to deal with the crash. In November 2012 I was Charlie Company Commander for 24 NYS National Guard and 15 State Guard soldiers for three and a half months at Citifield, the NY Guard is all volunteer.

Mayor Cashenna A. Cross

Glenarden, MD

Cashenna A. Cross is a decorated retired veteran of the United States Air Force and an accomplished Department of Defense and community and international leader (NATO) with more than 30 years of community service and experience in government, planning and project management, and philanthropy. On August 18, 2021, Mrs. Cross was sworn into a four-year term as Mayor of the City of Glenarden, Maryland where she became only the third female and the 18th Mayor in the City’s 82-year history. She previously served on the city’s ethics commission Vice Chairman. Selected by county executive of Prince George’s to serve on the Hope in Action Task Force addressing the countywide disenfranchisement of our youth. A 25-year financial member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. having served all-mankind diligently in the arts, health and wellness campaigns, math and science and international engagement. Wife and Mother of two superstars committed to serving our community and youth engagement through screen acting and theater. Leads the community outreach to reach 6200 everyday and provide support for the good of the served community. Believing in the fruits of the spirit principles with God’s grace and mercy has received countless accolades.

Sharon Caples McDougle

Houston, TX

Sharon loves to volunteer and has been giving back for over forty years. She began volunteering in high school and her passion for service continued to grow over the years. She is a wife and mother of two, an Air Force veteran, former Space Shuttle Program team member, and author. Even though she has a very busy life she always makes time to serve others.

She adopts families for the holidays, distributes goodie bags, coats, blankets to the homeless. She reads to children at local day cares and libraries and dresses in costume for most of her visits. She performs random acts of kindness paying for washers/dryers at local laundromats. She also helps lay wreaths on fallen soldiers’ graves.

She cooked breakfast for the Houston Ronald McDonald House residents, donated books, and pajamas to kids in foster care, donated bras and panties in support of women in prison, participates in 5K walks helping raising funds for various organizations, and cleans up beaches.

Sharon also shares her time and wisdom as a mentor with The Patti Grace Smith Fellowship and TWST4Girls and is waiting to be assigned a “Little” through BBBS. She was recently recognized for her community service efforts as the winner of Houston’s Remarkable Women contest.

Aashraya Seth

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Aashraya is a transnational practitioner of sustainable development goals, a social educator and an innovator who has voluntarily designed over a dozen projects in gender for the empowerment of women and girls. Looking at the dire condition of public schools in India, where girls drop out of school when they start menstruating in India, Aashraya invented India’s most affordable non-electric sanitary pad vending machine that costs only $28 to dispense biodegradable pads. His initiative, ‘Menstrual Hygiene Friendly Spaces,’ is working towards menstrual equity, installing pad vending machines at all public schools, with education on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

His initiative supports over 50,000 underserved and tribal school-going girls with free biodegradable sanitary pads every month, which helps them continue their school. Recently, he has also designed a $1 cloth pad/period underwear and a $10 biodegradable incinerator for menstruators in rural India.

Aashraya has been a part of several bilateral and multilateral projects of the British, Indian and Australian governments; however, alongside his work in foreign affairs, he enjoys volunteering for programs in gender and solving community problems using innovation.

Melina Moghadassian

New York City, NY

Melina Moghadassian is an Artist, Producer & founder of Humans for the Arts based in New York. Melina is an alumni of the Stella Adler studio of Acting. She has appeared in a performance at the Stella Adler Studio called “A Bright Room Called Day “ directed by John Gould Rubin and in an off Broadway Show called “Almost Maine” by John Cariani. Melina is currently training with Hollywood coach Bernard Hiller to develop her craft more. Melina, Actresses Eliana Ghen and Sandra Gitau produced and starred together in their short film called “ Bridesmaids Tale” which got also accepted into the Outshine Film Festival. In 2021 Melina founded her Nonprofit called “Humans for the Arts” to foster academic, emotional, economical & psychological advancement through Arts education and Art therapy for disempowered youth and youth at risk. Outside of Humans for the Arts, Melina is teaching acting classes to students who want to pursue acting as a profession. Since the age of 15 Melina has been actively volunteering and contributing to communities/ cities and countries. Through her support & engagement, Melina could succeed in building a school in Kongo and support Shakiras foundation “Pies Descalzos” For Kids in Columbia.

