Blog | The HALO Effect
- Posted on 05/22/2015 by TeenNickBlogger
Well, this is awesome!
Former HALO Effect honoree Teagan Stedman was recognized by TEDxTeen's "The Next Big Thing" initiative!
If you're not familiar with TEDxTeen, it's an annual event where teens who are leaders and go-getters come together to share their ideas, passions and incredible projects that are changing the world. In a video submission contest, Teagan won third place and was named one of TEDxTeen's "Next Big Things" for his work with Shred Kids Cancer! Check out his awesome video right here:
Now that's what we call spreading the HALO Effect. Way to go, Teagan!
HALO Effect Honoree Katie Stagliano: How One Girl's Fight Against Hunger Started with a Single CabbagePosted on 05/06/2015 by TeenNickBlogger
Hunger. Now that's a big problem. Huge, even. Millions of people around the world don't get the nutrition they need to lead healthy, happy lives -- it's a statistic both staggering and troubling, and one that 15-year-old Katie Stagliano refuses ignore.
It all started with a single cabbage. When Katie was 9 years old, she planted a tiny cabbage seedling for a school project. When the cabbage grew to an amazing 40 pounds, she decided to take it to a local soup kitchen where it helped feed over 275 people. A few short years later, Katie is the founder of an youth volunteer organization called Katie's Krops, which feeds families and people in need across the nation.
"My dream to grow an end to hunger started in my backyard. I never once imagined that there would be 80 Katie's Krops vegetable gardens growing across the United States, with the whole harvest benefiting people/families in need," Katie said. "Working together we, kids, have donated thousands and thousands of pounds of fresh produce to soup kitchens, food pantries, backpack programs, cancer patients and people in need."
According to Katie, the mission is simple: Grow a healthy solution to a global problem. Did you know that most emergency food programs offer primarily packaged and processed food? As Katie put it, "By providing the healthiest food to those in need we are supplying people with the vitamin and nutrients they need to fight disease and enable children to thrive."
What's especially unique about Katie's organization is the way it inspires other young volunteers to get involved. Her community of has grown to 80 gardens across the United States, harvested by kids who share Katie's passion for this cause. And the volunteers themselves benefit from their service to others: As Katie explains, "They learn about nutrition, science, how to manage a budget, about agriculture, time management, compassion and so much more."
If you want to get involved with Katie's Krops, head over to http://www.katieskrops.com/ to learn about winning a grant to start a Katie's Krops vegetable garden in your own community, scrumptious recipes and more!
- Posted on 04/02/2015 by TeenNickBlogger
Sometimes, an issue as big the environment can seem overwhelming. There are so many ways we contribute to the future of our planet and it takes a special kind of person to make that heavy and intimidating responsibility seem like something we can actually conquer.
For thirteen year-old HALO Effect Honoree Abigail Saltmarsh, loving our planet starts with one big, lovable animal: the elephant. Elephants are incredibly important to the health of our environment because they create natural grasslands and dig water holes that benefit other animals, but they're becoming increasingly endangered.
Did you know that every year thousands of elephants are killed for their tusks? That ivory poachers are wiping out an intelligent population of elephants for profit? When Abigail learned about the dangers facing this beloved species, she decided to take a stand. She teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to help build awareness about the ivory trade, and with the help of people around the world, the WCS has raised money to build sanctuaries that protect endangered elephants. Abigail has shared her message about the ivory trade with her school and community, truly taking a huge problem and bringing it home.
"Elephants are very intelligent and emotional animals," Abigail told us. "They have many of the same thought processes and connections as humans, including excellent memories and strong family bonds." Humans and elephants are actually more similar than we might think, and it's this undeniable bond with those long-trunked friends that inspired Abigail to become an advocate.
In her eyes, the reasoning is simple: "We all live on this earth and we all need to find a way to share it... Anybody can make a difference, you just need to start small and see where it takes you."
