Max Einhorn: In October 2007, there are huge wildfires that really devastated San Diego and Southern California. They were so big that my school actually closed for a week. So some schools have snow days. My school had fire days.
Some of the problems were people didn’t think that a disaster was gonna happen. They didn’t think that it was gonna happen to them. And if it did happen, it wasn’t gonna be that bad. If it was that bad, someone else would take care of them. No one was ready for it. And so that’s what made the disaster so huge.
What I started was San Diego Disaster Aware, and I started selling these kits, but I realized it’d be so much easier if I had friends helping me out if I had employees. And so what I did, I started a club at my high school and I called it the Entrepreneurs Club. And so my main reason for starting it was to have people who would help me out with my business, but it was us to encourage entrepreneurship and people like being business-savvy while still in high school.
Erin Schrode: There we go. And it’s all about green. I’m Erin Schrode and I co-founded Teens Turning Green, which is an organization to promote an eco-lifestyle. And we founded it in January of 2005 as Teens for Safe Cosmetics, because our way in was through cosmetics and personal care products.
It’s what you use on your body every day, 24/7. And our mission was to educate about the potentially harmful ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, whether they be carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins, neurotoxins, irritants, and to advocate for a more sustainable way of life.
I testified at a hearing all about lead in lipsticks and banning it. And they’re these questions that we as teenagers kind of think that are being taken care of. We think that someone’s looking out for our health and wellbeing and it’s startling to find out that that’s not the case. And I want to make a change. So I, you know, put a group of girls in my car. We drive up to Sacramento and we’ve partnered with state senators and assemblymen and women on, on these bills. And California’s leading the way.
People can come here and see everything from makeup to beauty, skincare, hair care, organic cotton T-shirts, recycled razors, toothbrushes, you name it. It’s here featuring a wide array of companies. And I love it because the products work. They’re really beautiful and people can come and try them and buy them and change the world in the process.
Newscaster: An unusual scene at Castle Heights Elementary School today.
Aaron Feuer: So I actually helped organize a press conference. We had a bunch of fifth graders wearing gas masks to tell our school board how important it was to have cleaner school buses.
When I have been sitting inside of a school bus on field trips, especially in the back with the windows open, I can smell the diesel exhaust. And I know for a fact my lungs do not like diesel soot.
And now in LA USD, those are cleaner school buses as a direct result of my efforts back then. So when it came time for high school, I had some interest left in its advocacy work and one day I was recruited by this ran girl on my school bus, ironically, who suggested you might like the student leadership program in Sacramento, where students would go talk about issues in their schools and how they wanna fix them. And I finally had this feeling that I could make a difference again, because I had all these other high school students looking to me to speak up on these education issues. And I finally learned how do I build a team? How do I make a difference here?
And I actually put on a leadership conference with the Museum of Tolerance where I’d grown up going to from Hebrew school cuz we wanted to make sure that our student leaders had the same cultural education and they understood the diversity of our schools. Then finally, senior year, I was in charge of this organization at the state level, mobilizing students and getting them to feel this sense of responsibility. So they weren’t just talking about making a difference, they were actually all over the state and making that difference.
Eric Feldman: My family has always valued experiences over things. So when I, uh, turned 16 instead of, uh, helping me to purchase a car, my grandparents offered to take me on the trip of a lifetime and we went to Africa.
We were gonna serve food and bring clothing to, uh, a local slum. It’s just, it’s indescribable until you’ve actually been there and seen it. Just deplorable living conditions. And then I got thinking and I realized what happens when the food is eaten or the clothes are tattered. So I realized that education is the most sustainable way to make a lasting impact because it empowers someone to produce for themselves.
And I didn’t have very much money and I knew that working long hours at the local Subway might not have been the most effective way to raise funds. But, I’ve played the piano for 12 years and I have a lot of very talented friends. So I thought that it’d be really cool if I could just get a bunch of us together and, and, uh, people in the community would probably be more willing to donate if, if we gave them something in return. We ended up raising a lot more money than we had expected.
We initially wanted to raise enough for one child, but in one night we raised enough, uh, we raised $11,000 in our first fundraiser for two children to, to attend school. So that was really great.
Jackie Rotman: When I was 14 years old, I founded an organization called Everybody Dance Now, which since then has brought free hip hop dance classes to about 700 underprivileged children in Santa Barbara. I write grants to be able to hire different teachers all the way from high school students to professional dance teachers. And we go into over 20 different afterschool programs in my community and teach dance classes. So we teach about 10 classes a week.
Right now all of our students perform for retirement homes, outreach places in the community so that they too can learn the joy of giving back. And that’s one thing that’s special about it because, you know, it’s this form of tikkun olam, giving to the kids, but it’s also giving them a chance to experience that for themselves by getting to share dance with other people.
Helen Diller: Here, these people, I could just love all of them, it’s so wonderful the way they think at that age. It’s just mind-boggling.
Erin Schrode: I’m so honored to be a part of the Diller Tikkun Olam Awards because it puts me in a group with these other teens that are changing the world and to be recognized with them is the greatest honor. I know that my grandparents would be really proud and I just, I feel like tikkun olam is so like why we do what we do.
Eric Feldman: This is my room. Please ignore the, the mess behind. This is what’s really important. This is a picture of Kenny and, uh, I have him right next to my bed and he’s, he’s six years old and he’s the most recent kid that we sponsored.
Aaron Feuer: My Jewish values and Jewish upbringing have really shaped my community service experience and have really helped inspire me to do what I’ve done so far.
Jackie Rotman: You know, my temple and my parents, my family have always instilled in me that wanting to help the world.
Max Einhorn: At first I didn’t really name it, I just, it was just something I did.
Erin Schrode: All of this just has, has made us feel powerful and has made us feel strong, has made us feel like we can take on whatever we need to.