Aaditri Gattu

Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, United states

Aaditri an 8year old has been volunteering for past 2 plus years for a great cause in saving and protecting the planet. She is a member of Recycle my battery a non-profit organization. She has spread lot of awareness in our community by collecting batteries, conducting drives and also by educating many about the importance of recycling in all the ways. She made a positive impact on us. Her great ideas and thoughts towards saving the planet were remarkable. Her articles and art works towards saving environment were very impressive and were easily understandable to all ages. Many kids and adults got inspired with her work and joined the cause. She made an great impact to society. She placed bins at schools, libraries and many other communities. Her global presentations in spreading the cause and educating people were very interesting. Her positive attitude and hard work will make a great impact on our society. She recycled more than 10,000 plus batteries and volunteered more than 700 plus hours. Once asked Aaditri mentioned by doing this I would like to save present and future generations. Well, it improved the overall quality of life and protects the ecosystem and need to be diligent and focused and can surely achieve wonders.

Pallavi Priya

India

Pallavi Priya is a sustainable lifestyle content creator and digital influencer from India.

She has more than 10+ years of volunteering, planning & event organizing experience into social and environmental sector. She is the founder of a social initiative ‘Cause for Celebration’ which works on the objective of serving, empowering and uplifting the uderprivileged section of the society.

She is the Global Youth Climate Network MTE Climate Ambassador representing India. She runs a digital initiative across the social media platform called ‘Ecofriendly World’ which works in line with SDG 13 and spread awareness on climate action.

She is a Podcaster and spreading solutions about climate crisis through her Podcast ‘Ecofriendly Kind World’ which is available on Anchor, Spotify and Google Podcast and heard in 30+ countries.

She has conducted more than 1000 meetups, DIY sessions, Go Green Challenges on environment protection initiatives and awareness on eco friendly products and have reached 10,000+ individuals from across the world.

She has planted 10,000+ trees till date and convinced people around to join me to tackle climate change through tree plantations.

Sanya Pirani

Prior Lake, Minnesota

Sanya Pirani is a sophomore at Prior Lake High School, Minnesota. She is the founder/CEO of Sanya’s Hope For Children (a nonprofit organization) as well as the youth ambassador for the CAP Agency in Scott, Dakota, and Carver Counties since 2015. Sanya’s Hope For Children (SHFC) was founded in January 2017 with a commitment to supporting local & global impoverished children and helping children by transforming communities one life at a time. With half the world’s population under age 25, SHFC’s mission is to help young people gain the basic necessities of life, fund educational endeavors, find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues. Sanya currently gives back 100% of her fundraising profit to the community in need. At only 15 years old, she is already making an impact on a large scale. Sanya’s service journey began when she was seven and a half years old. Under Sanya’s leadership, SHFC has successfully raised over $70,000 to 120,000 worth of goods and monetary donations every year for homeless and marginalized families. Sanya launched her online marketplace to sell her products and 100% of her profit is dedicated to helping children and families in need.

Rayansh Boddu

Edison, New Jersey

Rayansh Boddu has been volunteering for more than 2.5 years recycling used batteries. He is passionate about saving Mother Earth in whatever way he can. He works almost every day after he is back from school by attending local events to spread messages or by placing battery bins in near by locations for collecting used batteries. Not only just batteries, he is now volunteering to collect the used electronic items to donate to people who are in need. He also has become an Earth Buddy on Save Soil movement to spread awareness about saving our own soil to save our lives. He is an inspiration to many at this very young age (9years). He is a public speaker and does express in public about what he is wishing everyone to do. His favorite quote “A Small Drop in the ocean can make a big difference in the world. I’m just a drop in the ocean, if more people get added to it. Together we can make a HUGE difference” Also, Remember There is No PLANET B!!!

He always uses the above two quotes to bring the attention from audience in saving mother earth in whatever way we can.

Katheleen Cooper

Utah

After retiring in 2019, Katheleen heard a news story that the local animal shelter was over-crowded and under-staffed and that was her catalyst to get involved. Katheleen learned of multiple duties she could help with to enhance the shelter’s mission to keep animals healthy and socialized, which increases their potential for adoption into a forever family and home.