Want to get involved with Abigail's cause? She has a few super easy ideas: Don't buy ivory, spread the word about the ivory trade, and participate in World Elephant Day on August 12th! "Everybody can make a difference and help--they just need to go out there and do something." Couldn't have said it better ourselves, Abigail.
To learn more about Abigail and her work, check out the clip below!
- Posted on 02/03/2015 by TeenNickBlogger
Have you ever heard of STEM? Do you know what it stands for? Do you know what kind of impact it will have on the future of education?
15 year-old Stanley Celestine is a champion of the STEM curriculum. A fervent advocate for giving STEM subjects the focus and attention they deserve, Stanley founded WETEACHSTEM, an educational program in his hometown of Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana. We caught up with our HALO Effect honoree for the month of February to learn more about his vision and what STEM is really all about.
Can you explain 'STEM' to those who might not know what it stands for?
STEM is an acronym referring to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I've considered STEM to be a multi-disciplined approached to teaching and learning that integrates science, technology, engineering & mathematics, with the objective of strengthening problem solving skills and curiosity. One unique thing about STEM is rather than approaching these disciplines as separate subjects, STEM requires a partnership from students, teachers, and parents to think about how these disciplines work together.
Why do you think STEM is so important in school curricula? What would you say to someone who thinks of himself/herself as "more of an English and History" person?
Our society is becoming more STEM-focused each and every day. Students will need to have experiences and exposure to a variety of STEM topics in order to survive. Research has shown that American students are performing below other countries in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. I believe that students should be exposed to STEM in elementary school. This lays a foundation for later success and exposure at a young age will increase proficiency and interest in STEM subjects. Implementing a STEM curricula also allows students to become problem solvers and collaborate with peers. For someone who's more of an English or History person, I would strongly recommend to research how that particular subject relates to STEM.
WETEACHSTEM offers several different programs � which one is your favorite?
My favorite WETEACHSTEM Program is our STEM Education Program. This program has a huge impact on student's attitude and achievement in the areas of mathematics and science. This program also addresses a national issue facing our country. When I developed this program the goal of it was to improve the recruitment and preparation of African Americans and other minority students, particularly women through participation in STEM Enrichment Workshops that improve students' knowledge in a variety of STEM areas.
As a student, do you feel like you bring a unique perspective when working with members of the school board? How have you made your vision clear?
Yes, there is a common core value that recognizes WETEACHSTEM as a resource for schools, families, and the community. The school board acknowledges both the need and desire to maintain this partnership in the face of changes in the nature of families, the workforce and societal expectations for schools. I've made my vision clear by presenting research based presentations and relating my experiences with programs similar to WETEACHSTEM to school board officials.
What has been one of your most rewarding experiences with WeTeachSTEM thus far?
Building long-lasting, caring relationships with youth, families, and members of the community.
To learn more about Stanley and his organization, check out this video below!
- Posted on 01/07/2015 by TeenNickBlogger
Welcome to Halo Effect 2015, TeenNick do-gooders! This year, we resolve to make the world a better place, and what better way to get inspired than to take a look at the awesome work of our HALO Effect honorees?
This month's honoree is a girl who has combined her love of reading with her passion for giving back. Sarah Dewitz, a fifteen-year-old Florida native founded the charity Just 1 Book. We caught up with Sarah to learn more about her amazing work. Check out our exclusive interview below!
What inspired you to begin 'Just 1 Book'? Why did you choose to focus your charity on books?
One day I was sitting at my kitchen table and my mom handed me a newspaper article. I read the article and found the information quite disturbing but also very interesting. The article talked about a specific area not too far from where I live and how the residents living there were having a difficult time affording things like their electric bill. If someone can't afford their electric bill, they probably can't afford books in their home. I love to read and couldn't imagine my life without books. I also knew about the correlation between low literacy rates and poverty. I knew I had to help in one way or another. Thus, Just 1 Book was born.
What do you think is the secret to success with your organization? How is 'Just 1 Book' unique compared to other charities?
