Blog | halo awards
- Posted on 11/14/2013 by Rachel1016
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!
- Posted on 11/14/2013 by Rachel1016
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!
- Posted on 11/13/2013 by Rachel1016
Miranda Fuentes is a 16-year-old surfer girl who has a passion for working with children with autism, a brain developmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and even physical health issues. A 2013 HALO honoree, Miranda has combined her love for the sport and dedication to advocacy by volunteering with an organization called Surfers For Autism (SFA). We got the chance to speak with Miranda to learn more about her involvement with Surfers For Autism and hear all about what it was like to meet Austin Mahone!
Surfers For Autism's states in its mission that the therapeutic benefits of surfing for children with special needs cannot be overestimated. Inspired by her younger brother Lucas who has autism himself, Miranda has dedicated her time over the past five years to bring these children to the waves. Through the spirit of surfing, she works to build their confidence, unlock their potential, and ultimately create a safe, fun-loving space for them to flourish.
As the youngest master instructor at Surfers For Autism, Miranda told us she takes roughly 150 participants surfing each year. "I like to work with the younger age groups," she said. "Our beginning age is four. The oldest I've worked with is 14 [years-old]." She explained how she enjoys teaching the basics of the sport to the younger kids who are learning the skills for the first time. And on top of instructing these young surfers, within a given season Miranda helps SFA organize surfing events roughly every two to three weeks. But when the off-season arrives, Miranda explained how they keep their surfers involved with out-of-water activities: "We have off-season concerts inland [that feature] local musicians." She also explained that these concerts are a great way to include families that may not live near the beach.
Austin Mahone surprised Miranda on the beach to tell her she would be honored at the HALO Awards, and here's what she had to say about it: "That was really cool. I was definitely in shock! I was really excited and very honored. He was on a fat tire bike and I didn't notice him coming from the side until he was a few feet away. Then I realized it was Austin Mahone!"
When we asked Miranda how she inspires others to HALO she said, "I just like to talk to my friends about [Surfers For Autism], and they tell their friends. I'm also in charge of the Instagram and Twitter for SFA. I like to tell them how SFA can change their lives. I show them pictures and invite them to events, and just watching the kids inspires them."
When she's not in the water or advocating for autism, Miranda is a beach-girl at heart. She enjoys playing in the sand, playing tag on the beach, and building sandcastles. Oh, and dare we forget, she also loves One Direction.
Don't miss Miranda and the other amazing honorees at the 2013 HALO Awards, this Sunday, November 17th at 8pm ET!
- Posted on 11/12/2013 by Rachel1016
Rocio Ortega is a girl with a vision. A 2013 HALO Awards honoree, Rocio is an advocate for women's empowerment through her involvement with an awesome organization called GlobalGirl Media (GGM). She's a Los Angeles native, but brings her passion for new media, education, and service to the international stage. We caught up with Rocio to learn more about GGM and hear about her HALO giveback experience with Chris Paul!
GlobalGirl Media is a non-profit organization dedicated to training new media skills to girls around the world. Rocio explained how there are a lot of negative representations of women in the media today, a truth which GGM aims to dissolve. In her own words, "We figured the best way to change media is by actually giving the camera to a young girl and letting her tell her own story." The organization holds month-long workshops to teach girls how to film, edit, and produce their own content, but also how to develop their own voice. Through training sessions and guest lectures by female industry professionals, young girls become their own journalists, reporters, and news anchors.
Rocio was a part of the 2010 class and returns every summer to train young girls. When we asked her about her experience on the teaching side, she made it clear that the training extends far beyond learning how to open up a tripod. They begin with technical skills, such as learning how to operate a camera or use editing software, but expand into larger concepts, such as the importance of media ethics and how women uniquely, and importantly, fit into the mix. Rocio explained, "We combine different values and along the way [the girls] realize how it's such a strong tool for change. For the first time they are being introduced to the word 'feminism' and [the concept of] women's rights. At the end of every workshop they're always empowered to do more than they were before."