She comes to the shelter every week and along with the pets and scratches, gives dogs exercise, playtime, and reinforces their training skills, and she also works with new volunteers to provide one-on-one mentoring on the shelter’s best practices for dog interactions.

When able, Katheleen cleans cat kennels, showcases dogs at adoption events, and transports dogs and cats to area vets for vaccinations and spaying/neutering. Katheleen finds that every day with shelter animals is rewarding, whether it is because she was able to provide basic kindness and comfort or because she was able to earn tail wags, kisses or snuggles. Seeing a dog or cat be healthy and happy in the moment is a joy, but there is nothing better than seeing them leave or discovering they are gone from week to week because they were adopted!

Nominated by Maria Bingham

Maria Rosales

Atlanta

Maria is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and was the first in the family to graduate college. She grew up in North Alabama having a passion for the arts, photography/video, music and technology. This led her to study Digital Arts and Design at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.

To quote the phrase from the musical “The Sound of Music,” “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” This truly represents what it’s like to be Maria. Any obstacle she has faced, she has done so with passion. From arts and music, civic and social causes and now currently volunteering with Teach-Technology Organization, Inc., her motivation is always having a curiosity to understand issues people face and how best to serve them.

In 2020, COVID-19 struck and for Maria it began a journey of disability. The stigma was no longer enough to avoid her silent struggles with mental health. She couldn’t do her job anymore — at least not like before. But despite her disability, she wanted to volunteer.

At Teach-Tech she was able to use her design and social media skills in a way that wasn’t too taxing yet allowed her to flourish. With Teach-Tech being remote, it’s made her realize the possibilities of working again with some accommodations.

Nominated by Ameya Jadhav

Ava Tsapatsaris

Eastchester, NY

Ava Tsapatsaris is passionate about making a difference and leading positive change. She is the founder of Uniting Against Breast Cancer, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves as a patient navigation service to connect underserved women in New York City, Westchester County and Long Island to cost-free breast cancer screening services in their area.

Since middle school, Ava has enjoyed her role as a three-time Emmy-nominated lead on-air reporter for My9’s Teen Kids News, where she has used her platform to amplify the mission of the Loukoumi Make A Difference Foundation. In Advanced Science Research, a three year honors course at her high school, Ava has published two scientific research articles on barriers to breast cancer screening among medically underserved women and the effectiveness of mobile mammography in reaching marginalized patient populations with Dr. Melissa Reichman of Weill-Cornell Medicine. As the project leader for The Loukoumi Make A Difference Foundation Treatment Room at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Ava has raised over $15,000 to fund a literacy and treatment room for the patients at St. Jude to learn and receive treatment simultaneously. Ava’s goal is to be a physician and medical correspondent.

Nominated by Nicholas Katsoris

Jessica Burke

Chandler, AZ

Jessica Burke is a sophomore at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona. She is the founder of Otium, an internationally recognized food science blog. Jessica has always been involved in the world of food, regularly throwing herself into any cooking class she could attend. During one of the classes, she was making a marinade for a chicken recipe. Curious, she asked how the chicken attains the flavor of the marinade. To her surprise, the teacher did not have an answer. She was shocked; how did this professional chef not know the science behind his art?

Stemming from the desire to help teach her cooking instructor, she was introduced to food science and how the food industry works. Furthermore, she started to realize how detrimental the restaurant industry is on the environment. On average, 85% of food in a restaurant is wasted. In the summer of 2019, she decided to share her passion of food science by creating this blog, Otium. She shares informational posts about the science and culture behind the food industry. The community is what drives the project. Questions are sent from all over 90 countries asking questions such as what is an instant pot. Currently, over 3 million individuals visit the blog monthly.

Nominated by Ranjana Burke

Zohaib Begg

Ashburn, VA

Zohaib has been volunteering since the pandemic began in March 2020, when all of our lives changed. Many things in the world were unsettling, but as a former hematology patient, Zohaib could not stomach the fact that the doctors and nurses who helped save his life just a few years back did not have the proper PPE to help others in such a giant health crisis.

