Nat Geo Teen Service Awards
We asked you to nominate deserving students for a Nat Geo Teen Service Award—young people making a big impact in their communities or on the planet—and nearly 300 entries flooded in. The service contributions of our nominees were truly inspiring, with initiatives that ranged from building libraries for underfunded girls’ schools in the developing world to using mass couponing to stock local food pantries.
Below, meet our winners and read more about their outstanding service projects! Grand prize-winner Alexa Grabelle will travel on our Fiji community service trip to lend a hand in rebuilding communities impacted by the devastating cyclone that hit the island in 2016. She, along with each of our other two winners, will also receive a $500 scholarship toward college savings. In addition, National Geographic Kids has pledged to donate 300 books to Alexa’s charity, Bags of Books, which distributes books to low income children.
Grand Prize Winner: Alexa Grabelle
Bags of Books
Alexa founded her organization, Bags of Books, at age 10 and works with volunteers to collect and distribute children’s books to low income children. Her organization collects donated books, sorts them by reading level, transports them to local schools, and creates pop-up “stores” where students can fill a bag with free books to kick-start their own home libraries. She has collected and distributed over 110,000 gently used children’s books, and has partnered with the University of Pennsylvania and other organizations in the Philadelphia area to run book drives. Alexa notes that, “Equality and justice means that all children, regardless of background, must have an equal opportunity to obtain the resources and skills they need to succeed in school and life! Changing the world means helping children, one book at a time.”
Second Prize Winner: Delaney Reynolds
A Climate of Hope
Delaney’s Sink or Swim Project uses public education and political advocacy to inform people about the impact of climate change on Florida, and to promote solutions for confronting the problem. “I remain ever hopeful that my generation will solve what I believe is the most important challenge we will ever face, and I look forward to being part of that solution,” Delaney says. She has reached over 35,000 people with her educational lectures, public presentations, children’s books, and website, and hopes to empower others to take action. She has lobbied the local, state, and national governments about the impact of climate change. For 2017, Miami Dade County has allocated more than $1.7 million for projects aimed at decreasing the impact of rising sea levels—a funding initiative due in part to Delaney’s efforts.
Third Prize Winner: Kaimana Idica
Plastic Free Hawaii
In his essay, Kaimana wrote, “I feel it’s my kuleana (responsibility) to help preserve my island home… I’ve been raised to care for the land and the ocean as my kupuna (ancestors) did.” Kaimana has partnered with a number of organizations to educate the public and youth of Maui about the detrimental effects that single-use plastics have on the environment, and to teach his peers about eco-friendly alternatives. From creating zero-waste bins for local events, to providing testimony to the Maui County Council for a polystyrene take-out container ban, to producing environmental films and running Instagram campaigns, Kaimana hopes that the small actions of many will add up, and result in healthier beaches and communities.