Blog | The HALO Awards
- Posted on 03/04/2014 by Rachel1016
It's the beginning of the month, and that means it's time to celebrate those who Help And Lead Others!
Meet Christopher Yao: Our HALO Effect honoree for the month of March and an embodiment of what the HALO Effect is all about. He is driven, compassionate, wise beyond his years, and truly dedicated to the principle of spreading social change!
Christopher gave us some exclusive insight into his remarkable work with Kids Change the World, a non-profit organization that he founded to empower youth to take global issues into their own hands. Read his full bio here, and check out our Q&A below!
Congratulations on your HALO Effect honors! Tell us a little bit about your non-profit organization, Kids Change the World. How did you think of the idea? Has the organization evolved over time?
I was diagnosed with a class III malocclusion [a severe misalignment of teeth] in 6th grade, and I was terrified of the expected gradual worsening of the condition. If I left it untreated, I would not be able to speak or eat properly. During my research about my own physical condition, I came across online images of children with cleft lips and palates. I could relate to how they felt. In developing countries, these children are thought to be "cursed" by God and are often abandoned by their own families. Without corrective surgeries, the prospect of a job, marriage, and a normal life is nil. I knew I had to do something, if even just to help one child.
So, I decided to organize the first annual summer Read-A-Thon in 6th grade. By the summer's end, to my surprise, I had raised $1,000—four times my initial goal! Since then, my efforts have supported over 70 cleft lip and palate surgeries in China, Mexico, India, and other developing countries.
Encouraged by the power of youth, I founded Kids Change the World to empower them to also serve in their communities.
Kids Change the World has grown into one of the world's leading youth-led civic organizations. What is one of the biggest obstacles you've had to face on your journey to success, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest obstacle was having others take me, a 10-year old [at the time], seriously. Countless times I had attempted to solicit donations from community members or groups only to be told to "go back to playing in the sandbox" because of my age. However, I didn't let that stop me.
Over the years, those comments have become the exact encouragement that has fueled my work. I wanted to prove to myself that they were wrong. At the end of the day, I know people are counting on me—my work changes lives, families, and communities; I know my ability to have a positive impact is a gift to be used to its fullest every day.
If someone wanted to get involved with Kids Change the World, what would be his or her first step?
Kids Change the World is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging and enabling young people to volunteer and create positive social change in their communities. Volunteers can visit our website to join our hard-working team, participate in one of our programs, or utilize our grassroots resources to further their charitable initiatives. We are always eager to support young people who are determined and self-motivated to make a positive societal impact.
Your first fundraiser was directed towards funding cleft surgeries for kids around the world. What other causes does your organization support? And how did you choose them?
Our volunteers, patients, and students continually make suggestions and solicit our support towards countless worthy causes.
Among our many programs, the Education Preparation project has distributed hundreds of school supplies, planners, and other educational resources to students around the globe. Its website serves as a hub of learning with custom-made educational videos, sample curricula, worksheets, and links to other resources.
Furthermore, Kids Change the World supports children in clinics, orphanages, and partner hospitals around the world by providing moral support and encouragement through uplifting cards and gifts.
Kids Change the World was founded on the principle of encouraging and enabling others to take action in order to create a domino effect of people helping others. With every person helped, there is one more person to pass another good deed onto someone else.
Kids Change the World is based on the vision that young people are capable of not only making a difference, but of changing the world. What would you say to someone who challenges the belief that kids' voices are meant to be heard?
Young people are our future, as they will create policies and make decisions about public health, education, politics, the environment, and more.
It's also important to remember that there is no minimum requirement of wealth, status, or age to change the world. The fact is, any positive action, no matter how big or small, makes a difference either in the life of another or as an example to follow. I often remind other young people like me to remember: "No dreamer is ever too small; no dream is ever too big."
Do you know any truly inspiring teens who are making an impact like Christopher? Nominate them here!
- Posted on 02/28/2014 by Rachel1016
Hands down, one of the coolest parts of the TeenNick HALO Awards is getting to see the inspiring work our honorees continue to do, as well as the much-deserved accolades they continue to receive.