When a close family friend who was also a distressed ER doctor came over to Zohaib’s house to borrow some swim caps to cover her hair for her shift in the ER, Zohaib got the idea he could maybe find shower caps for the entire ER staff to use as PPE for headgear. Zohaib quickly checked with the ER if that would help and they said they would take anything unopened. So he quickly started calling local area hotels that were empty and not only found hundreds of shower caps but also gloves, masks and sanitizer. As more hotels became eager to help, Zohaib’s efforts grew into collecting several thousand units of PPE for the frontlines of Metro DC. To date he has been able to give back to over 20,000 frontline workers. His efforts have been recognized by VA Governor Northam, President Obama and many media outlets. He continues to provide free PPE kits for anyone who needs it (unhoused individuals, hospitalized children, etc.)

Nominated by Isma Zubair

Palakh Khanna

New Delhi, India

Palakh Khanna is a 19-year-old youth changemaker, social entrepreneur, mentor, teacher and environmentalist. A world record holder, she is also working as a Harvard Innovation Fellow and a GirlUp India cohort member.

Palakh is the founder of Break.The.Ice, an International Youth organization working towards discussing taboo topics and creating an enlightened youth community. A UN SDSN Youth member organization, Break.The.Ice has impacted more than 25,000 individuals and has members from over 10 countries. Along with Break.The.Ice, Palakh has also been teaching underserved children English. She is also a mentor under the Desh ka Mentor program by the Government Of Delhi, where she helps young children navigate their lives and hone their skills more efficiently. The youngest coach and panelist for the Business Blasters program, a Govt. Of Delhi initiative, Palakh is working towards creating a better society for all!

Nominated by Chloe Sebastian

Jessica Barpaye

Columbus, OH

Jessica has been advocating for women and girls in Liberia for the past ten years. Her passion for this field has led her to start a nonprofit to cater for the needs of women and girls. She is one of those people who is always speaking up about violence against women on social media. She goes beyond her boundaries to help marginalized women — not just advocating for women, but also creating programs to empower them economically. She goes to rural communities educating women on how to stand up for their rights. Jessica is so passionate about her vision that there’s no obstacle that can stop her. She is a determined, innovative, irresistible and caring leader. She has impacted so many lives both in and out of Liberia. She is the voice of the voiceless.

Nominated by Abosede Olubodun

Srikar Surapaneni

Spokane, WA

Sixteen-year-old Srikar Surapaneni from Ridgeline High school in Liberty Lake, Washington, has volunteered to teach free math lessons at elementary schools since the age of 11. During quarantine he taught math competitive tips and tricks to kids for ages 7-17, including 45 free lessons on Zoom to over 1,500 kids. He not only taught math to kids but also to adults with autism. He kept the students engaged and entertained with fun magic tricks during his math lessons.

Once school went back to normal, Srikar started back with in-person volunteering, contributing his time teaching competitive math at middle schools. Other than math and magic, he also volunteers his time sharing about Indian culture with the greater local community. He serves the unhoused by packing food and delivering meals to them. He also serves as a youth board member for Liberty Lake Parks and Recreation, Junior Advisory Board for Spokane County interstate fair and Indian Youth Club of Spokane.

Nominated by SatYa Mani

Dr. Kathy L. Tatum

Houston, TX

Dr. Kathy L. Tatum used her own experiences with childhood trauma to eventually serve as founder and president of Collaborating Voices Foundation. The organization’s mission is to rescue families from human trafficking and domestic violence, to stop hunger, to plant community gardens, to do outreach with unhoused individuals, to help veterans and to educate the community in financial literacy, government contracts and running nonprofits.

Kathy has been Congressionally recognized and has won multiple awards, including the White House AmeriCorps Point of Light Presidential Lifetime Volunteer Award 2021 and the SME Humanitarian Award 2021.

Nominated by Hollis Tatum

Roshan Shah

San Diego, CA

Roshan Shah is founder of VoicesGo, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities. The mission of VoicesGo is to offer resources to families, parents, students and school districts to empower people with disabilities to procure a communication device. This can be done through insurance, grants, scholarships and loans, so that when they leave a school district so they can continue to experience inclusion and to communicate fully.

