Narrator Max Einhorn: The phrase tikkun olam, what does it really mean to change the world? It can start with just one person, one idea, a singular commitment with a spark of passion, dedication, and focus. One person can lead and light the way a leader can inspire others to harness their own potential for making change. Individually, we all hold a small piece of the puzzle when the right person reminds us of this. We all have the chance to bring our pieces together to complete the puzzle and build a stronger community, a better world.
What does it take to change the world? With many hands, we can lift up our neighbors and pursue justice. A small action can ignite powerful change in the world. Each Diller Teen Tikkun Olam awardee has kindled a spark and brought others into fan it into a powerful flame. They teach us that each of us has the power to make a difference. That is what tikkun olam is all about, bringing all of our sparks together to truly change the world.
My name is Alexandra Jackman. I live in Westfield, New Jersey, and I created a documentary on autism, which I use as a tool to promote acceptance across the country.
My name is Michael Mottahedeh, and I’m from Calabasas, California. My project sought to expand the teen court program in my high school to empower teenagers to take charge of their futures.
My name is Talia Eskenazi. I’m 16 years old and I’m from New York City. My best friend and I started a charity called Celebrate You, where we host and organize birthday parties for underprivileged children all throughout New York City.
My name’s Eli Wachs. I’m from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and my organization, High School Heroes X, incentivizes youth to solve local issues.
My name is Laurielle Schwab. I’m from Running Springs, California, and I am the creator of the Rim High Literature Club. My project aims to increase literacy amongst children.
I’m Max Davis from Stoneham, Massachusetts. I started Legislature In Action, an advocacy group creating legislation to support youth homelessness.
My name is Valerie Weisler. I’m the founder of the Validation Project, a global organization that gives teenagers the opportunity to turn their dreams into solutions for global issues.
Aloha. My name is Brittany Amano and I’m from Honolulu, Hawaii. The mission of The Future Isn’t Hungry is to provide nutritious meals to youth in low-income schools all across the country.
I’m Alexa Grabelle from Voorhees, New Jersey. I founded Bags of Books, a project which promotes educational equality, advocates for literacy, and fosters a love of reading in children.
My name is Kayla Abramowitz from North Palm Beach, Florida, and I am the Chief Kid Officer of Kayla Cares 4 Kids. I help to live the spirits of children undergoing long hospital stays.
I’m Isaiah Granet. Uh, I’m from San Diego, California, and I founded the San Diego Chill, a 501c3 nonprofit that helps kids with developmental disabilities play ice hockey.
I’m Jessica Goldberg. I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, and my project, Performing for Pencils, hosts an annual high school talent show that collects school supplies for kids who can’t afford them.
I’m Zachary Stier from Paramus, New Jersey, and I founded YMath, a program that provides one-on-one assistance to students in mathematics.
My name is Corinne Hindes. I’m from Walnut Creek, California, and my project is Warm Winters and what we do is we collect warm clothes from ski resort lost and founds and donate them to the homeless.
Narrator Max Einhorn: As a former award winner, this is something that is especially close to my heart, and being able to read these applications, seeing the extraordinary things that these teens are doing, seeing them raise the bar every time is something that just shows how special and how alive this Diller Award really is.
Sharon Goldstein: These teens see something that inspires them, and it becomes their mission. They don’t feel like they have a choice. They have to act to repair whatever it is that they see as an injustice in the world.
Laurielle Schwab: Being a leader is being humble. You have to acknowledge everyone else who’s involved. Everyone needs to step up to the plate and see how they can benefit others by working together and you make a leadership, you’re not just a leader.
Alexa Grabelle: I remember when I went to my first ever Bags of Books distribution, I was a fifth grader walking into a school that had up to eighth graders, and that was a little bit intimidating being 10, and that showed me that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still make a difference and change the world.
Zachary Stier: Almost all the tutors who have come in have come back for multiple weeks, and they get their friends involved, and that has really helped with our growth, and I think I now have a better sense of responsibility for other people.
