Headshot Photo of Michael Mottahedeh
2016 Award Recipient


Project Teen Court

Location Calabasas, CA

Issue Area Advocacy/Activism | Poverty

As the child of Jewish-Iranian parents who came to the United States to pursue religious freedom and opportunity, Michael was taught to believe strongly in everyone’s right to justice and equality. Michael discovered Teen Court in ninth grade, and it became his passion shortly after. Teen Court is a community outreach program run by the Los Angeles Superior Court that works to reduce juvenile delinquency rates and recidivism. Through Teen Court, minors suspected of committing a crime are diverted from the traditional justice system and are given the opportunity to present their case to a jury of their peers. If found guilty, youth offenders can wipe their records clean by completing a sentence determined by students who volunteer as jurors, clerks and bailiffs.

When Michael first joined the Taft Charter High School Teen Court chapter, fewer than 25 students attended the monthly sessions. In four years, he created social media campaigns, hosted club meetings, coordinated field trips, and organized fundraisers. Michael went on to become President of Taft Teen Court and grew attendance to an average of 140 students per session. He believes the program proved to be an effective solution to mass incarceration, boasting a 90% success rate at keeping minors out of the formal Juvenile Justice System.

I have learned that by helping others, we not only change their lives, but we change ours as well.

Michael Mottahedeh
“It is never too late, too early, or too often TO GIVE BACK AND MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE”
Helen Diller