I believe that the secret to success for Just 1 Book is a combination of my love for reading, my love for community service, and my love for helping others in need. There are several things that make my charity unique. One of them is that I was only 10 years old when I became a philanthropist. Another is that it combines two of my passions, reading and going green, into one cause that many people support. Just 1 Book is eco-friendly by reusing books instead of having people throw them away to rot in landfills.
What is your favorite book and why?
I don't have a favorite book in particular. To me, my favorite book is always the one that I have in my hands. I do enjoy mysteries and horror books though. I'm not one for romantic novels either, but if you hand me a good love story, I'll devour it.
Having started your organization at 10 years old, what advice would you give to other young people who want to make a difference in their community, but may not feel they have the power or resources to do so?
I've always said to other young people that if they have a thought that helps other people, there is no way it could be a bad idea. The only requirement is that they must be passionate about their cause. If the child would like to start their own charity but doesn't know what kind, I suggest doing volunteer work at some other great organizations to help them find their niche in the community service world. If a student does have a cause they are passionate about, I say go for it! Naturally, there are going to be people who will disagree with an idea. I went through the same thing when Just 1 Book was first starting. My initial proposal was already accepted by my principal, yet I would get teased for being "dorky" and wanting to help people in need. Now, I understand that at the age of 10 years old, my thought was very far from being na�ve. But these harsh words never fazed me because I knew that my idea was a good one. And my instincts proved to be true.
What are J1B's plans for the future?
I would like for Just 1 Book to reach nationwide status in the future. It is impossible to know how long this will take, but it is my hope and faith that this goal will be achieved. I would also like to have numerous bookmobiles reaching out to kids in their neighborhoods, leaving them with a book in their hand and a smile on their face.
To learn more about Sarah and her organization, check out this video below!
- Posted on 12/03/2014 by TeenNickBlogger
Introducing, Nicholas Cobb, our HALO Effect honoree for the month of December! Fitting for this time of year, Nicholas is the founder of Comfort and Joy, an organization that raises money to buy coats for homeless families. 'Tis the season of giving, HALO-ers, and Nicholas is an expert at doing just that. Check out our exclusive interview with this special do-gooder below!
Can you tell us a little bit about the story behind Comfort and Joy?
I have been concerned about the homeless since I was very young. I researched homelessness and learned that it could happen to anyone and I wanted to do something about it. I have completed projects from collecting travel size soap, lotion and shampoo from neighbors when I was 7, to organizing community supply drives when I was 12. I wanted to do something that I could do for more than one year that would help people longer. So, in the fall of 2009, I started my own non-profit corporation, Comfort and Joy. The purpose was to raise money to buy coats for homeless families. I based the name off of lyrics from the Christmas carol "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen". I presented the idea as my Eagle Scout project and it was approved.
How do you engage members of your community to donate? How do you spread the word about your organization?
I worked a lot with my Scout troop and my community. I used already existing websites like "Make a Difference Day" and I built my own website www.comfortandjoytexas.org. I use Constant Contact on my website to keep my volunteers and donors informed. I also work with other organizations like the Veteran's of Foreign Wars, The Junior League, The Home Depot Foundation, and when I was in high school, my National Honor Society chapter. The awards I won also helped a great deal to spread the word about the organization. Many of those organizations then featured Comfort and Joy on their websites, too. If you Google "comfort and joy nicholas cobb" you will see all the websites that gave us coverage. I am so thankful for that.
Since starting college at the University of Texas, how have you been able to balance your time between school and your work with Comfort and Joy?
It's tough, but technology is a great facilitator. I can easily keep up with my website from any location with internet. Projects for this year will be more coat projects, of course, and support for a feeding project through my church.
What are your hopes for Comfort and Joy in the next few years? How do you see the organization growing?
My hope for Comfort and Joy is to establish national chapters... I want to have chapters all over the country so other young people can experience the joys of giving back to their communities.
What has been one of the most fulfilling moments you've experienced since starting your organization?
