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- Posted on 10/13/2015 by TeenNickBlogger
It's climate change activism like you've never seen (or heard) it before.
Teen environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl (pronounced shooTEZcat) Martinez is spreading an incredibly powerful message through hip-hop music. His organization Earth Guardians is an International non-profit that engages young people, through music and speaking events, to take on important environmental issues. And as our October HALO Effect honoree, we want you to know just how cool Xiuhtezcatl is.
Xiuhtezcatl has always had a special connection with Earth, and at the age of six began speaking to crowds about the importance of protecting it. In his eyes, the future is now and as youth we have both the power and responsibility to make our planet sustainable for the future. Check out one of his awesome performances below.
One of the organization's campaigns, RYSE (Rising Youth for a Sustainable Earth), is a movement of young people who lead projects and initiatives to build climate-change solutions. #GenerationRYSE will not wait for others to take the action that wish to see in the world.
Are you ready to make a difference?! There are so many ways YOU can join the movement. Take a look at all of these awesome opportunities and become an Earth Guardian yourself!
- Posted on 09/15/2015 by TeenNickBlogger
TeenNick do-gooders, get ready to be inspired! Abbi Hickman is the 12-year-old founder of Pins for Pets, a non-profit organization that has made a huge difference in her community. Plus, it combines two of Abbi's greatest loves: animals and bowling! Here's the story:
It all started when Abbi visited her local animal shelter in her hometown of Tracy California. She was so disheartened by the conditions (the shelter was located right by a sewer), she decided to make a change.
Abbi began organizing bowling tournaments to raise money for the Tracy Animal Shelter. The events, which include games, raffles and food and supply donations, are fun for everyone. As Abbi said, "Bowling is a great sport, it doesn't discriminate . All ages can participate." And participate people did! In the three years that Pins for Pets has been active, she's raised over $30,000 total.
Pins for Pets has been such a success that the Tracy Animal Shelter has since relocated to a new, better place. Reflecting on this huge achievement, Abbi said, "It made me feel that all my hard work was paying off. The old shelter and the new shelter don't even compare."
Abbi, congratulations on all your hard work. To all of you out there thinking about how you can make a difference, hear what Abbi has to say: "Nothing is impossible. You need to believe in your cause and yourself. If you have passion for your cause nothing can stop you. Everyone can make a difference!"
And that's what the HALO Effect is all about. To learn about Abbi and her awesome work, check out this video below!
- Posted on 08/25/2015 by TeenNickBlogger
Bailey Walter is the 14 year-old and founder of Let Them Dance, an initiative to increase awareness about a little known, but devastating disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).
It all began when Bailey's best friend was put in a wheel chair because of SMA syndrome. And with their 4th grade dance around the corner, Bailey knew she didn't want to go without him. Hoping to one day find a way for him to dance again, she became passionate about finding a cure for SMA.
If you've never heard of SMA, here's one thing everyone should know, according to Bailey: "The main thing that everyone needs to know about Spinal Muscular Atrophy is that most children die before the age of two. It effects not only their muscles for walking, but also for breathing and eating. There are some that live long lives, but don't walk. Some may always require assistance for daily living." At just 10 years old, Bailey approached her city's Mayor with the hopes of creating a day dedicated to SMA Awareness. "I had never done anything like this before," she says, "so I was very nervous reading my speech." But overcome her fears she did, and she got the mayor to agree.
Even though she's showed incredible courage, Bailey says that one of the biggest hurdles she's had to jump is definitely her young age. "When I was 10 no one took me seriously at first. It took a lot of pleading and doing a lot of research on SMA so I could prove my case." Since then, Bailey has set up a successful bracelet business, from which all proceeds are given to the Western New York chapter of Cure SMA. In addition, Bailey says, "I showed that I could contact businesses by phone, mail or in person to help get contributions for the annual walk. [Every year Cure SMA holds a walk to raise fund and awareness for the disease]... The hardest part was convincing people we were serious, but we stood our ground and proved we were."
Approaching the five year anniversary of Let Them Dance, Bailey has many ideas to expand her organization, including an initiative to make blankets and pillows for newly diagnosed children. "I am hoping that by the time it turns ten, the cure will be found. If not it just means that I need to work that much harder to help these kids and Let Them Dance!"
To learn more about Bailey and her awesome work, check out the video below!
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 04/22/2014 by Rachel1016
Happy Earth Day, everybody! The trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and Mother Earth is waking from its winter slumber! Every year on April 22, Earth Day comes around to remind us how important it is to protect our precious planet. And now that spring is in full swing, what better way to celebrate the all of the beautiful things this world has to offer than by making a difference? Here are five easy ways to celebrate Earth Day every day!
FIVE EASY WAYS TO CELEBRATE EARTH DAY (ALL YEAR ROUND!)
1. Check your Earth-saving skills: Are you doing good for the environment or are you leaving a Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint? Take our two quizzes 'How Green Are You?' and 'How Will You Save the Planet?' to find out!
2. Recycle your old electronics: Did you know that your old cell phone or digital camera can be reused to make important materials? Don't just throw them away, take your old or unused electronics to an e-waste recycling facility. E-waste can be extremely harmful to landfills, so it's important that your unused devices get discarded properly!
3. Take shorter showers: Don't get us wrong, we like leisurely showers as much as the next person. But does it really take 20 minutes to lather, rinse and repeat? Set a timer for your next shower and see if you can beat the clock! You'll waste less water and your fingers wont get pruny!
4. Pledge an 'Act of Green': Register with Earth Day Network's 'A Billion Acts of Green' campaign to make a contribution (large or small!) to supporting sustainability efforts. Whether its recycling your crayons or planting a garden, there are a billion ways to take action!
5. Go for a walk and enjoy the outdoors: Take a moment to appreciate Mother Nature in all its glory. Find a park and take a stroll or have a picnic; go for a bike ride and explore your own neighborhood; literally stop to smell the roses! Whatever you do, just go outside!
And if you want to really be inspired to make a change, check out the amazing work of two of our former HALO Award winners. Megan Kilroy is a 2009 HALO Award honoree who makes a difference by cleaning up beaches in her hometown. And Denzel Thompson transforms dilapidated lands in his community by planting urban gardens!
There are so many ways to Help And Lead Others to environmental activism, and maybe you or someone you know already works hard to protect our planet. Nominate them to be recognized by the HALO Effect, and make their impact known!
Finally, get in the green spirit with these awesome throwback Degrassi clips! Remember when Jake and Katie bonded over planting a garden? Or when Emma tried to get Sean to help her pick up garbage at the ravine? Check 'em out below!
JAKE AND KATIE PLANT A GARDEN
CLEAN THE RAVINE
EMMA VS. THE TOMATO
What are some of your Earth Day resolutions? Let us know in the comments!