Roshan is President of his high school’s Best Buddies Chapter and volunteers at Sports4Exceptional Athletes. Roshan is also an active member of the UCSD Youth Advisory Council which brings diverse youth together to address community health issues.

Roshan is also winner of the Digital4Good and a Riley’s Way Fellow. He plans to use the funds he raised and from the grant from Riley’s Way to create a lending library of communication devices and application for students who can’t speak in San Diego County. He is also working on proposing a law in the California State legislature to systematically support students with special needs.

Nominated by Bijul Dalal

James McGee

Valley Springs, California

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, James, under the guidance of The Office of Contra Costa County Supervisor Gioia and in partnership with The Men & Women of Valor, delivered relief supplies to senior centers, health care centers, children’s centers, and homeless shelters located in some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most vulnerable or economically burdened urban communities.

He found donors, forged and cultivated partnerships with business owners, managers, and even Native American tribal leaders from some of the most recognizable business franchises operating in Northern California while simultaneously engaging in the hands on creation, collection, restoration, preparation and redistribution of PPE materials and all usable equipment available.

He invested more than 2,000 hours and recruited 36 volunteers to provide an additional 200 hours. James devoted all his available time, resources and strength toward producing, innovating and most importantly delivering as much of these materials as possible. By the end of his campaign he had amassed 3 tons of relief supplies, including 30,000 sq yards of fabric. Comparable in size to more than 400,000 2-ply face masks or nearly 5 football fields of fabric, along with collecting 23 working sewing machines and much more.

Nominated by James McGee

Jae Yoon

Greenville, North Carolina

Since the age of nine, Jae has maintained active duties as a leader and worked with youth to increase interest in STEM subjects. He is a student advocate for an awareness organization called “Love A Sea Turtle” (LAST).

LAST is a youth-led organization that highlights youth empowerment and environmental conservation. Through innovative programs providing leadership, summer camps for underserved youth, a platform to learn about real-world issues, and a way to engage with his surrounding community, he has guided this coalition into an internationally recognized organization. Over the past seven years, Jae developed a passion for the environment and strived to make his own change. This led to him creating his own initiative, Better Bag Solution, and co-leading the umbrella organization, Plastic Free NC.

Better Bag Solution is an eco-initiative that focuses on the harmful effects of single-use plastic bags, finding an alternative and educating the general public. While partnering with local businesses and restaurants, he has given away nearly 1,000 reusable bags and educated countless citizens in his local area. With his personal projects, Jae hopes to inspire change in others and broaden his impact throughout the state.

Nominated by Kay Sokolovic

Ray Tang

Houston, Texas

Ray has been helping several immigrant seniors for two years to improve their English and prepare for the citizenship language exam. The seniors are all over 65 years old and come from outside of the U.S. They didn’t speak English before immigrating and had no clue how to prepare for the Citizenship Language Exam. After Ray learned about their dilemma, he decided to help these seniors to improve their English and prepare for the exam.

Every time Ray has free time, like Thanksgiving break, winter break or summer break, he comes to the senior living house and offers free English tutoring classes. Ray prepared many learning materials and went over each of the 128 questions in the 2021 version of the Civil Test issued by USCIS and helps the seniors understand the questions one by one.

As immigrants from abroad, the seniors truly feel the love, friendship and social support from what a teenager does. Ray shows what good citizenship means and sets a good example for other kids to follow.

Nominated by Naiqin Gong

Jennifer Vaughan

Virginia Beach, VA

Jennifer’s service story begins at a young age when she participated in mission projects in Washington, DC with her parents. It is here that she learned what serving others really meant. Entering adulthood, she still looked beyond her teacher duties to find ways to serve others. After retiring, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Training with the Virginia Beach CERT team and partnering with her church, she made several trips to Mississippi to help with recovery.

Her church asked her to coordinate missions which included running an outreach ministry and food pantry. It is here that she was inspired to work with the unhoused. It was during this time that she made connections to other faith groups, nonprofits and city departments to find ways to serve the under-resourced.

After 12 years of volunteering as director of Potter’s House at Virginia Beach UMC, she stepped down to be able to spend more time with family. That did not mean that she stopped serving others. As the city opened the Housing Resource Center, she helped its Day Center. She also became a part of BEACH Faith in Action and BEACH Community Partnership to share resources found in the community.