One of the most fulfilling moments was when a woman at one of the shelters I volunteered at told me in tears that she was so moved that when she was back up on her feet that she wanted to do something to help other people too. It was a good feeling to feel like you inspired someone to sort of pay it forward. On a personal note, because of my civic involvement, I was chosen by the Boy Scouts of America to be part of the delegation to present the Boy Scout's "Report to the Nation" culminating in a presentation to The President of the United States of America in the oval office. That was just an unparalleled honor that I will never be able to forget.
To learn more about Nicholas, check out the clip below!
- Posted on 10/01/2014 by TeenNickBlogger
It's the beginning of the month, and that can only mean one thing: It's time to honor one do-gooding teen who has made a difference in a major way. Meet Zachary Mallory, an LGBTQIA advocate and our HALO Effect honoree for the month of October. Zach contributes a unique vision and drive to the gay rights fight which, although present and strong, is very much still being fought. Check out our Q&A with Zach to learn more about his awesome work!
What inspired you to become an LGBTQIA youth activist? Can you share a little bit of your story with us?
What inspired me to become an LGBTQIA Youth Activist was going to conferences and listening to stories and realizing the struggles that everyone like me goes through. I looked up statistics and found that LGBTQIA have it harder in schools. I am a advocate for Safe Schools.
What advice would you give to someone who is being bullied, but worried about speaking up?
Keep your head up and let your voice be heard. Even if you are afraid, stand up for what you believe in and what you are advocating for. Remember, it does get better and it can't rain forever.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an effective LGBTQ ally?
Advocate and stand up for what you believe in. Human rights are for everyone regardless who or what you are. LGBTQ allies play a extensive role in the LGBTQIA Community!
What is your greatest hope or goal for the future of the LGBTQIA community?
My greatest hope for the future of the LGBTQIA community is that we can all come together and stand as one, not as many. My hope is that we can be the generation to completely combat bullying, discrimination and harassment of LGBTQIA youth.
To learn more about Zachary, check out the clip below!
- Posted on 09/03/2014 by TeenNickBlogger
Meet Virginia Newsome: She's an Oklahoma City University drama student with a passion for musical theatre and arts advocacy. As the founder of heARTS, a non-profit based in Kentucky, Virginia has turned her love of performing into an organization that helps schools and communities restore and create fine arts programs. Talk about star power! Check out our interview with our HALO Effect honoree for September, and get inspired by Virginia's awesome work!
How long have you been performing? Do you have a specific focus in the arts?
I have been performing since I was four years old. I would sing and dance into a microphone every chance I got. I started performing in plays as young as five and have been hooked ever since. I went to the High School for Creative and Performing Arts in my hometown of Lexington Kentucky to study Drama, and now I am a sophomore musical theatre major at Oklahoma City University, the home of names like Kelli O'Hara, and Kristin Chenoweth.
How did you go about creating a business plan for heARTs? Why is having a solid business plan important to the success of your organization?
My family was very instrumental in helping me form a business plan for heARTS. Both of my parents are entrepreneurs themselves, so I knew they would be able to help me learn the skills to come up with a solid plan for what my goals were with this organization. Business plans are essential when creating a program like heARTS. It not only helps you understand what your exact tasks and goals are for the program, but it provides a clear understanding of what the message and motive of the program is for donors, volunteers, and other affiliates.
Can you tell us a little bit about your music video collaboration with children's hospitals?
This year I am starting to expand heARTS into Children's Hospitals all over the country, starting in my hometown of Lexington, KY as well as where I currently live, in Oklahoma City, OK. I will be providing classes, conducting workshops in drama, dance, voice, and art for children who are able, as well as providing other activities like music videos, and art supply carts to give to new children who have just entered the hospital.
What is one little known fact or common misconception about Arts in Education?
Most people aren't aware that children who participate in Arts education classes throughout elementary, middle, and high school, receive higher test scores on average on the SAT and ACT, allowing them to attend a major college. Just by participating in one class a semester, that can improve your test score an average of three points.
Why do you think it is so important that the arts be a part of every kid's education?
