30 Teens Nationwide Receive $3k Grants To Strengthen Communities

This year's Call for Kindness is the biggest yet with a 70% increase in applicants from 2020, hailing from 35 states from around the country.

By: May. 13, 2021
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30 Teens Nationwide Receive $3k Grants To Strengthen Communities

Riley's Way Foundation has announced the winners of the third annual Call for Kindness, a national contest that funds teen-led projects that inspire kindness, strengthen communities, and bring people together.

This year's Call for Kindness is the biggest yet with a 70% increase in applicants from 2020, hailing from 35 states from around the country. Thirty teens were selected to be awarded up to $3,000 for community projects that embody the Riley's Way values of kindness, empathy, leadership, and connection-making. In honor of Riley Sandler, winners were notified on May 6th, which would have been Riley's 16th birthday.

"Riley loved her friends above all and took great joy in introducing them to one another. These amazing Call for Kindness Fellows are making connections and having a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. In a time of great uncertainty, our newest Fellows inspire us through their efforts to create a sense of community in innovative and meaningful ways. Riley would be thrilled that she helped to bring so many people together in friendship. All of our work is one big love letter to her," said Ian Sandler, Co-founder of Riley's Way and proud father of Riley Sandler.

The Call for Kindness gives teens ages 13-19 the opportunity to create concrete change in their communities and ideate real solutions around issues they care about the most. Projects will address today's urgent community issues including food insecurity, education equity, homelessness, mental health, and more. In addition to funding, the teens will join the Riley's Way Kind Leader Fellowship, consisting of mentorship, professional development, and peer-learning.

"We are empowering a youth-led movement of kindness at Riley's Way. Young people have the ideas, passion and drive to change the world. It is our job to provide the tools, funds, community, and leadership opportunities to support them," said Dr. Christine O'Connell, Executive Director of Riley's Way.

Along with Riley's Way Councils and the annual Youth Leadership Retreat, the Call for Kindness is a cornerstone program of Riley's Way, which provides teens with support, resources, and capital to help develop important initiatives around local, national, and global issues. Since the organization's founding in 2014, Riley's Way has provided millions of dollars in grants and support that has impacted over 150,000 people.

If you're interested in coverage, speaking with the teen fellows or Riley's Way spokespersons, please email Ali Rigo at ali@culturalcounsel.com.

2021 Call for Kindness project highlights include:

  • The Racial and Ethnic Advocacy Leaders Consulting Program (R.E.A.L.) (Texas) - Led by a group of teens in Texas, R.E.A.L. provides assistance to high schoolers that lack access to the resources necessary for success in the college application process.

  • Kul Wicasa Wóyte Oígluha (South Dakota) - Led by youth from the Kul Wicasa Oyate Tribal Nation, they will increase access to healthy produce within their indigenous community by expanding the community garden to provide more locally grown fruits and vegetables.

  • Taboo Talkz (California) - Led by 18-year old Andreanela Ordoñez, Taboo Talkz promotes vulnerability, self expression, and discussion on stigmatized topics among youth by giving them the knowledge and encouragement they need to be able to express themselves, free of shame or fear that is often correlated to "taboo topics."

  • RisingSTEMs (Georgia) - Led by 17-year olds Nidhi Charagundla and Rhea Saravanan, the organization provides STEM workshops and project kits to children and teens in youth homes and title-1 schools, allowing them to pursue their interests in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
  • I Matter (Pennsylvania) - Led by 15-year old Isabella Hanson who is creating a poetry and art forum for youth on why black lives matter.


The Amity Project - New York City, NY
Hattie Shapard (16)
Connects teens to elderly through four programs: a pen-pal program, telephone correspondence program, art box program and card-making initiative.

Be Kind Kentucky License Plate - Paducah, KY
Morgan Guess (18)
Raises statewide awareness around bullying through an official Be Kind Kentucky license plate.

Blooming Seeds - Suwanee, GA
Riza Khan (17); Devika Manoj
Provides free science workshops to immerse youth with special needs into the world of science and create an inclusive environment where people with and without disabilities can interact.

Computers 4 People - Hoboken, NJ
Dylan Zajac (18); Ethan Oliver
Collects, refurbishes, and donates computers to under-resourced communities to promote equity and access to opportunity.

CryOut Curbs Cravings - Jackson, McComb, Hattiesburg, Magnolia, & Pearl, MS
Jaidon Horton (18) & group (Food Insecurity Special Topic Project)
Provide nutritious meals and snacks for school-aged children in the Mississippi area with packaging that contains information to raise awareness about the issue of hunger.

EDify Talks - San Jose, CA
Hannah Su (15)
Aims to educate the community, diversity the narrative, and end the stigma around eating disorders and related issues.

The Formula Project - Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
Vivian Nguyen (17); Michelle Mejia; Makayla Hsieh; Makayla Hsieh; Olamide Fadahunsi; Faith Washington; Shalini Thinakaran
Creates a mentorship program for middle school girls with high school upperclassmen as mentors, providing a sisterhood of support to middle school girls.

The Friendly Fridge Network - New York City, NY
Charlie Hirschhorn (16) (Food Insecurity Special Topic Project)
Establishes a support network for high school students to bring community fridges to their neighborhoods.