Nominated by Diane Hotaling

Christa Neu

Bethlehem, PA

Christa is a first-generation student. Once she got to college, she realized there were questions she didn’t know she should ask when looking at careers. In college, she benefited from the structure of a good mentor who helped her identify strengths to map her educational experiences.

In 2022, Christa began volunteering for Speakhire.org. The organization’s goal is to help students explore secondary education opportunities as they may be adapting to new languages and cultures. These students likely have the same questions and uncertainties that she did in high school. Talking with students about the value of volunteering and contributing to the community is a part of her mentoring philosophy.

Christa has volunteered for 11 years at Healing Through the Arts, a nonprofit that curates an annual art show of student-created work which is donated to hospitals and area medical facilities. She is a photographer who frequently collaborates on creativity workshops with Lehigh University’s Art Gallery and the Office of Student Affairs.

She teaches by example, translating the soft skills used in photography to a variety of career experiences and also fostering creativity, mental health and mindfulness in everyday life.

Nominated by Bryan Montozzi-Wood

Kean Dao

Winterville, North Carolina

Kean co-founded the Environmental Droners as a means to identify trash areas utilizing drone technology. After receiving a GripTape Youth Driving Learning grant and additional financial support from “Love A Sea Turtle” (LAST), a drone was purchased and the program was put into action. Polluted areas are filmed, groups and organizations are contacted to lead clean-ups, and local collaborative efforts have led to the recent development and implementation of a SmartTrash app. Kean is determined to make an impact through the use of technology for a clean environment. He has been successful in his efforts through community partnerships with students, scientists and conservation-focused organizations.

Nominated by Kay Sokolovic

Danyell Henriques

Gonzales, LA

Danyell has been volunteering in the community for four years. She helps unhoused individuals and families and the needy in Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. John the Baptist Parish and St. James Parish, and has also helped a family in Lafourche, Louisiana.

She hosted a Christmas Gift Giveaway, along with a Christmas Eve Jambalaya Plate giveaway in December of 2021. She has provided Disaster Relief Supplies to all the parishes listed above along with Lafitte, Louisiana. These supplies included disaster clean up buckets, MRE’s, water, frozen foods for hot meals, hot meals to the families in Walker, Louisiana with the help of The American Red Cross and Agape Baptist Church.

Danyell continues to help the community by providing clothes, baby food, diapers and non-congregate shelters (motel/hotel) stay to unhoused individuals/families. She provides care packages, words of encouragement, non-perishable food, hot food, water, drinks, hygiene kits, clothes, shoes, bibles, first aid kits, feminine products, dog food and cat food, and has even helped individuals get new IDs and drivers licenses when they need assistance. The smallest gift goes a long way and it’s always a pleasure to help.

Nominated by Ageliki Key

Yasmin Qartoumy

Huntington Beach, CA

Yasmin is an esthetician that has dedicated much of her life to caring for the unhoused population in Los Angeles and Orange County in a unique and personal way. Every day, she positively impacts the community by giving them hope and caring for them. Providing skin care, hygiene and essential services to unhoused people, Yasmin is showering the world with love, one person and one human interaction at a time.

Nominated by Yuri Williams

LuKesha Tate

Calumet Park, IL

LuKesha Tate has been volunteering for over ten years by serving the communities from the Southside of Chicago, Illinois to the South Suburban areas and Northwest Indiana with Better Sister and Brother Growth Network nonprofit organization. She helps provide meals to unhoused individuals, participates in clothing give aways, is active in community outreach, participates in events against domestic violence, takes part in toy/back-to-school drives and helps deliver mobile food boxes to families and elderly individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nominated by Benj White

Roselyn Halvorson

Omak, WA

Roselyn started her own nonprofit organization to spread cheer to nursing homes all over her state. With Roselyn’s Caring Canvases, she creates personalized canvas paintings, each a bit different, for every resident in each facility. To date, she has painted 512 canvases and continues to paint more each month. She also teaches painting classes using new skills she learns in her 6th grade art class at school. Roselyn loves art and loves honoring her grandfather, who passed away from Alzheimer’s, through this project. She loves seeing the excitement and smiles when she delivers her paintings. It’s also fun to see a resident’s happy face showing off their own painting after an art class. Roselyn’s kindness shines through her special work.