Back in November, we recognized 19-year-old Denzel Thompson for his dedication to the Philadelphia Urban Creators, a non-profit that has transformed his community's many abandoned lots into flourishing, youth-led urban gardens. Denzel's remarkable efforts have helped a community blemished with unused and neglected land become an area of promise. His commitment to urban agriculture has fostered better nutrition, job opportunities, helped local businesses, and provided a means for young people to truly make a difference.
It's no surprise that we're not the only ones to salute Denzel for a job well done! This month, The Root (an online African American cutlure magazine) name Denzel was one of its 2014 Young Futurists, a terrifically high honor that applauds 25 of the most influential African Americans for their contributions to the arts, business, social justice, and, in Denzel's case, the environment.
Each year during Black History Month, The Root celebrates the legacy of African Americans who have paved the way for future generations, but with the Young Futurists initiative, they applaud the young people within those future generations who are emerging leaders in their own right. Denzel keeps amazing company with his Young Futurist colleagues, all ages 16-22, whose stories are just as inspiring as his. Congratulations, Denzel, we are so happy to see your do-gooding get the recognition it deserves!
It's our mission to keep the spirit of the HALO Awards going, so if you or someone you know is going a great job helping others, be sure to nominate them for our monthly HALO Effect honors right here!
- Posted on 02/05/2014 by Rachel1016
TeenNick fans, it's time to keep the HALO spirit alive!
Since announcing our year-long initiative to spread the HALO Effect, we've received many nominations recognizing teens who inspire to Help And Lead Others through service. The HALO Effect is all about celebrating young people who do good, and we're so excited to congratulate our February HALO Effect honoree, a true champion of change, DeQuan O'Neal!
DeQuan is a high school senior from Detroit, Michigan, who has devoted himself to several organizations that directly and positively impact his community. He is an advisory board member of the Neighborhood Service Organization's Youth Initiatives Project, a representative of the anti-violence "Hugs Not Bullets" Campaign, and a founding member of the "Grads Not Inmates" Campaign at his own school.
A truly driven and compassionate young man, DeQuan gave us exclusive insight into his work aimed at suppressing violence, promoting education, and empowering at-risk youth. Read his full bio here, and check out our exclusive Q&A below!
Congratulations on your HALO Awards recognition! What inspired you to get involved in the Neighborhood Service Organization's Youth Initiatives Project?
My mother and teacher, Mr. Miller, inspired me to get involved in the Neighborhood Service Organization Youth Initiatives Project. Mr. Miller made a promise to my mother. He promised my mother he was going to give me the guidance to become a man.
Gun violence is an extremely pressing issue in our society, and as a youth advocate you bring a very important point of view. Tell us a little bit about your involvement with the 2012 "Hugs Not Bullets" Campaign.
In 2012, I hosted the 8th Annual "Hugs Not Bullets" Press Conference. I encouraged my community to put the guns down and celebrate the New Year [a night typically fraught with violence] with a hug.
"Grads Not Inmates" is a wonderful campaign you helped launch at your high school to help promote educational opportunities for youth, while staying away from situations that might cause incarceration. What has been your most proud achievement with this initiative?
My most proud achievement with "Grads Not Inmates" was our Empowerment Breakfast. The breakfast was the first time some young men in my community ate and had a positive conversation with [other] grown men. Also, young men had the opportunity [to find] employment. Ninety-five percent of those men who attended gained employment for the summer.
Since you've already been accepted to college, do you plan to continue your efforts while you pursue your degree? Have you thought about a major?
Yes, I will continue my efforts of advocating for my community while I pursue my degree. I will never stop advocating for change. I plan on double majoring in Marketing and Social Science.
You were recently appointed an Advisory Board Member for the Chief of Police Department of Detroit. As the only youth member currently on the Board, what does your involvement entail?
As the only youth member on the Advisory Board for the Chief of Police of Detroit Police Department, my involvement is the same as all the other members. I just bring a youth perspective to the table.
What advice would you give to kids who want to make a change, but worry their voice won't be heard?
