Transcript of 2015 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awardee Video

2015 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awardee Video


Zachary Azrael: Inequality

Lauren Maunus: Disease

Shira Alcouloumre: Racism

Hart Fogel: Injustice

Sophie Bernstein: World hunger

Liesl Eibschutz: Suffering

Andrew Plotch: Apathy

Emmi Eisner: The world’s problems can’t wait. We need to fix them now.

Marissa Hacker: Young people can definitely change the world.

Ben Moelis: Together,

Jake Galant: we are making an impact.

Jessica Markowitz: We can make a difference in the world.

Ruthie Perlman: It’s all about tikkun olam.

Matthew Kaplan: I can make a difference and so can you.

Riley Gantt: We’re making change happen now.

My name is Andrew Plotch and I started the Fight Apathy Campaign, a movement that has involved over 150,000 students in political conversations.

My name is Shira Alcouloumre and I work to help day labor immigrant workers have equal opportunities in Laguna Beach, California.

I’m Emmi and I started Play It Forward, an organization that provides sporting equipment to underserved schools.

I’m Liesl Eibschutz. My project helps provide emergency funds, basic necessities, and college scholarships at our school.

I’m Ruthie and I rebuilt BBYO in my community in South Carolina.

My name is Matthew Kaplan and I’m the founder of The Be One Project, which is a community-building and anti-bullying program for middle schoolers.

My name is Jake Galant and my project provides free computer design teaching to underprivileged kids.

My name is Jessica Markowitz and I started Richard’s Rwanda-Impuhwe, which supports young girls in a rural village of Rwanda.

I’m Ben and I led an initiative to develop a game for Fragile X and special needs children to help alleviate their anxiety when transitioning from one activity to another.

I’m Riley, the founder of Rainbow Pack, an organization that gives school supplies to kids in need.

My name is Marissa Hacker and my project Fantastic Friends is about creating a loving and fun environment for young people with special needs.

I’m Zachary Azrael. I created the tutoring outreach program, a volunteer organization that empowers young adults to tutor and mentor students experiencing educational inequality.

Hi, I’m Sophie Bernstein. I started Go Healthy St. Louis, a program committed to ending childhood hunger.

I’m Lauren Maunus from Palm City, Florida and I started a grassroots legislative initiative to improve school food allergy and nutrition management.

I’m Hart, and I’ve worked on the Marin City Community Garden Project, which inspires to provide healthy food while also building community.

Jason Friend: Well, this group of young people is changing the world today already, and the selection process was not an easy one, but I can promise you the 15 that we selected are a very high, high quality, and the best of the best.

Cynthia Wornick: They’re young. They’re fresh. They don’t see improbability, they see possibility. Through that and their passion and their ability, they don’t take no for an answer.

Jason Friend: To think about what they’re doing with their lives and how they’re honoring Mrs. Diller and her legacy is, is tremendously meaningful for all of us as a selection committee. It gives me a lot of hope for the future of our Jewish community and, and beyond.

Ruthie Perlman: Young people can do anything they put their mind to.

Sophie Bernstein: Youth are the most motivated and energized volunteers.

Lauren Maunus: When youth work together, we have so much collective energy and passion.

Jake Galant: Young people will heal the world.

Riley Gantt: To think that just because of where you’re born, your economic circumstance, that you don’t get the chance to have an equal education is just wrong to me, because you learn so much in school, and there’s so many possibilities, and I just wanna give kids that chance, and to let them know that somebody cares about them, and we want them to do well, and we want them to have the tools to do well, and school supplies is the first step for that. It’s really the most basic thing that they need.

So what goes into a Rainbow Pack is all the great appropriate school supplies. We also talk to the teachers to make sure we’re giving them the most needed supplies. Just seeing the students’ faces light up, the parents being so thankful for everything, and it’s something a lot of people think is really basic and just take for granted, but to see how much it meant to the kids, the community, the family, the school, I knew I was doing the right thing. Going into it, I didn’t know how it was gonna work out. I didn’t know I was gonna start a charity. I was 10, so I didn’t really know what I was doing and I just saw a problem and wanted to fix it, and to see that I could actually have a direct impact on someone else’s life was just the best feeling in the world.