Isaiah Granet: I have been playing ice hockey since I was three years old. It is just something that I love, and it drives me every day, and you know, a lot of that passion is why I founded The Chill. The main goal of the Chill is to give kids with developmental disabilities the same opportunities. Setting up The Chill, I had to send out a couple of notes cold. Most of them started out with Hi, my name’s Isaiah, and I’m 12 years old, which I think a lot of people stopped reading at that point, but it was all about persistence and writing those emails and writing them to a lot of people because eventually someone will write back.
You know what I’ve learned from this is that when you can show your passion to others, that’s when change happens, and that’s how you improve the world, and that’s how you get things done. One of the most important things about my projects was that every player would have a coach with them so they would be able to have this mentor, and that would really help foster their growth.
And there’s so many things that these coaches could be doing, these teenagers, but instead, they choose to sacrifice their time because they understand the value. My Torah portion was Derech Eretz, which touches on the subject of giving back. I think that really embodies The Chill. I want these kids with developmental disabilities to be able to grow and thrive in an environment that they love.
Valerie Weisler: Coming to my freshman year of high school was a very hard time for me. I was bullied every single day by a group of girls, and at first, I felt really bad for myself, and I thought I was the only one, but then I saw another kid getting bullied, and it made me realize that this was a problem that someone needed to do something about.
So I went home from school, and I started a website called The Validation Project, and at first, it was only a hundred kids in New York, but then it very quickly was a thousand kids in the USA and then 6,000 kids in 105 countries. Now it isn’t just about bullying, it’s a kid in Oklahoma who’s a part of the foster care system or a girl in Peru who’s fighting for women’s rights, or a boy in Uganda who doesn’t have an education.
Teenagers come to us with their struggles and their skills. We partner them with a mentor and a unique social justice program. It’s all about teaching teenagers they have self-worth. And what The Validation Project really preaches and something that I’ve learned throughout my three years of leading it is that you don’t have to be a certain age or be a certain person to go out and make a difference. You have to take hold of your youth and use that to go out and solve the problems we’re facing.
Kayla Abramowitz: I know from my own experience that hospitals can be very scary if you’re not entertained by doing something else. I have Crohn’s disease and juvenile arthritis. When I think about how I’m impacting kids and how so many people wanna help me, that really just makes me continue working on my organization.
Talia Eskenazi: I definitely think that I took for granted birthday parties, and I never realized how much of an impact they made in those two hours. All their friends, all their family, all their community, they’re all focusing on the children and first some of these children that never happens for them. And just to have those two hours makes a huge difference.
Alexandra Jackman: Since I’ve been in seventh grade, I’ve been shadowing a boy with autism at my temple and helping him learn how to read Hebrew and learn about the Jewish holidays. And I think that this has been a really incredible way to combine my passion for helping people with special needs with my Jewish identity.
What is autism? Autism is not contagious. It’s a developmental disorder. It often makes it hard to communicate and relate to others. My film, A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism, is a 14-minute documentary with the goal to take facts and information about autism and present it in a way that was really easy to understand and relatable for middle schoolers and high schoolers.
Are there any habits and behaviors that you do to deal with being stressed about getting back your math test? People with autism, doing things like flapping, are handling their emotions just differently than most do. I think that one of the reasons that the video was so successful is that I based it off relationships I had built and experiences that I had had.
I uploaded the video to YouTube. People in my community and my school started sharing it, and eventually people all over the country, and then in other countries, more people than just teens were able to find value. Since releasing the video, I’ve been going around and speaking to people of all ages on awareness and autism acceptance this past summer. I translated the video into Spanish. That the video is actually having an impact on people and influencing the way that they’re looking at the people around them is the most incredible feeling.
Jessica Goldberg: For the last few years, I’ve been volunteering for a program called St. Louis Aim High. These are disadvantaged but extremely motivated middle school kids, and I really became best friends with them and formed deep and lasting bonds with them. When I saw the kinds of situations they were in and how they really wanted to succeed but didn’t have the tools to do so, I had to help, and my co-founder and I, we decided to combine our love of performing and acting with our desire to help others to create Performing for Pencils.
