Blog | The HALO Awards

  • Q&A With February HALO Effect Honoree: DeQuan O'Neal

    Posted on 02/05/2014 by Rachel1016

    HALO Effect: DeQuan O'Neal


    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!



  • Q&A With January HALO Effect Honoree: Brette Machiorlette

    Posted on 01/09/2014 by Rachel1016

    HALO Effect: Brette Machiorlette


    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!



  • January HALO Effect Honoree: Brette Machiorlette

    Posted on 01/09/2014 by Rachel1016

    HALO Effect: Brette MachiorletteGrowing 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!



  • 2013 HALO Awards: Celebs Take Over The Orange Carpet GIF Booth!

    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!

    HALO Awards 2013
    Austin Mahone



    HALO Awards 2013
    Darren Criss



    HALO Awards 2013
    Nikki Reed



    HALO Awards 2013
    Jessica Tyler, Lyle Lettau, & Mindy Shankar



    HALO Awards 2013
    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!


  • 2013 HALO Awards: GIFfable Highlights From The Show!

    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!

    HALO Awards 2013
    Fans rejoiced in the sweet sounds of Fall Out Boy.



    HALO Awards 2013
    Lil P-Nut tried to steal the show with this freestyle chops.



    HALO Awards 2013
    The audience became human glowsticks. (And it looked AWESOME.)



    HALO Awards 2013
    Honoree Rocio Ortega flashed her pearly whites at the camera.



    HALO Awards 2013
    Honoree Denzel Thompson's words of wisdom echoed through the arena.



    HALO Awards 2013
    Austin Mahone melted some hearts. Naturally.



    HALO Awards 2013
    Shay Mitchell hugged it out with honoree Miranda Fuentes!



    HALO Awards 2013
    Miranda inspired us all with her speech.



    HALO Awards 2013
    Co-hosts Kevin Jonas and Jennette McCurdy hammed it up on stage.



    HALO Awards 2013
    Our amazing honorees made Daniella Monet cry.



    HALO Awards 2013
    We totally surprised our honoree, Zachary Kerr.



    HALO Awards 2013
    Then we surprised ALL of our honorees with a little more $$$ for their education!



    HALO Awards 2013
    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!


  • 2013 HALO Awards: Spread the HALO Effect All Year Long!

    Posted on 11/17/2013 by Rachel1016

    HALO Awards 2013

    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.


    Do you know am amazing young person who Helps And Leads Others? Go to TeenNick.com/Halo for more information on the HALO Effect and to nominate your friends! Or tweet us using #HALOawards to tell us how you HALO!

  • Typhoon Relief In The Philippines: How To Help

    Posted on 11/16/2013 by Rachel1016

    Typhoon Relief



    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

    UNICEF

    Save The Children

    For more information on how you can get involved with Typhoon Haiyan relief, head over the Nickelodeon's The Big Help.
  • 2013 HALO Awards: The Honorees Show Us How To HALO

    Posted on 11/15/2013 by Chris McPherson

    HALO to HALO



    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.


  • 2013 HALO Awards: Josh Hutcherson Is An LGBT Ally

    Posted on 11/14/2013 by Rachel1016

    HALO 2013: Hosh Hutcherson



    You know and love Josh Hutcherson as the strong, eloquent Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games Trilogy, but did you know he has major skills outside the Capital Arena, too? When he's not battling Tributes, Josh 'Helps And Leads Others' by advocating an awesome youth charity called Straight But Not Narrow. We caught up with the Hunger Games stud to talk about his HALO skills, and found out there's another battle the real Josh thinks is worth fighting for.

    Straight But Not Narrow (SBNN) is an organization that encourages young adults to become allies of their LGBTQ peers, and basically helps teach us how to support each other no matter what our sexual orientation. Josh became the first advocate of SBNN and remains a leading supporter of the organization alongside his best friend and founder, Avan Jogia (whom you might totally recognize as Beck Oliver from Victorious!).

    Straight But Not Narrow differs from a lot of the LGBTQ campaigns out there, so Josh gave us a little insight on how the organization came to be: "Avan had this great idea of starting something where you can reach out to straight people about how important it is to be an ally to that community. You have a lot of support within the gay community for LGBTQ communities, but there aren't a lot of outreach programs for straight people to talk about it." The organization aims to not only open a dialogue across all sexual orientations, but also to teach people what it really means to be an ally in their schools, hometowns, workplaces, and friend groups. We think that's pretty rad.