Anybody, 9, 10, I’ve met kids that are even younger than I was when I started that are doing things that are just amazing. I think once you really get involved in it, your passion just sort of drives you forward.

Andrew Plotch: The world has so many problems, and it’s our responsibility to do something about them whenever we can. It doesn’t matter if you’re 9 or 90, you can make a change in the world.

So the way the campaign works is students walk into school and they pick up a little sticker just like this and it says, “I believe in…” that’s it. And they look at it confused for a second and take a sharpie and fill it out. And then all of a sudden what you have is 20 students and then 100 students and then 500 students walking around school with their political beliefs quite literally on their sleeves.

When I first wanted to expand the campaign across the country and I had this goal of 50,000 students, everybody thought I was a little outrageous. My teachers, friends, even my mom thought it was crazy. But I wanted to. I loved it so much and saw the impact it has, and I think people seeing my passion for the project helped spread it and help secure the support that I needed to really expand it.

Whenever I get an email from somebody across the country from a story about their school or I look at Twitter at #fightapathy and see thousands of students posting, I just smile sometimes, because I get so excited. I started this. This is real change.

Shira Alcouloumre: I feel like a leader when others look up to the change I’m making.

Zachary Azrael: A leader is somebody who shows people how to reach their full potential.

Lauren Maunus: Leadership is standing up for what you believe in in order to inspire others.

Ben Moelis: In my eyes, leadership is seeing a challenge in front of you that seems impossible, but then gathering the help of others around you and leading them towards solving the problem.

Emmi Eisner: Well, I’ve been playing sports since I was like four. I played soccer, football. I’m currently a runner. I wanna play soccer in college. And to me, sports, of course, they’re fun and enjoyable, but it’s also shaped the person that I am today. Um, and they’ve taught me these incredibly valuable skills like teamwork and leadership. And I think that’s really important on the playing field and also just in life in general, because it’s something that I’m so passionate about and has been so influential in my life. I thought every kid deserved the opportunity to be as affected by sports as I am.

So the first year I provided equipment to one school, and this year we’ve raised over $35,000, and we are providing equipment to 10 schools. I held an equipment drive at my temple and at my school. I went to deliver it to the school. I wasn’t really expecting much and when I got there, there was hundreds of kids lined up and they were all chanting my name and smiling and running up and hugging me. It was a really touching moment, and it made me realize that one ball means so much to these kids that aren’t as fortunate as a lot of people.

My role in soccer is a lot like my role in Play It Forward. Um, I have to, um, be a leader and organizer. Even when I was 12 or 13 and really young, I was still running board meetings and doing all these things. It’s an important skill to have to be able to organize other people and help them and be that leader in that voice.

Marissa Hacker: Growing up with Matthew, I always would see him at school and just in the community how he was always isolated from everybody else, and there was always a gap between him and other people that did not have special needs. So I created Fantastic Friends to help bridge that gap. And every month, we have a fun social event for our members with special needs and volunteers. It’s great because it makes our special needs members feel really welcomed and included and also teaches our volunteers how to interact with our special needs members, not just inside of the organization but in the community as well.

One of our most successful events we do every year is our prom. We have hundreds of members and volunteers that come out for the night, and every member with special needs gets their own date, which are, you know, our volunteers, and we have DJs that come out. We have photographers, videographers. We made Fox National News last year for our Disney prom. So that was definitely a big highlight.

Everybody’s a leader. Um, it’s just about the courage that you have inside to pursue your dreams and to pursue what you’re passionate about. People think that they have obstacles, but really the only obstacle of leadership is yourself. You can do anything you put your heart and mind and soul into and everybody has that in them.

Jessica Markowitz: I think helping others is extremely important, especially as a young girl who grew up with an education her whole life. It’s crucial that we give back our education and our knowledge to those who do not have the human right.

Liesl Eibschutz: One of my proudest moments was handing out 14 college scholarships to students who might not have been able to attend college otherwise.