Advice I would give to youth who want to make a change: "Youth hold the keys to any revolution".
Through your work and dedication, what long term effects do you hope to see within your community?
I hope to unite people within my community, and I hope to see everyone working together: One cause, one purpose, one movement.
Do you know any truly inspiring teens who are making an impact like DeQuan? Nominate them here!
- Posted on 01/09/2014 by Rachel1016
Get ready to feel the power of the HALO Effect!
In November, we asked you to help us spread the HALO do-gooding spirit by nominating inspiring teens whose service Help And Lead Others. As our promise to keep the HALO Effect going all year long, we're highlighting the amazing work of one of these nominees each month. And with the new year, we congratulate our first outstanding honoree. Meet Brette Machiorlette, the founder of Reading Aces!
We caught up with Brette to learn more about her organization and how she's making literacy an achievable goal for at-risk youth. Not only are her words inspiring, but her story reminds us of the exceptional power of reading, teamwork, and compassion. Read her full bio here, and check out our exclusive Q&A below!
Congratulations on your HALO Effect honors! Tell us about your organization, Reading Aces. How did you come up with the idea? And how did you choose the name for it?
I initially began Reading Aces as an IB [International Baccalaureate Program] high school requirement in Houston. As sophomores, we are required to complete a "Personal Project" which can basically be about anything you want to learn or achieve. For my project, I created Reading Aces. An ace describes a master, or champion. In tennis, an "ace" is a winning serve that is untouched by the opponent. It signifies hard work and success — entities we hoped to instill in our elementary participants.
Early education is fundamental to children's success, and unfortunately, many do not grow up in supportive environments or have access to early literacy tools. Whether young or old, seeing children deprived of the access to learning and reading was deeply unsettling. These collective experiences motivated me to grow and expand Reading Aces.
How do the after-school reading sessions work? Do volunteers work with kids in groups? Or is it more of a one-on-one program?
Every week, our volunteers bring giant bags of children's books to our partner sites. Volunteers are paired with 1-3 children and after agreeing upon a book, the small groups settle down and read orally. Volunteers and participants take turns reading aloud, while groups with younger readers are asked to sound out simple, "sight words."
We encourage our volunteers to frequently ask questions to ensure attentiveness and engagement. Ideally, each site hopes to achieve a one-to-one reader-to-volunteer ratio. The beauty of Reading Aces is in its simplicity. Limited training is needed and the magic of an engaging picture book takes both the volunteers and children to far away places.
What do you find most rewarding about mentoring young students?
There is nothing more rewarding than working with children. Their smiles are infectious and their stories are priceless. Our volunteers foster positive relationships that inspire and motivate these children to always do their best. What most do not realize is the lasting impact these children make on the volunteers.
As a HALO Effect honoree, your organization will receive $5,000. How will you use this reward to benefit your efforts?
Through t-shirt sales and generous donations, we have been able to finance books and snacks; however, the $5,000 donation would dramatically impact our potential expansion channels. Without marketing dollars, it is very hard to solicit new sites and expand our reach. I would also love more money for books, so that we can more frequently give our participants books to enhance their home libraries. In addition, with take-home books to read, we can help prevent the infamous "summer-slide."
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a charitable organization of his or her own?
The key to any successful organization is teamwork. Reading Aces would be nothing without the support of volunteers, sponsors, and friends. Do not be afraid to ask for help. With collaboration, camaraderie, and a common purpose driving a group's efforts, the impossible can be achieved. Take advantage of any opportunity to promote your organization, whether that be through social media, school announcements, or conversations among peers and adults. The more people that know your goal means that more people are likely to support it and help it thrive. An African adage perfectly sums it up: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
Do you know any truly inspiring teens who are making an impact like Brette? Nominate them here!
- Posted on 01/09/2014 by Rachel1016
Growing up with a younger brother who struggled with dyslexia, Brette recognized from a young age that literacy is not something to be taken for granted. Knowing just how important literacy is for success, it broke her heart to know that others in her community often lacked the resources and support to make reading a part of their lives.