This past summer, Rocio participated in GlobalGirl Media's first-ever global summit in Chicago. GlobalGirls from South Africa, Morocco, Chicago and Los Angeles came together for the first time to not only complete a one-week intensive digital media training program, but also build relationships with similarly motivated, passionate girls around the world. One of the most moving things Rocio learned from the experience was this: "At the end of the day we're still the same, even though we come from opposite sides of the world. GlobalGirl Media has given us a running start in our lives to make global connections."
For her HALO giveback experience, Rocio got to meet LA Clippers basketball player Chris Paul! A big basketball fan herself, Rocio said her time with Chris Paul was both fun and inspiring: "He gave me 101 courses on how to golf and bowl and that was really sweet. But he also took the time to mentor me and tell me 'thank you' and tell me to keep doing what I'm doing -- working for global female empowerment."
Rocio is currently a sophomore at Wellesley College, and when she's not studying working for female empowerment around the world, she loves listening to Big Sean, Lady Gaga, Paramore and watching Awkward.
Don't miss Rocio and the rest of the honorees at the 2013 HALO Awards this Sunday, November 17th at 8pm ET!
- Posted on 11/11/2013 by Rachel1016
Meet Denzel Austin Thompson: The co-founder of Philadelphia Urban Creators (PUC), a youth-led organization that grows sustainable and healthy food in urban gardens. Growing up in North Philadelphia where a childhood obesity epidemic plagued the well-being of his community, Denzel was inspired to make a grassroots change (no pun intended!).
After a service trip to New Orleans in which Denzel helped build greenhouses and transform vacant lands into urban gardens, he decided to bring organic farming back to his own neighborhood. Four years later, the Philadelphia Urban Creators and its loyal volunteers successfully cultivate sustainable gardens rife with fresh, healthy produce! We caught up with Denzel to learn more about his organization and hear about his giveback experience with Queen Latifah!
From seed to plant, PUC's sustainable gardens grow a large variety of produce, including veggies, fruit, and micro greens (think: SUPER healthy stuff like wheatgrass). When we asked Denzel to pick a favorite, however, he was quick to single out a tapered fruit called Tabasco peppers. (If you've ever heard of Tabasco Sauce, you'll know that the peppers can be pretty hot. But Denzel insists that he loves to eat of the vine!)
Much of the food that PUC grows is sold in local farmers markets or distributed to local restaurants. PUC either funds that money directly back into the community, or uses it to support the project itself. Interesting enough, Denzel noted that when PUC was is its early stages, community outreach was one of his biggest challenges. With hard work and persistence, however, members of the community began to grasp the concept and benefits of urban gardens, and Denzel proved that his was a cause worth supporting.
When we asked Denzel about his giveback experience with Queen Latfiah, he said he was completely surprised. "Everyone tricked me that day," he said. "It was really great and inspiring. [The experience] made me want to push myself harder and have faith in what I'm doing."
Finally, asked Denzel to share a few important tips for anyone who might want to start their own garden! Here's what we gathered:
1. Develop a core group of dedicated people with diverse skills and ideas.
2. Determine your role. For example, if you enjoy planting and growing, you might be the urban farmer!
3. Choose an area for your garden. It can either be a backyard or a plot of land. If there is an area that might need immediate assistance, such as a food desert, that's the best place to start!
4. Canvas. It's important to reach out to your neighborhood and community for support before you begin any physical planting. The more people who know about your project, the better!
There you have it, TeenNick fans! Check back here all week to learn more about our amazing honorees and how they're changing the world. And don't miss the 2013 HALO Awards on Sunday, November 17th at 8PM ET!
- Posted on 11/08/2013 by Rachel1016
Ever dreamed about being one of those lucky teens in the audience at the HALO Awards? You know, the ones who have front-row seats and get to brush shoulders with TeenNick celebs all night?
