Narrator Amanda Harris: The dawn of each new day offers an opportunity to have an impact on our world. If we forge a new trail, others will follow. If we stand up for what is right, we inspire change, and when we unite those among us, we build a stronger community. The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards shine a spotlight on the remarkable accomplishments of young Jewish leaders who are lighting the way for a better tomorrow.
Susan Osher Epstein: Year after year, we see these young people truly making a change in the world, and they inspire all of us on the selection committee. They are making a difference in the Jewish community and way beyond.
David Bryfman: America is waking up to the reality that teenagers can actually bring about change in the world, but this is something that the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards have known for quite a while. We don’t have to settle for the status quo. If we want to make the world a better place, we can actually do that, and these teenagers are really leading the way.
Stephanie Reifman: When a young person takes on an issue, other young people listen. It’s about being passionate and about really having the drive.
Daniel Zahn: Passion is so important to what you’re doing because it really is a contagious factor that when you talk to someone, they can see if you’re passionate about it.
Sara Blau: By getting younger kids involved with game changers, I’ve learned so much about what it means to be a leader. Creating that space for other people to help out and to give back is really important. I am really proud to say that Game Changers New York has collected over 5,520 pieces of sports equipment worth over a hundred thousand dollars.
Stephanie Reifman: When I first had this idea for a heroin addiction prevention program, and I went and approached my principal about doing it, they didn’t think that a 13-year-old would be able to handle this enormous topic. I’ve now been to over 40 middle schools in high schools and reached 15,000 students.
Daniel Zahn: For young people that don’t have anyone in their immediate family to have gone to college, the application process is so new, so unfamiliar, and so daunting that a lot of times they just give up. And what F.O.R.M. Consulting does is provide one-on-one mentorship to help those students get to that great equalizer. Once a student is able to get to college, they can lead other people down the same path.
Helena Zimmerman: When I started TeensGive.org, it was just a few dozen people, then it grew to 300, and then today it’s a network of 4,000 volunteers. And what TeensGive.org does is it connects all of these teenagers to volunteer opportunities.
One of our main programs is Counting Cupcakes. This week-long program teaches lower and middle school students in ESL communities the basics of entrepreneurship and math while creating a real-life bakery. Entrepreneurship is something that I believe is a lifelong skill. The students learn each aspect that goes into creating a real business ratios and fractions, profit math, pricing the products they learn about advertisements and marketing. They also learn graphic design like creating their logo. They go through the steps of really creating a business.
One of my favorite parts about having volunteers is seeing them interact with the students one-on-one. They inspire the kids and they teach them in different ways than I do. The students are supposed to walk away with a key fundamental life skill, and having these one-on-one interactions with the volunteers really allows them to have those moments. My vision with TeensGive.org is to inspire as many teens as possible to give back and to embark on a lifelong journey of community service.
Peyton Klein: As Jewish people, we were once the immigrant refugees. I’ve heard the experiences that my great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents have all faced. Building communities where that no longer happens to anyone is so important. Diversity is a fact, but inclusivity is a choice. And at Global Minds, we make the choice to be inclusive. We have over 150 activities about human rights, cultural identities, sustainable development, international relations, and all of our activities promote and stimulate conversations that tackle stereotypes and cultivate communities.
Community is not all about our similarities. Our differences are what form the strongest bond and create our friendships. I started doing my research and learning from other organizations. I learned we needed to develop a curriculum, so we hired a curriculum developer. We put together resources. We now have 13 chapters across seven states and two countries. I feel like I’m a mom, like I, it’s my baby. Just seeing something that I was so passionate about and that was working at my school work in a different country was so incredible. And the ultimate goal is creating leaders from diverse backgrounds from all around the country and world to use their voices and create inclusivity in whatever environment that they’re in.
Minnah Stein: Being a changemaker means having the courage to speak up on an issue that not many people are talking about. One of the most important ways to combat sexual assault and harassment is to start the conversation by educating students and talking about what constitutes consent, Title IX rights, how to be a helpful bystander, and the facts of the issue. We can stop this problem before it gets to the workplace and in college.