In 2009, Brette became more involved in addressing her community's need to improve literacy and created Reading Aces, an afterschool reading program for Houston's at-risk elementary school students. Working with her connections across the Houston tennis community, she arranged for her first sessions to take place with the kids attending a free tennis clinic offered by the Tennis Association. Brette and ten of her friends gathered books and read to the clinic participants (approximately ten 10-12 year old students) on a weekly basis. Recognizing the difference she and her team of volunteers could make, she knew she needed to expand this important effort.
What started off as 10 teens reading to a small group of kids at one location is now a program with over 80 teen volunteers that operate across nine locations throughout the city of Houston serving hundreds of underprivileged kids. These kids often joined Reading Aces thinking reading was not for them- they didn't have regular access to books or the support of a parent at home to read to them and encourage them. Now, so many of these young children not only have a new found enthusiasm for reading, but they have greatly improved their literacy and comprehension skills, giving them a greater chance for success both as students and in life.
Since Brette's first year of college, Reading Aces has opened two new Houston sites and has expanded to their first Austin location. The non-profit group Books Between Kids has partnered up with Reading Aces and has donated over 300 books. Due to this generous donation, Reading Aces was able to award these books to its participants at the end of the year. Reading Aces has also secured a strategic corporate sponsor called Cram Crew, an academic test-prep service, allowing access to new volunteers. This sponsorship has positioned Reading Aces to expand nationwide.
Check out our exclusive interview with Brette here!
- Posted on 11/18/2013 by Rachel1016
Last night, you joined us for 2013 HALO Awards to honor four amazing teens who Help And Lead Others in their community (and if you didn't, you can relive the evening right now with our GIF highlights)! During the live show, we watched celebrities flip the script and present their idols, our honorees, with the accolades they so deeply deserve.
But even if you were there for all of the on-stage action, there's a chance you might have missed the Orange Carpet antics before the show. And since we're your loyal stewards of all things behind-the-scenes, we got a few of our HALO celebs, like Austin Mahone, Darren Criss, and the Degrassi cast, to serve major face in our Orange Carpet GIF booth. Check out our faves below!
Jessica Tyler, Lyle Lettau, & Mindy Shankar
Jennette McCurdy & Kevin Jonas
Thank you for sharing this feel-good night with us! If you missed the live airing of the show, be sure to check out a special TeenNick encore Monday at 9pm ET!
- Posted on 11/17/2013 by Rachel1016
And that's a wrap on the 2013 HALO Awards, folks! Do-gooding was in full force at the Hollywood Palladium tonight as we gathered celebrities to recognize our four amazing honorees: Denzel Thompson, Miranda Fuentes, Rocio Ortega, and Zachary Kerr. It was an evening full of heartwarming stories, some BIG surprises, and a few unforgettable musical performances.
Words fail to describe just how inspiring the 2013 HALO Awards were, so we GIFfed tonight's most memorable moments. Here are our favorite highlights from the 2013 HALO Awards!
Fans rejoiced in the sweet sounds of Fall Out Boy.
Lil P-Nut tried to steal the show with this freestyle chops.
The audience became human glowsticks. (And it looked AWESOME.)
Honoree Rocio Ortega flashed her pearly whites at the camera.
Honoree Denzel Thompson's words of wisdom echoed through the arena.
Austin Mahone melted some hearts. Naturally.
Shay Mitchell hugged it out with honoree Miranda Fuentes!
Miranda inspired us all with her speech.
Co-hosts Kevin Jonas and Jennette McCurdy hammed it up on stage.
Our amazing honorees made Daniella Monet cry.
We totally surprised our honoree, Zachary Kerr.
Then we surprised ALL of our honorees with a little more $$$ for their education!
And finally, Enrique Iglesias stared into our souls as he closed out the show.
Thank you for sharing this feel-good night with us! If you missed the live airing of the show, be sure to check out a special TeenNick encore Monday at 9pm ET!