Well, seeing as the HALO Awards honor teens who 'Help And Lead Others' in their community, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that those who scored a ticket to the show on Sunday, November 17th did just that. This year, we're honoring the work of three outstanding organizations, Amigos de los Rios, Boys & Girls Club of America, and Key Club, by giving a select few of their members tickets to the live event! (So when you see that lucky someone high-fiving Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy, you'll know that they probably deserve it.)
Check out just how excellent these organizations are.
BOYS & GIRLS CLUB OF AMERICA
For more than 100 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America has made it its mission to help young people realize their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens. Today, there are more than 4,000 clubs across the nation that provide adult mentors, after-school activities, community service opportunities and, ultimately, a safe space for American youth who might need it most.
Just a few weeks ago, The Boys & Girls Clubs of America led a volunteer event at the Thomas House homeless shelter in Los Angeles. Fifteen volunteers got together to lead activities with families, host a movie night, and cook a special meal for the residents.
Key Club, the high school branch of Kiwanis International, is the largest and oldest service club for youth ages 14-18 years old. Members of the Key Club perform community service activities that range from cleaning up parks to organizing clothing drives to fundraising for various worldwide causes. The Key Club assists Kiwanis International in its mission to serve a very important part of our community: youth.
AMIGOS DE LOS RIOS
Since its inception in 2003, Amigos de los Rios has worked to create lively, sustainable communities in urban neighborhoods in and around the Los Angeles area. The non-profit works closely with local governments and residents to build parks, playgrounds, and other environmentally-conscious public spaces in areas that suffer from societal problems like high population density and poor public heath. Their mission is not only to protect the environment, but also strengthen the community. It's all about creating a synergy between the environment and its inhabitants because, y'know, we have to rely on each other!
Most recently, on October 19th, Amigos de Los Rios hosted a 3-hour, 125-person volunteer project at Hollydale Park in Los Angeles. Members of the Boys & Girls Clubs & Kiwanis joined Amigos de los Rios' own volunteers to plant and spread mulch for over 75 native California shrubs, paint over 300 feet of fencing, and remove graffiti throughout the park.
Even though we've only just skimmed the surface of the amazing, ovation-worthy service these organizations have performed, join us in a collective, virtual round of applause. *Claps*
During the live show, we'll feature pictures these various service projects that the awesome do-gooding teens collected themselves. Their pics will appear in our HALO Hive social media lounge with #HALOawards. And don't forget to look out for 'em in the audience on Sunday, November 17th!
- Posted on 11/05/2013 by Rachel1016
2011 Halo honoree Emily-Anne Rigal has no patience for bullies. After being put-down as a young girl, Emily decided enough was enough. In 2010, Emily-Anne founded and created WeStopHate.org, a teen-run website that tackles bullying through the viral power of social media videos. If you haven't heard of WeStopHate.org, let us enlighten you: the non-profit movement has grown to unimaginable heights. We caught up with the superstar HALO-er herself, and here's what she had to say!
What have you been doing since the HALO awards?
In addition to our social media initiatives, WeStopHate has expanded our program offline, by creating WeStopHate clubs in schools across the country. Any teenager can go to WeStopHate.org/clubs to download information about starting a WeStopHate club in their school!
What has been one of your favorite achievements since joining/starting your organization?
After the HALO Awards, Newsweek ranked me on their 2012 list of the "150 Most Fearless Women in the World" alongside my heroes like Hillary Clinton and Oprah. I was so honored to be included on this list!
October is National Bully Month, what are you doing to help get word out about WeStopHate.org?
WeStopHate received a $50,000 grant from Peace First this month and to celebrate, we were featured on The TODAY Show.
What advice do you give to teens who have been bullied?
We can never underestimate the importance of being open about our experiences. Even though it is difficult to share what you are going through, I feel strongly that having one-on-one conversations with people in your life who you trust is a good way to figure out how you can rise above the bullies.