Nominated by Margaret Buswell

Meha Gaba

San Jose, CA

During the COVID-19 pandemic, global health came to the forefront. The whole world had to heal together to come out of this pandemic and that’s what Meha’s mission is for Ayuda Foundation. With Meha’s passion and leadership, Ayuda has become an international organization supporting global health. Ayuda’s achievements include helping thousands with COVID relief efforts across Asia, from Egypt to Brazil to the war relief efforts in Ukraine. With COVID converting into an endemic, Meha is determined to support global health awareness. Donating monthly health kits to homeless and low-income families and school students and conducting awareness workshops are continuing efforts of Ayuda.

Nominated by NIDHI TULI

Jeffrey Wall

Dayton, Ohio

Jeffrey is the 17-year-old founder of Golden Age Karate. He was awarded inclusion in the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame and earned his blackbelt in Tang Soo Do at the age of 13. Jeffrey decided to take his martial arts skills and travel to a less-served community of seniors to help change their outlook on life. Jeffrey began traveling to nursing homes and homebound seniors to teach them martial arts.

When the pandemic hit, Jeffrey developed a YouTube Channel that allowed his classes to both continue locally and expand to other states and eventually around the globe as his story was picked up by a South African Media outlet and utilized in the airports, malls and Ubers in South Africa. Jeffrey also developed a program that would help to improve the memory and overall health of his senior students, leading to a decrease in medications and slowing of memory loss of his students.

As in-person classes resumed, Jeffrey found out how valuable his classes were in reducing the sedentary behaviors of his students while improving their outlooks on life. His seniors felt both valued, and valuable as they began to feel stronger and more empowered. The seniors took ownership over their health again and turned into hundreds of real life Ninja Nanas across the US.

Nominated by Yuri Williams

Nakeya Fields

Pasadena, CA

Therapeutic Play Foundation (TPF) is a 501(c)(3) organization that helps distressed school-aged children and their support systems with access to non-traditional, culturally inclusive arts and play based therapeutic services through education, outreach and advocacy. The vision is to heal the emotional wellbeing of our global community through play. TPF is based in Pasadena, California but serves Los Angeles County, surrounding areas and anyone in need. TPF has been operating since 2015 but, in 2020, the organization experienced exponential growth as the COVID-19 pandemic unearthed the national need for comprehensive mental health services for families and especially children. However, although the pandemic subsides, the rising expectations for accessible, quality therapy services. In fact, with violent acts occurring in public places once considered safe, the need for building resilience and coping is now imperative. Nakeya considers it her mission to empower wellness and self care routines for all.

Nakeya serves as President of the Board for TPF and is also faculty at CSU, Northridge and leads Innovative Wellness Consulting as CEO. Her commitment to being of service to collective wellness and mental health is proven.

Nominated by Monica Yengle

Donald R. Marquis

Arlington, Massachusetts

Don is the embodiment of public service. As a boy, he saw a story in his local paper about the new town manager, and he knew that was what he wanted to be. Despite humble beginnings, that’s exactly what he did. His family was poor, so he enlisted in the Army. He served for a year and a half in Germany, which enabled him to attend The University of Maine under the GI Bill. He did so well that he was recommended for full fellowship in the MPA program at Wharton.

After short stints in city management in Skokie, IL and Oberlin, OH, he took the job of town manager in Arlington, MA, where he served for 34 years, until he retired in 2000. At the time, he was the longest-serving municipal manager in the state. During his tenure, he tirelessly advocated to turn the town’s defunct rails into trails. Upon his retirement, the town named the bike path in his honor. Don always knew he wanted a life of public service, and he spent 50 years of his life dedicating himself to exactly that.

Nominated by Colin Marquis

Arav P Desai

California

Last summer Arav was given the opportunity to volunteer at the Jeena Organization for the Yahaan event. This event was an opportunity for differently abled individuals to express themselves by performing in front of large audiences by displaying their learned talent obtained during instructor-led classes.