Madeline Salvatierra: Every kid who comes to a Camps to Explore and Empower camp will try numerous hands-on activities that teach them about careers, and through the camp environment, we give them the confidence they need to pursue that passion. Currently, the camp is held at Orange County Rescue Mission, which is a transitional living facility in my community, and we provide the camp free of charge for every single kid that lives there.
Lena Goldstein: Oftentimes in the communities and villages where I’ve worked, there are often underlying societal issues that impact a woman’s access to cervical cancer screenings, such as stigma surrounding reproductive health. It only takes one woman who has had a positive experience for the then to be a ripple effect among the community. To date, my project has screened more than 2000 women for high-risk H P V.
Yardena Gerwin: If you wanna achieve gender equality, it’s by taking the time to invest in one girl. One girl or one woman feeling empowered will lift other young women up. That is how we’re gonna achieve gender equality. That is how you create a movement.
Girl Up New York is an organization that helps girls find their voice, find their passion, and find their community, and we help girls develop leadership skills, fundraising skills, advocacy skills, and also learn how to community organize. When you work with girls at a really young age, if you can reach them in middle school, then building that strong foundation of confidence and empowerment prepares them to be leaders in issues such as March for Our Lives or the Me Too movement, because they’ve been working on these skills for so long and when there is a real call to action, they can be leaders instead of followers.
My work with Girl Up created all of these opportunities for young girls to meet incredible women. To go to Senator Gillibrand’s office, to go to an event at the U.N., to go to Seventeen Magazine, hear from the editor-in-chief, we want them to be able to make that connection and say, this could be me twenty years from now. Looking into the future, it’s not about whether or not you agree with the word feminism, but just the concept that men and women are equal and that they should have the same opportunities. That shouldn’t be some kind of strange concept. It should just be something that we all agree on as a basic human right.
Dylan Eisman: Ever since I was young, I was always interested in fashion, and I just sat down one day, said I’m gonna teach myself and see where it goes. With a little bit of practice and help from the internet, I was able to cut and sew my mom’s old stuff and turn it into new trendy outfits.
My name is Dylan Eisman, and I’m a fashion designer for the homeless. I specifically focus on helping L G B T homeless youth because when you’re really young, and your parents aren’t accepting of your sexuality or sometimes thrown outta the house, so that is a big mission of mine to help L G B T youth specifically gain back their confidence. And my motto, Upcycle Uplift, seeks to not only restore clothing, but that hope of people who need it.
After I had incorporated into Sew Swag Inc, an official nonprofit, it was really the time to start expanding and learn the business side of things. I kind of built myself up. I got started to get some publicity. I would start cold-calling companies. Eventually, through a lot of persistence and a lot of rejections, I actually got a phone call back from the head of PR at Abercrombie and Fitch, and today I am collaborating with them, which is so exciting that companies who would otherwise just throw away or dispose of their clothing now have the opportunity to go through my process of upcycling. Tikkun olam means to literally repair the world, but I like to think of it as restoring the world. There is so much beauty that we have the power to bring back to not only its original state but an even better state.
Adam Sella: Being a unifier is all about bringing people with different backgrounds together. You read a lot about the refugee crisis in the news, but behind every statistic, there’s a human story, and my project works to connect community with refugees, on a personal level. This award will allow my project to expand its impact, and I will be donating $10,000 to an organization that aids refugees in my community.
Genevieve Liu: For me, it was the moment in eighth grade when I met another teen who had lost a parent that I realized I wasn’t alone, and I wanted to create a community for other teens who had lost a parent. And what SLAP’D does is allow teens to not only find other teens in a similar situation, it also offers professional support so teens can access bereavement resources within their vicinity. My younger siblings, Asher and Amaly, who were 7 and 10 when my father died, now have the resource that makes it all worth it.
Michaela Weinstein: Encountering the hate and anti-Semitism, racism, sexism that had been going on in my community was really eye-opening. Me and a friend of mine realized there was a strong need for education about social justice and created a curriculum that we then brought to every fifth-grade classroom in our district. Passion is that key component that binds people together, and that’s definitely what has found the members of Speak Together, knowing that we can make a difference if we all maintain our passion.