What advice to you have for teens who bully?
I think it's important for bullies to realize that they are most likely bullying because they are dealing with their own issues and insecurities. I advise bullies to focus their energy on doing something they love (like playing a sport or making YouTube videos) because doing things that make us feel good will stop the bullying cycle.
- Posted on 10/30/2013 by Rachel1016
The HALO Awards are upon us, TeenNick humanitarians! The countdown to November has begun, and we're gearing up for the grandiose (but equally good-hearted) event that honors teens who Help And Lead Others. Every year, we bring in a new class of amazing do-gooders to showcase and reward the inspiring work to which they have IMPRESSIVELY dedicated their young lives.
Before we reveal this year's honorees, we're giving you a taste of the kind of work the HALO awards have recognized in the past. And really, one of the best parts about the HALO Awards is seeing how past honorees have continued to work for their respective causes AFTER they've been recognized by TeenNick!
A few weeks ago, we featured the all-star efforts of student environmental advocacy group Team Marine.> This week, we caught up with Leah Stoltz, a 2009 honoree who, after developing a spine condition called scoliosis, founded a support group for young girls called Curvy Girls. The year she was honored, Leah got to meet JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE (and totally told him to start making music again! THANK YOU, GIRL!). Since then, she's been marching full speed ahead to make Curvy Girls bigger and better than ever, and trust us, this girl's passion will give you chills. Check out our interview below!
How is your health and scoliosis?
I am great! Honestly, I forget that I have a fused spine a lot of the time; it's so second nature to me. My brother still makes jokes about my hardware in my back and my parents still worry too much, but I wouldn't go back in time and trade my curvy back for a straight one for a billion dollars!
What have you been doing since the HALO awards?
When the HALO awards filmed me I was a senior in high school on Long Island, New York. How time has flown! Presently, I'm a senior at American University in Washington, DC. I'm getting my Business Administration degree with a specialization in Sports & Entertainment Business and I'm hoping, this time next year, to have a job!
What has been one of your favorite achievements since starting Curvy Girls?
Oh there's just no way I can only give you one! My three top favorite moments have been each time we expanded to another country � first to Canada, then Brazil, and then Australia! What an amazing feeling it has been to know that our message is spreading across not only the nation, but also the world.
Could you tell us about your new book Straight Talk With Curvy Girls and why you decided to start writing?
Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls is a compilation of the original (pre-HALO) 9 Curvy Girls and their moms' stories, medical information, fashion advice, and complete guidance from diagnosis through post-treatment. It needed to be written for two reasons. One: we needed to tell our stories because every girl I have ever spoken to, no matter where in the world they are from, says the same things�"I feel so alone. I thought I was the only one going through this." So even if there isn't a group in their town, by reading our stories they won't feel so alone. And two: we have set out to advocate changing the standard of care for adolescent scoliosis.
Sometimes adults may forget that we're kids/pre-teens who need to be spoken to and spoken to in a way we can understand. They need to know that we are not just a body, but an emotional mind that sometimes guides our decisions. When professionals, like doctors and orthotists, are sensitive to that, there will be much better treatment compliance.
You have attended the HALO awards since 2009! What was your favorite memory of the HALO awards?
I absolutely love getting to meet the honorees and reunite with everyone from the past years! We all get to reminisce about our time in their shoes as well as hopefully inspire them with how much the HALO effect really can aid their movement. It's also been wonderful to create this network of people from our generation who are really changing the world. We're friends on Facebook and are always there to cheer each other on or lend a hand. For example, this summer, Allyson [Ahlstrom] was on tour with her Threads for Teens truck and I got to volunteer with her on her DC stop. I loved meeting her and getting to know what she does, but having the opportunity to really be a part of her project was so special.
When Leah isn't advocating for Curvy Girls, she enjoys biking around DC with her friends, listening to music, and watching a Nickelodeon favorite, Legend of Korra. Stay tuned for some more AWESOME updates on HALO honorees, and look out for the 2013 HALO Awards coming to you in November!