We have a diverse array of performers, vocalists, dancers, unicyclists, jugglers, and even a hula-hooping contortionist. Performing for Pencils does not have a ticket for admission to the show. Rather, we ask that anyone attending brings an unused school supply. It may not seem like much, but when the entire community comes out to show their support, it can make a huge difference. Over two years, Performing for Pencils has raised over $35,000 in school supplies.
There’s a greater idea for Performing for Pencils. It’s also a community-building effort to unite our very polarized St. Louis community. We travel to all kinds of community productions, school productions, dance studios, you name it, we’re there. We bring together kids from all over St. Louis to support the cause.
I still keep in touch with and get to see my Aim High kids throughout the year. It’s really great to be able to see them using the supplies and getting to see the direct impact of Performing for Pencils.
Michael Mottahedeh: I really felt like Teen Court was a success during my junior year of high school. I was given a firsthand perspective of somebody who committed a crime, went through the teen court process, and changed because of it.
Brittany Amano: I know how it feels to not know where your next meal is coming from. Since I didn’t know what I would be eating if I didn’t have free meals at school, I wanted to change that so it wouldn’t happen to other people.
Maxwell Davis: No young person should be left cold alone, scared, or homeless. It’s unacceptable.
Eli Wachs: When you think of solving social justice issues, a lot of people say that’s the government’s role. Youth are a group that has long been neglected in their problem-solving abilities, and I think we do provide a very unique platform and kids can solve those issues that they feel most passionate about. High School HeroesX identifies driven students in an area. We work with them over the course of the year to find a challenge that needs solving in their area. We provide them with an advisory board to assist them, and at the end of the time, they’ll submit their work, and the best ideas will be awarded grant money to further scale.
Two of the challenges I’m most proud of are Philadelphia Education Challenge and our Beijing Food Safety Challenge. Our Philadelphia Challenge, in the 1960s, there was systemic racism in redlining houses. A lot of people weren’t able to move up and they stayed in those homes with blood paint, cockroaches, et cetera. And because of that, our schools are more segregated today than they were when MLK died, and this is creating this growing education gap.
So we went in there and we were able to teach skills that they wouldn’t have had the resources to learn. I think the mission of the Diller Teen Awards is a lot like that of High School HeroesX, provide resources to driven youth to be the change that they wanna see.
Corinne Hindes: When I see this injustice of people that are forced to live on the streets and have no home and no shelter and nothing to keep them warm, I’m heartbroken. I think it’s a huge problem that really needs a lot more attention.
When we first started out, and we started approaching the ski resorts, a lot of people didn’t believe us. We would call and say, Hey, you know, we have this big idea. We wanna take your lost and found and start this huge project. And people were like, how old are you guys? You’re two 11-year-old girls. Are you sure?
I am really proud to say that Warm Winters, to date, has helped 22,000 people across the country and has donated over 32,000 items of warm clothes. When someone’s living on the streets, they lose the sense that people care about them. Our volunteers actually become friends with the homeless community. When I hand someone a coat, the way that their face lights up and their hearts open up is absolutely life-changing, and it’s really important to give them the support that they need to get back on their feet.
Sharon Goldstein: Looking at what these teens have done is simply incredible. They are our next generation of leaders in the Jewish world and in the world as a whole.
Narrator Max Einhorn: I’m so honored to be a part of a group that is striving every day to be making the world a better place. Mrs. Diller would be so proud of each and every one of them, each of them carrying on her legacy. Thank you, Mrs. Diller.
Isaiah Granet: Thank you.
Valerie Weisler: Thank you.
Kayla Abramowitz: Thank you.
Brittany Amano: Thank you.
Alexa Grabelle: Thank you so much.
Corinne Hindes: Thank you so much to the Helen Diller Family Foundation for really believing in me.
Maxwell Davis: Thanks Helen Diller Family Foundation for helping me make the world a better place.
Michael Mottahedeh: It’s never too early, too late, or too often to give back and make the world a better place. Thank you, Helen Diller Family Foundation.
Narrator Max Einhorn: From each of this year’s recipients, we learn the true meaning of the words tikkun olam, their ideas, energy, and action have brought about meaningful change. And they inspire each of us to ask what we can do personally and together to repair our world.