Natalie Hampton: In seventh and eighth grade, I went through a pretty horrible bullying experience. I was physically attacked multiple times, sent death threats, shoved into lockers, cyber bullied, verbally bullied, and on top of that, I ate lunch alone every day. That experience was so isolating. To feel like your presence isn’t felt or to feel like you’re not seen is incredibly damaging, and so that’s what inspired me to create Sit With Us. It’s a free lunch planning app that helps promote inclusion in schools. If you’re a kid who is not sure where to sit at lunch, you open the app, and you’re greeted with a full list of the tables you can join without any fear of rejection.
When I first started telling people about this app, they looked at me like I was crazy because I was 15, I knew no coding and wanted to create this global app, but I started taking coding classes. I drew out every page of the app as I saw it in my head, and I was able to work side by side with a professional to take what was on the paper into reality. I had no idea how far it would go, and it just immediately exploded.
We started gaining 10,000 new users a week. I was going on all sorts of shows, and it’s just continued to snowball in ways that I couldn’t even imagine. The success of the app has really given me a platform. I’ve been able to travel the world and meet with kids from all different countries who have experienced things similar to me. This fear of walking into the lunchroom and not knowing where to sit is universal. It’s really shown me that I wasn’t alone in what I was going through, but also it’s shown me how many people are willing to help. There are so many kids in every single school that are willing to make a positive impact, and I’m just trying to give them the tools to do so.
Emilia Peters: When I first started to teach art to homeless kids, I was really motivated to provide them with opportunities to escape. When I create art, I feel like the world just fades away. I become so fixated on one line or one shadow, and I think for the kids, that’s been really rewarding to have an opportunity to process in a different way. Something that’s been really incredible to see is the way that creating art transforms the behavior of our students. A lot of our kids come in shy and introverted, and through the process of creating art, they find new ways to express themselves. They just become so focused. They channel all of their energy into this one piece of art, and the way that they see colors and the way that they see perspective, it just completely changes. Because they’re participating in a communal activity, but creating their own individual pieces within that community, they’re really able to relate to the other students and have a shared experience, and become inspired by their peers.
There’s been a lot of students who come in very introverted, and by the end of the class, have so many new connections and relationships. I really want the lessons to have a long-lasting impact on the way they perceive the world and the way they create art. By showing them that they have the ability to create these amazing pieces, they can continue to apply the techniques that they learn to all different areas of their life.
Susan Osher Epstein: Mrs. Diller would be so proud and excited to see these young people here today, knowing that this is just the beginning. Their passion, their energy, their determination to make an impact inspires us all.
David Bryfman: Mrs. Diller had a vision that anybody at any age could bring about change in this world. And the vision is not just about honoring these particular young, amazing teenagers today, but the ripple effect that’s gonna have for countless others who are able to witness the great work that they’re all doing.
Stephanie Reifman: This award is unbelievably special. To be thought of as repairing the world is such an honor.
Daniel Zahn: I think what sets the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award apart is that it’s not only helping you once, but it’s helping you meet other students and helping connect you, and I really think it’s empowering you for a long time to work towards that better future.
Madeline Salvatierra: It’s really powerful to know that there were other people who are gonna support you and who have just as much faith that you can make a difference despite being young.
Dylan Eisman: I would just say it doesn’t matter how old you are, whether you’re super young or super old, take what you’re passionate about and use that to help others.
Natalie Hampton: I am a young person who won’t take no for an answer.
Daniel Zahn: I will leave my impact.
Sara Blau: I am not afraid to dream.
Michaela Weinstein: I will change the world.
Peyton Klein: I am a trailblazer.
Minnah Stein: Changemaker.
Emilia Peters: A unifier.
Adam Sella: And I am proud to be
Yardena Gerwin: a Diller Teen
Natalie Hampton: Tikkun Olam Awardee.
Narrator Amanda Harris: Helen Diller taught us it’s never too late, too early, or too often to give back and make the world a better place. These inspiring young leaders are the next generation bringing Helen’s words to life. They shed light on the obstacles we must brave while challenging us to work together to create change. They remind us that we can all do our part to repair our world.