I believe that in our education society, we have started to focus on always having the "right" answer. I know for myself and my friends this has caused us to expect perfection in our school work and extracurriculars, which is near impossible. The arts allow you to have freedom in your thinking. They allow us imagine, and explore to express ourselves and help us forget about the negative in our life and just have fun being who we are, and not worry about what is "right".
To learn more about Virginia and her organization, check out the clip below!
- Posted on 08/05/2014 by TeenNickBlogger
"Helping is more than our hobby," reads the slogan for Freedom Chairs, a non-profit organization that transforms old wheelchairs for those in need.
Since the organization began, founder and CEO Tim Balz has combined his technical robotic skills with his inventive spirit to give the gift of mobility in his hometown of Indiana and beyond. Check out our exclusive Q&A with the August HALO Effect Honoree, and learn more about Tim's incredibly inspiring story!
What inspired you to begin your organization Freedom Chairs? How did you come to focus on this specific cause?
During my sophomore year of high school I noticed a student named Steven Scholl who was stuck in the hallway because he was unable to move his manual wheelchair. I got in contact with his parents and asked why he wasn't using an electric wheelchair, and they said that his insurance denied the request because he wasn't "disabled enough." I tried to fix a wheelchair that my neighbor gave me to play with on our FIRST Robotics team, but it turned out to be unfix-able. I was determined to help my new friend Steven so I traded my moped for a wheelchair that was repairable. I customized the wheelchair to be exactly what Steven needed and gave it to him just before he graduated. The smile he had when we gave him the wheelchair was so incredible that I developed a passion for helping people in similar situations to Steven, and that's how Freedom Chairs started.
How has Freedom Chairs grown since it started in 2011?
Freedom Chairs has given away more than 85 wheelchairs since we started in 2011. We have dozens of wheelchairs in our workshop and have work days nearly every weekend to repair and rebuild wheelchairs.
What is the process that goes into building a Freedom Chair? What kinds of features does a typical wheelchair have?
When we get an old chair donated to us, it is typically in pretty poor condition. We tear the chair down and repair anything that isn't in like-new condition, and rebuild it to make is as though the recipient gets a brand new chair. A typical wheelchair will have an assortment of features ranging from power seating to lights and turn signals. We have even gotten a few chairs that use head control for someone who is paralyzed.
How did you learn how to customize these electric wheelchairs?
I learned to customize the wheelchairs through the skills I gained in FIRST Robotics, and the countless hours spent tinkering with the chairs that were donated. I would try to understand how and why everything worked on the chair.
With Freedom Chairs, you saw a peer in need and took action. What advice would you give to someone who has a desire to help others, but doesn't know where to start?
If someone has a desire to help others, the most important advice that I can give is to look for ways to make a difference, because not everyone in need has a voice. Volunteering for community service through school clubs is how I got started helping others, so that is a great place to start. The biggest thing is to never let people convince you that someone else will come along and fill a need that you find.
To learn more about Tim and his organization, check out the clip below!
- Posted on 07/02/2014 by Rachel1016
It's the beginning of the month and that means it's time to honor teens who Help And Lead Others in a big way. Join us in congratulating our HALO Effect honoree for July, Zachary Certner!
Zach is a eighteen year-old New Jersey student who co-founded SNAP, Inc. (Special Needs Athletic and Awareness Programs), a non-profit organization that aims to help autistic children across the globe improve their social and athletic skills through sports programs. Check our our exclusive Q&A to learn more about Zachary's incredible dedication to this cause!
What inspired you to co-found SNAP, Inc.? What were the beginning stages of the organization like?
I was inspired to get involved with special needs children because a close family friend was diagnosed with severe autism. In my community there are limited programs for special needs children, since sports have always been a passion of mine, I felt strongly about giving every child the opportunity to be part of a team. I was disturbed seeing kids excluded from sports, lunch tables, and even friendships just because they were different. This action led to the creation of my 501c(3) non-profit organization SNAP: Special Needs Athletic and Awareness Programs.