Shira Alcouloumre: Being Jewish, a huge part of it is tikkun olam, giving back. The Jewish people have been through so much that seeing other people struggle, it’s almost a personal thing.

Zachary Azrael: My Jewish background affected my service because it taught me to work towards something bigger than myself. And to try to find meaning outside of myself.

Matthew Kaplan: Being one of a handful of Jewish students at my school definitely made me a minority. And then on top of that, identifying as gay definitely made me feel what it’s like to be on the outside. And so what I try and do with my work is to help bring people together and to create community. And we throw around the term bully a lot, but bullies aren’t bad people. They’re just bad behaviors, and those behaviors can change. And so, through the program, we fix that disconnect.

The Be One Project is all about creating empathy through shared experience. And so what we try and get kids to see is that everyone has the same fears and doubts and struggles. It’s about celebrating our similarities to really give people benefit of the doubt. To assume good intent. To not rely on stereotypes and preconceived notions to judge someone.

One thing I’m really proud of is that the Be One Project has reached more than 4,000 students in four different states. But to me, my measure of success isn’t about the numbers. It’s about the apologies that have been offered and accepted, about the friendships that have been built, and the bridges that have been repaired. My goal is to make school communities an inclusive place for everyone.

Hart Fogel: I think one of the earliest moments that inspired me to start working in the garden was I was reading an article online about crime that had taken place in Marin City and I was really disheartened and shocked by some of the comments I saw in people saying that Marin City is a toxic community, um, and that we should just build a wall around it. And I really thought that that was unfair. Cause I knew that Marin City was a vibrant community and I thought it was a shame that more people didn’t know that.

The Marin City Community Garden Project provides a very unique opportunity for people of different backgrounds to accomplish a few different goals at once. Of course, it’s constantly providing healthy and fresh food to the residents of Marin City, but the way in which this is being accomplished is pretty unique. The volunteers we bring in are from both inside Marin City and outside of, from the other parts of Marin County.

And I think in the process of bringing in people from very different backgrounds, you know, in terms of socioeconomic status, race, geographic location, having them get that visceral experience of digging in the dirt next to each other, collaborating on a shared goal, I think we can transcend a lot of these things that usually divide us and discuss what it really means to be, to be a community.

Too often we consider a community to just be our immediate neighborhood or our town. But I don’t think we should let arbitrary distinctions like city limits determine who we care about and who we cater our actions toward. I think we should try to think of our community on a larger scale.

Jason Friend: You think about what Mrs. Diller wanted in terms of tikkun olam and repairing the world, what that looked like. And this is a tremendous opportunity for us to showcase that. A true opportunity to think about generations in L’Dor Vador and what that means.

Cynthia Wornick: These teens have showed us that everyone can do something and everyone can make a difference. I think that Mrs. Diller would be amazingly proud of these young people today.

Marissa Hacker: I think of a beautiful spirit and a big heart with such love. And you know, even though Helen won’t be with us at the ceremony physically, she will be with us spiritually. And you know, I’m sure we’ll all be able to feel her around us. And I know that her spirit will always live on, and her legacy will always live on, and she’ll always be supporting myself and other Jewish teens.

Liesl Eibschutz: Thank you.

Hart Fogel: Thank you so much.

Ben Moelis: Thank you.

Emmi Eisner: Thank you.

Riley Gantt: Thank you.

Zachary Azrael: Thank you so much to the Helen Diller Family Foundation.

Jessica Markowitz: As Jewish people, philanthropy is so important to us, and it is such an honor to be receiving it from a huge philanthropist herself.

Sophie Bernstein: Thank you for helping me build gardens so I am able to donate fresh produce to kids and me.

Shira Alcouloumre: I’m really thankful to receive this award because now I have the opportunity to take my project even further.

Ruthie Perlman: Thank you to the Helen Diller Family Foundation for inspiring young people to make a difference.

Andrew Plotch: It’s never too early

Jake Galant: Too late

Matthew Kaplan: Or too often

Lauren Maunus: To give back

Liesl Eibschutz: And make the world

Zachary Azrael: A better place.