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Photo courtesty National Geographic

First-ever National Geographic Teen Service Award honors young people fighting illiteracy and climate change in their communities

21st Century Fox’s National Geographic has selected three high school students as the recipients of the National Geographic Student Expeditions Inaugural Teen Service Award, a new program recognizing young people who have demonstrated a commitment to making a difference in their communities. Alexa Grabelle, Delaney Reynolds, and Kaimana Idica will each receive $500 college scholarships, and Grabelle, as the grand prize winner, will embark on a National Geographic Community Service Expedition to Fiji this summer. The awards program is one of the many ways National Geographic continues to empower the next generation of global citizens and explorers.

“Connecting with and benefiting communities around the world is a key focus of National Geographic Student Expeditions, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to recognize students across the country who are making a difference in their own communities,” said Deb Friedman, vice president for independent and specialty travel for National Geographic. “We were blown away by the nominations we received for these awards.”

National Geographic received nearly 300 submissions for the award, for which parents, teachers, and local leaders could nominate middle or high school students investing time and effort into their communities. Following the submission period, judges at Nat Geo selected 16 finalists, each of whom were asked to write a short essay on the importance of community service and what inspires them to give back. The judges then chose the grand prize winner and two runners-up based on those essays.

Grabelle, 15, who attends high school in New Jersey, won the grand prize for founding the nonprofit Bags of Books at age 10 and continuing to work with volunteers to collect and distribute children’s books to low-income families. She has given away more than 110,000 children’s books to date, and in recognition of her work, National Geographic’s Kids Books will also donate 300 children’s books to her organization.

“Equality and justice means that all children, regardless of background, must have an equal opportunity to obtain the resources and skills they need to succeed in school and life,” Grabelle said. “Changing the world means helping children, one book at a time.”

Reynolds and Idica, high school seniors in Miami and Hawaii, respectively, both addressed climate change and environmental issues in their community service projects, for which they were recognized as runners-up. Through her work with the Sink or Swim Project, Reynolds aims to educate as many people as possible about the negative effects climate change is already having on ecosystems in Florida. Her efforts, including educational lectures, children’s books and more, have reached an estimated 35,000 people.

Similarly, Idica has partnered with several nonprofits to educate the public in Maui about the effects that plastics specifically have on the environment. He has created zero-waste local for public events, led film projects, and spoken at high schools across the state.

“Today our society has gotten lazy by living in a world of convenience,” Idica said. “I cannot just look the other way and say, ‘Someone else will do it.’ There are too many people saying that already.”

Learn more about National Geographic Student Expeditions.