Blog | The HALO Effect
- 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 02/05/2014 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 11/17/2013 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 10/29/2011 by Lisa
Inspired by the TeenNick HALO Awards, the HALO Effect is a way for visitors to TeenNick.com to help others. Complete "Quests" on this site, and you'll earn points that you can trade in for a donation to DonorsChoose.org.
DonorsChoose.org is a site where school teachers from all over the United States post requests for supplies they need (like scientific equipment, journals for a writing class, or musical instruments for the school band). If you earn enough HALO Effect coins, you'll be able to make a $5 donation to any project you choose.
It's an awesome way to support education, and it's easy, too. All you have to do is use this site! Check out the blue bar at the top of this page to get started.
The 2011 TeenNick HALO Awards honorees, about to walk the orange carpet -- and all the way on the right, behind Kyle's shoulder, that's Charlotte Arnold from Degrassi! :)