To translate this idea into a reality, I needed financing and community involvement. To accomplish this massive undertaking I contacted the Board of Education, local recreational departments, mayors, and other community leaders; fundraising became a necessity and I worked endlessly to locate and contact potential donors.
What do you think is uniquely important about pairing athletic programs with Special Needs advocacy?
SNAP was formed to help improve the lives of children who suffer from autism and other disabilities. Currently, it is estimated that one in every 84 children is diagnosed with autism. Autism can prevent children from learning, behaving, and communicating effectively. This often leads to bullying and discrimination in the classroom. My hope was that by providing autistic and special needs children with athletic and social programming, I could improve their physical abilities, communication skills, and self-esteem. I created a regular schedule of free sports clinics to give special needs children an opportunity to learn and to play all with peer mentors. My philosophy is Kids Helping Kids; a direct contrast from special needs children's usual interaction with adult doctors, therapists, and teachers.
How did you work to expand SNAP's influence abroad to countries like Guatemala, Tanzania and China?
After running our sports clinics for five years in New Jersey, we understand that sports is the way to make everyone feel equal and give them the confidence they need everyday. I felt that the special needs children should learn to give back as well, so we conducted sports drive to collect equipment for children in Tanzania.In 2010, I traveled to Tanzania on the first ever mission trip, providing the children of Sibusisio with donations and sports equipment. The children were especially enthusiastic about soccer, immediately breaking off in game after blowing up the newly donated soccer balls. Everyone was equal on the field, disregarding gender, race, and any disability.
In 2011, SNAP expanded on a global level and partnered with the first ever special needs school in Nebaj, Guatemala. Thanks to an incredible organization Mayan Hope (link), SNAP hopes to continue helping special needs children around the world. We purchased all necessary materials from schoolbooks and supplies, to desks, chairs, and water purifiers. With the help of Mayan Hope, we hope to raise the necessary funds to secure a permanent and safe learning atmosphere for children with special needs. In a country with no education and awareness on autism, a supportive environment is crucial and necessary.
Can you tell us a little bit about the sensitivity training SNAP offers to student volunteers?
Through a series of presentations and hands on modules, I show children the challenges and frustrations faced by their disabled classmates. Using blind folds, mirrors, and balance balls, my training allows students to experience the difficulties and frustrations of various disabilities. It is through the training that the mainstream students walk in the shoes of various disabilities. It is the moment that they feel how frustrated they become doing simple activities that we take for granted everyday, that I know I have reached them.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions about Special Needs children?
I think the biggest misconception is that they are just like you and I, they just might not be able to express what they are feeling. They want to be accepted and included even if they are different. People assume that because these children have difficulty interacting with their peers, they are unfriendly or shy. But it is that they cannot communicate their desire for a friendship like we can. They also do not show emotion so that is often difficult interpret what they are feeling.
Can you recall one memorable moment, big or small, when you realized you were truly making a difference?
I never imagined that someone who couldn't speak could say so much. Growing up with our family friend was the foundation for my organization. I always wondered if I truly was making a difference in these children's lives. Those thoughts changed, however, when I met Charlie, also afflicted with autism.
Charlie had been part of SNAP for many years, but struggled each session. When he walked into my clinic's gymnasium the each session, I saw how apprehensive his parents were and wondered each week if he would come back. Charlie remained expressionless as I handed him off to his volunteer to begin practicing basketball. Months past and we barely made improvements. At the clinic, I found Charlie sitting on the floor biting his fingers ferociously. I sat beside him and held his hands away from his mouth. His eyes focused on me, but his face remained expressionless. Charlie then grabbed his electronic interpreter and slowly typed on the keyboard. As soon as he finished, he dropped the computer and ran to other side of the gym. As I picked it up to return it to his parents, I could see what Charlie had written - "C-l-i-n-i-c_y-e-a-h". That was the moment that I knew I had to continue. The magic that is created is unimaginable in the clinics.
To learn more about Zachary and his organization, check out the clip below!