    Equality is an issue very close to Josh's heart, as he explained how a family tragedy inspired him to pursue this cause: "Equal rights have been a huge part of my life from the day I was born. My mom was raised by her two uncles who were both gay and passed away from AIDS before I was born. I didn't get to meet them, but they were amazing people and that made my family realize that there's no difference between a gay person and a straight person. We're all just people."

    And it's as simple as that: we're all just people. SBNN spreads its message by positively influencing attitudes and viewpoints, but it really comes down to just having a little compassion. Josh said it perfectly: "Being an LGBT ally is so easy and it really takes nothing but understanding. You can wear a little wrist band, you can post it on Facebook and you can talk openly with your friends about it. I have gay friends and I have straight friends. We're all people, there's no difference."

    Don't miss Josh, the amazing honorees, and the rest of the celebs who will be attending the 2013 HALO Awards this Sunday, November 17th!


  • 2013 HALO Honoree: Zachary Kerr

    Posted on 11/14/2013 by Rachel1016

    HALO 2013: Zachary Kerr


    Zachary Kerr is a female to male transgender. Born as one of three identical female triplets, Zach grew up knowing that what he felt on the inside didn't reflect what was on the outside. After years of grappling with his gender identity, Zach decided to undergo a transitional journey to become male. It was a journey rife with challenges and obstacles, but ultimately happiness, and inspired him to become a leading advocate for the transgender community. Zach gave us some exclusive insight into his involvement with the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and other LGBT organizations, as well as all of the deets on his giveback experience with Josh Hutcherson!

    According to Zach, the Gay Straight Alliance caters to LGBT questioning youth, but is available or everybody. "Many GSA chapters have discussions to talk about what it's like to be LGBT not only in your own community, but in the US, world, and different areas of life." Zach explained that there are also GSA chapters that are activism based. For example, they partake in movements like Day of Silence, where participants take a vow of silence for the day in solidarity against LGBT bullying. When we asked him to describe the organization in a nutshell he said, "It's a rainbow! It comes in different varieties of shapes, colors, and awesomeness based on where you are."

    In addition to his involvement with GSA, Zach works as an LGBT educator for the Greater Boston chapter of Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG for short. Zach brings his knowledge to various settings informing students, teachers, corporations, church groups, hospitals, and social workers about ways in which they can support LGBT youth. When speaking with these different groups of people, Zach uses his own personal story to give insight into the transgender community: "Growing up being transgender youth, being born biologically female but always feeling male, I use my story to give a face to the issue and make them see why it is important. This is a real thing that kids and people go through that affects them for their whole lives."

    TeenNick fans might remember Degrassi's Adam Torres, who was transgender. Adam's story resonated with fans, either helping them with their own transition or opening their eyes to the life of a transgender. When we asked Zach if he knew of Adam's story and to what extent he could relate, he said this: "When I first saw Adam's character, it was awesome to see kids like myself represented. One of the biggest things I identified with Adam's story was when Adam's mom called him his female name, stopped herself, and corrected herself. My mom did that, too. Things are different, but there were a lot of similarities."

    When we asked Zach what kind of advice he might have for questioning youth, he gave an answer wise beyond his years: "My biggest piece of advice would be to tell teens that if they're coming out, their friends are still their friends. [Your sexuality] isn't the defining thing that made them be your friend. It wasn't a deciding factor then and it doesn't have to be now."

    Zach met actor/LGBT ally Josh Hutcherson as a part of his HALO giveback, and it was an experience he remembers fondly: "I can't explain it without smiling how amazing it was meeting Josh, just getting to meet someone who identifies as a straight ally who is pretty much as passionate as I am. I never met someone who is not LGBT be so passionate about the community. I'm sitting in my dorm room smiling right now. He just wants to see our community do good, and he just kicked it up a level."

    Zach is currently a freshman at Wheelock College, pursuing a degree in social work with the hopes of one day becoming a therapist for transgender youth. "I'd like to be able to say, 'I know exactly how you feel.'"

    Don't miss Zach and the rest of the outstanding honorees at the 2013 HALO Awards on Nick@Nite this Sunday, November 17th at 8pm ET!