As a volunteer, he was able to assist the administrative team set up numerous props, website sign-ups and technical factors for the event. The most important part of the volunteering experience for him was the opportunity to truly engage and help these individuals embrace their true talent culturally and artistically by fulfilling their dreams of performing on a larger scale. The class Arav helped teach was the tabla and Indian classical music performance class where he instructed these children on the basics of the Indian instrument “tabla” while also giving singing lessons and showing them how to stay calm under the pressure of large crowds. In general rather than simply being a volunteer for an organization, he felt enriched teaching what he loved to a strong group of people who have been shunned in the artistic community. He will forever cherish that experience and hope to partake in future events.

Nominated by Shannon J Harrison

Sunook Yoon

Greenville, North Carolina

Sunook Yoon’s story began in the summer of 2020, when he first got the chance to volunteer with a local environmental organization, LAST. Since then, Sunook has participated in multiple cleanups, community events, and leadership programs, while developing and learning skill sets to overcome challenges. Now, he is seen as a leader and advocate for the community, focusing on the issues regarding the environment.

Working with another LAST student, Sunook has co-founded the Environmental Droners, a project dedicated to reducing the amount of pollution in the environment by implementing technology. Using drones, Sunook has identified countless trash sites and polluted areas to raise awareness by using social media, communicating with local governments, and partnering with local organizations and businesses.

Sunook has also collaborated with students and scientists at East Carolina University’s Water Resource Center to help develop the Litter Locator App. This app allows users across the world to document litter with photos and georeferenced locations, resulting in the involvement throughout communities. Sunook is dedicated, hard working and exemplifies what it takes to be a leader and change-maker for the world.

Nominated by Kay Sokolovic

Patricia McGee

Chicago, IL

As a young child, Patt watched her mother care for children and others. It always made people happy. She knew that’s what she wanted to do when she grew up. So she did civic acts like feeding the unhoused and volunteering. In 1995, she contacted businesses that donated to a Christmas party for kids. The results were overwhelming, so this became an annual event at various kid-themed and high-end restaurants with quality gifts. People who were positive role models to come speak to the youth about the dangers of street gangs, staying in school and about their professions. Benny the Bull (the Chicago Bulls mascot) would perform.

Patt’s charity, Monday Night With The Kids, operates with volunteers. Throughout the years she takes underprivileged youth to sports events at Chicago Bulls, Bears, White Sox and Cubs games.

During Thanksgiving time, she goes to Chicago’s Lower Wacker Drive area, feeding the unhoused. Patt has been off work since February 2022 and continues to go to food pantries to feed seniors and others. Since COVID-19, she has purchased meals and gives to unhoused individuals daily.

Nominated by Cora White

Miss Rodgers

Los Angeles, CA

Miss Rodgers is the founder and executive director of Miss Rodgers’ Neighborhood, a community-driven, nonprofit organization established in 2015, working to create services and generate resources for unhoused, economically disadvantaged and at-risk youth, individuals and families throughout Los Angeles.

She’s also a formerly unhoused and incarcerated single mother of two with a passion for helping others heal and reach self-actualization. Her certifications include Human Services, Family and Addiction Studies, Victimology and Conflict Resolution.

Volunteers are always needed for Miss Rodgers’ Neighborhood, and there are nothing but stellar reviews from previous participants!

In Miss Rodgers’ Neighborhood, the community is family, and their unity is their wealth.

Nominated by Yuri Williams

Laura Klein

Texarkana, Texas

An early morning knock on the door in 2017 would unfold a parents’ worst nightmare. Laura’s youngest son had been murdered. From their loss they created JLK in Jarrod’s honor, with a mission to reach kids before they make life altering decisions, offering them hope, sound guidance and programs and initiatives that address societal traps. They fund various programs, speak to many youth groups and fund necessary causes all aimed at teaching values, honor, responsibility and integrity as well as building character.

They believe that no family should have to endure such a great loss. However, parents can’t be everywhere and that is where self awareness and good judgement comes in. Wisdom is imparted upon young impressionable hearts and minds through engagements and role plays. There are many different avenues kids can take in life, and Laura helps them to understand that it is in their best interest to take the roads less traveled, to soar as an eagle rather than being a chicken pecking in the dirt. They have seen dramatic results in the kids they work with, and they celebrate their successes and encourage them to have a hand out to help others up. It’s just that simple.

Nominated by Laura Klein
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