- Posted on 11/17/2013 by Rachel1016
Hey TeenNick do-gooders, thanks for joining us at the 2013 HALO Awards! We had a great time hanging with all of you and our amazing celebs as we honored the real stars of the evening: teens who Help And Lead Others. We're so inspired by how many young people are committed to doing good that we want to keep the HALO Effect going all year long.
Starting in January, each month TeenNick will recognize a HALO honoree by giving him or her a $5,000 grant to a charitable organization of their choice. That's right, you guys HALO all year long, and now: so do we.
- Posted on 11/16/2013 by Rachel1016
It's been over a week since Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines. Over 9.5 million people are still feeling the effects of this tragedy, and many survivors of the 'super typhoon' are without homes, food, water, and medical assistance. But, in the spirit of the upcoming HALO Awards, you can help!
Since the disaster, many organizations have helped provide emergency relief and essential materials to those in need. These organizations are committed to providing relief in the wake of Haiyan, and your support helps make their continued efforts possible.
Please take a look at how you can contribute to a few of the organizations committed to assisting the victims of the Typhoon Haiyan—whether it's time, money, or resources, every bit helps.
American Red Cross
Save The Children
For more information on how you can get involved with Typhoon Haiyan relief, head over the Nickelodeon's The Big Help.
- Posted on 11/15/2013 by Chris McPherson
HALO honorees are pros at rallying their peers together and giving back to great causes. Check out some helpful tips they shared on how you can HALO!
MIRANDA FUENTES: AUTISM ADVOCACY
1. Getting involved in Surfers For Autism is easy. Visit our website, find an event near you, and follow registration instructions. Bring your suit and a smile. See you at the beach!
2. If you want to volunteer with children and young adults with special needs, but do not live near a Surfers For Autism location, search for the nearest Special Olympics chapter. I have worked with special Olympics, it is an amazing organization!
3. Educate yourself! Find out about autism. There are many stigmas with the disorder, but education and awareness are extremely important and can benefit in your volunteer work.
4. Educate others: Did you know that 1 out of 88 children has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)? Or that boys are five times more likely to have ASD than girls? Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the US, and there is no medical detection or/cure for the disorder.
ZACHARY KERR: LGBT ADVOCACY
1. It's okay to not always understand how people identify themselves, but you should always be kind and respectful of a person's identity.
2. Try to use words and terms that don't single out one specific type of person or gender. Make your language inclusive.
3. Always love and accept your friends for who they are.
4. If you don't know something, it is always okay to ask or try to find out on your own. Your LGBT friends will appreciate the effort you put into trying to educate yourself.
5. Speak up if you hear people saying unkind things about LGBT people. Making your voice heard will let an LGBT person who may not be out know that you're an ally and someone they can go to.
ROCIO ORTEGA: WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT
1. My secret to overcoming stage fright is always having the mindset that you are the most awesome person in the world. And let's be honest, you are!
2. The key to finding your voice takes two steps: 1) Find the issues you're passionate about and 2) Accept your social responsibility to make the change you want to see happen.
3. Feminists aren't just women and girls, men and boys can also be feminists, too! They are our allies in achieving gender equality. Let's work together!
4. Do a quick online research of the terms "feminist" or "female empowerment" and you'll be surprised at how much you can learn!
5. Female empowerment comes in many forms, so combine different passions!
DENZEL THOMPSON: URBAN ORGANIC FARMING
1. Before you begin planting, the one thing you need to make sure you have is compost!
2. To start compost, all you need are food scraps, such as different vegetables, fruits, and egg shells. Put all those scraps on a pile of wood chips to help it contain the smell and then wood chips on top of the scraps to make them break down faster. As long as you flip and turn the pile, the process speeds up in a matter of 3 or 4 months, and you will have all-organic soil.
3. Plant different plants together so they can benefit from each other. If you plant tomatoes with basil, they will grow like trees and bushes.
4. Growing all year will be tricky, but I've got tips for that as well! Before the frost starts, it's great to switch out crops. There are fall crops, winter crops and summer crops. During the winter, you can also cover all your crops with plastic and/or fabric. It's like making little miniature hoop houses to keep your crops safe from frost.