- Posted on 09/20/2013 by Rachel1016
Photo Credit: Benjamin Kay
As you've probably heard, the 2013 HALO Awards are coming this November! Since 2009, the HALO Awards have recognized outstanding teens who go above and beyond to make the world a better place. One of the coolest things about the HALO Awards is being able to see the amazing work of past honorees long after they've been recognized by TeenNick. So this week, we caught up with 2009 HALO Honorees Team Marine, a Santa Monica-based student environmental science and advocacy group, and we learned that they're about unveil a mind-blowingly AWESOME project.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Kay
Four years in the making, the all-star students of Team Marine have completed the conversion of a '71 Volkswagen Bug into an all-electric vehicle. Basically, this means this cruiser can take on the freeway without relying on gas. The record-breaking car is the first known 100+ mile range plug-in retrofitted by high school students, and when it comes to incorporating sustainability into our everyday life, electric cars are a large part of the solution.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Kay
So, just how did these environmental whiz kids make it happen? Former Team Marine co-captain, Ivan Morales, gave us the lowdown: "This project began in 2009 when the Poon-Fear family donated the Bug to Team Marine for a gas to electric conversion project. Team Marine members from different years have worked on making this conversion a reality. The first step was removing gasoline related components. Another team purchased and installed the motor while another performed measurements to find how many batteries could fit in the car. As such, this project was a collaborative effort among different students over a span of 4 years."
Being that the team is comprised of high schoolers, the number of students that make up Team Marine varies from year to year. Angelina Hwang, current co-captian of Team Marine gave us some insight on how different members take on different roles: "As members graduate and new members join the organization, we adapt to different roles. For members such as myself who have been part of Team Marine since the initial stages of the car, we have had the chance to work directly with the car conversion process. Members who recently joined Team Marine have been focusing on the media coverage and publicity aspects of the car project."
Photo Credit: Benjamin Kay
The team plans to debut the car, cleverly named Volts Wattson, at the Santa Monica AltCar Expo this weekend. But their initiative doesn't stop there! Team Marine member Katie Oran says, "After the debut of the car at the AltCar Expo we plan on using the car as a 'lesson plan on wheels' teaching as many people about electric cars, renewable energy, and the effects that combustion cars have on the environment; especially ocean acidification and climate change." That is a mighty check-list, my friends. As if you needed any more convincing, these kids are doing big things.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Kay
We asked the members of Team Marine what advice they might have for other students who are interested in becoming involved in environmental advocacy, but may not have an outlet like Team Marine. They said that activism doesn't necessarily mean that you have to join an official organization; it starts with lifestyle changes. Whether it's buying a reusable water bottle or cutting down on your plastic use, small steps can make a big difference. And we couldn't agree more.
Feeling inspired by the superstars of Team Marine? Want to show us how YOU work to make the world a better place?! We're collecting videos of teens giving back and we want to see you! Show us your HALOing moves by uploading a Vine or InstaVid to Twitter @TeenNick using the hashtag #HALOawards. There's even a chance your video could appear on air! Be sure to come back soon for more details about the 2013 HALO Awards coming to you in November!
- Posted on 11/19/2012 by Lisa
We'll be live-tweeting the TeenNick HALO Awards tonight (8pm on Nick@Nite)! If you're on Twitter, please join us, using the hashtag #HALOawards.
Here's a pic of this year's honorees on the orange carpet at the HALO Awards ceremony. From left to right: Kylie Lan Tumiatti, Taylor Waters, Matt Ferguson, and Allyson Ahlstrom. Doesn't everybody look fancy?
Check out more pictures from the orange carpet, including Nick Cannon, Neon Trees, Ne-Yo, Carlos Pena, Jr, James Maslow, Lucy Hale, and Victoria Justice in this flipbook.