10 Winners of the SparkOpportunity Challenge Announced at White House Youth Summit

SparkAction and Youth Leadership Institute Award Youth for Innovative
Ideas to Connect Young People to Education, Employment

Contact: Caitlin Johnson                                SparkAction
Phone: 202-207-3726                                     7064 Eastern Ave NW, Washington, DC 20012

June 4, 2012 (Washington, DC) – Ten winners of the SparkOpportunity Challenge were announced today at the White House Youth Summit and presented in a video featuring Jon Bon Jovi, musician and member of the youth-focused White House Council for Community Solutions.

At a time when more than 6.7 million young people are unemployed and not in school, Jon Bon Jovi traveled the country talking to thousands of young people who had practical, yet inventive ideas to help their struggling peers. Again and again, they asked how they could share their solutions and where they could be heard.

The SparkOpportunity Challenge (SPARKOPPORTUNITY.ORG), an innovative “crowdsourcing” competition, provided such an opportunity by asking young people to design creative solutions for new pathways to school and work for youth. One hundred and thirty-five people from across the country submitted entries on topics ranging from summer education to mobile career services, and more than 10,000 votes were cast in just ten days.

The winning entries were equally diverse. Whether creating a social network for teen entrepreneurs or starting a program to provide free vision care for New Orleans children, the winners exemplified the spirit of the Challenge. The 10 winners will receive an iPad, start-up grants of $1,500, and mentoring from recognized business and civic leaders to help them bring their ideas to life.

To all who entered, Jon Bon Jovi said, “Your ideas are promising and inspiring solutions to the employment crisis for young people.”

The Challenge was developed by SparkAction and The Youth Leadership Institute in partnership with thirty-five leading youth organizations across the country. The organizers created the Challenge in support of the White House Council for Community Solutions’ call for the nation to do more to reconnect young people with the education, training and comprehensive social supports critical for long-term employment and lifelong economic independence.

Visit SPARKOPPORTUNITY.ORG to read more about the winners and see Jon Bon Jovi congratulate the winners.

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The SparkOpportunity Challenge is led by three organizations:

The Forum for Youth Investment is a nonprofit, nonpartisan "action tank" dedicated to helping communities and the nation make sure all young people are Ready by 21®: ready for college, work and life. It was founded by Karen Pittman, a nationally recognized pioneer of the field of youth development in the United States.

SparkAction, which developed the Challenge idea and platform, is a collaborative journalism and advocacy website to mobilize action by and for children and youth. Its stories and action tools help concerned young people and adults get informed and get involved across the full range of issues affecting children, youth and families.

The Youth Leadership Institute has been an innovative leader in field of youth development for over 20 years, working to build communities that invest in youth and support young people in their work for effective community change. YLI serves youth and communities through advocacy, training and consulting services, and through community-based programs.



Top Five Youth Entries (Ages 24 and under)

Justin Harris, 15; Durham, NC

Harris hopes to create the world’s first professional social network for teenage entrepreneurs, offering advice on management, innovative use of technology, finding investors, collaboration and personal networking.

Jasmine Babers, 16; Rock Island, IL
Self-Esteem Magazine, for Girls by Girls

Love, GIRLS Magazine promotes girls’ self-esteem by showcasing their talents and accomplishments while giving them the chance to learn the skills needed to succeed in the magazine industry, like marketing, sales and photography.

Bentrice Jusu, 20; Ewing, NJ
Both Hands

Jusu founded this art-focused non-profit organizationas an outlet for Trenton teens to express themselves and benefit from the mentorship of older kids who successfully avoidedthe pitfalls of high-crime and drop-out rates in their community.

Ryan Dalton, 23; New Orleans, LA
The P.U.S.H. Project: Education and Recreation for a Better Tomorrow

Dalton, a manager at a job training program for at-risk youth in New Orleans’ 8th Ward, envisions a program that provides educational and athletic camps for young people in underutilized city parks to help reverse the effects of poverty and violence in the community.

Anushka Das, 20 and Aleena Ashary, 20; New Orleans, LA
Lessons from Katrina/NOLA Eye Care

Recognizing that healthy vision is critical for children’s ability to develop and learn, these teens designed a program to provide free, comprehensive eye care to all public elementary school students in a community where health care continues to lag after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

California Youth Innovation Award, Sponsored By The Irvine Foundation

Dani Bowman, 17; La Canada Flintridge, CA
Employing People with Autism in Art and Animation

Bowman, a high-school student with high functioning autism, founded Powerlight Animation Company at the age of 11. She dreams of employing others with autism to make good use of their skills and abilities and challenge the world’s perception of this condition.

Youth Ambassadors Award

Angela Cammack, 20; Wheaton, IL
Measuring Impact of Afterschool Programs for City Children

Angela knows how important a regular, stimulating afterschool program can be for city children who are struggling.  So, she plans to begin a study of quality afterschool programs to help exemplfiy and share the impact of good-quality programs that help children excel in school and life.

Adult Allies Awards (Ages 25 and over)

Anastasia Tsiligianni, 27; Rossiter, PA, 27
Education is Not for Sale

Tsiligianni proposes that more – if not all – universities should provide free courses, housing, food and health care so that money is not an obstacle for youth to attain higher education.

Christopher Judge, 35; Denver, CO
Youth Empowerment Project

Judge, already a leader in community development, designed YEP to teach young “philanthrepreneurs” the tenets of running non-profit organizations, including goal-setting and acountability.

Diana Manee, 29; Asheville, NC
Meet YES!

Youth Empowered Solutions (YES !) encourages organizations and businesses to incorporate youth as  staff, volunteers, board members, or coalition representatives. Young people receive meaningful work experience and organizations benefit from a youth perspective.