Gemstones - TX
Shane Mushambi (15); Nigel Mushambi; Tino Nyabadza
Academically supports Black elementary school students through free enrichment activities, such as interactive games, stories, and puzzles.

The Generation - New York City, NY
Alexa Kayman (15); Lia Fernandez-Grinshpun; Sanjana Moturi; Meghana Nakkanti; Waela Van Nostrand
Serves as an opportunity, career, and learning platform for students with a mission to combat educational inequity.

Give Like CJ Blanket Kit Project & Virtual Party - East Point, GA
C.J. Matthews (13)
Connects people through blanket making and giving, and encourages kindness and empathy for those dealing with difficult situations.

The Hope Festival 2021 - Sammamish, WA
Joseph Osborn (18); Ipshita Tripathi; Miko Kato; Jay Maddukuri; Russell Johnson; Isabelle Schmidt; Mackenzie Hunkins
Supports in-need families across the greater Seattle area by providing more than 1,000 guests with free groceries, clothes, hygiene items, books, and free services.

I Matter - Landenberg, PA
Isabella Hanson (15)
Provides the inspiration and forum for hundreds of youth to be heard on the vital subject of why Black Lives Matter.

Kul Wicasa Wóyte Oígluha - Lower Brule, SD
Alyssa Jones (18) & group (Food Insecurity Special Topic Project)
Aims to increase access to healthy produce within the Kul Wicasa Oyate Tribal Nation by expanding the community garden to provide more locally grown fruits and vegetables, and creating a farmers market.

Living School Community Orchard Project - New Orleans, LA
Kaprice Daniels (14) & group (Food Insecurity Special Topic Project)
Provides healthy food options for families in New Orleans East and educates them on food that can be grown in their front yard.

LEAP MDUSD Essential Supply Drive - Walnut Creek, CA
Seena Farhadi (16)
Provides tutoring and assistance to homeless and foster youth students through an essential needs drive to provide for all homeless and foster youth students.

Na Kukui O Waimanalo - Waimanalo, Oahu, HI
Pahonu Coleman (15)
Inspires youth and expands cultural identity by connecting Hawaiian youth to elders, their culture, wahi pana (sacred places), self-identity and overall well-being.

NEST Nurtures - Ashburn, VA
Esha Venkat (15) & Shreyaa Venkat (Food Insecurity Special Topic Project)
Increases awareness and action around food waste reduction and rescue, and redistributes safe edible food to those in need.

Nourish America - Edison, NJ
Shreya Shivakumar (18), Sarina Thapar & Vasundhara Kulkarni (Food Insecurity Special Topic Project)
Provides allergy-friendly and nutritious food to people in need.

The Patient Project: Advocating for Healthcare Equity - Washington, DC
Michel Ruiz-Fuentes (18); Frank Sheffield
Strives to ensure that everyone receives quality care, equal opportunity, and necessary resources for survival by providing necessary hygienic products to underserved civilians.

PeachTree Pad - San Diego, CA
Khloe Thompson (14)
Provides free eco-friendly, sustainable feminine pads for people in Ghana.

Project Hope - White Pine, TN
Jadyn Cotner (15); Kaelyn Blanton; Kaylee Canter; Braylon Cocco; Kenlea Cogdill; Caden Dover; Alyssa Hipshire; Rebecca Howerton; Olivia Hybarger; Isabella Johnson; Karissa Lindsey-Arwood; Isabella Samsel; Emma Whitaker; Aiden Williamson; Xavier Winstead
Provides personal care bags and basic necessities for domestic violence survivors and their pets.

Project Dreamcatcher - Long Island City, NY
Jahin Rahman (18); Fahmin Rahman
Provides educational opportunities for orphaned and homeless youth in Bangladesh and fosters friendships between their volunteers in the United States and the supported children.

REAL Consulting Program - Spring, TX
Charisma Abolo (17); Progress Adebayo; Samuel Muzac; Diane Guo
Hopes to bridge the socioeconomic and racial disparity in college attendance by providing assistance to high schoolers that lack access to the resources necessary for success in the college application process.

RisingSTEMs - Suwanee, GA
Nidhi Charagundla (17); Rhea Saravanan
Provides STEM workshops and project kits to children and teens in youth homes and Title 1 schools, allowing them to pursue their interests in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

SOS, Inc. for Youth Mental Health - Goshen, KY
Shamitha Kuppala (16); Krisha Thakker; Gia Mendiratta; Maggie Wong; Kayden Mulrooney
Tackles mental health for teens though connection making and communication.

Stories to Heal - San Jose, CA
Michelle Qiao (16)
Creates a workshop series to write, publish, and freely distribute an illustrated picture book humanizing and showcasing the individuality of different East Asian cultures.

Taboo Talkz - Santa Ana, CA
Andreanela Ordoñez (18)
Promotes vulnerability, self expression, and discussion on stigmatized topics among youth.

Tech Inclusion Project - New York City, NY
Tamanna Begum (15); Sasha Hori
Aims to bridge the demographic gap in the tech industry by providing resources and opportunities to underrepresented youth.

Z Feeds Go-Go Bags Project - Charlotte, NC
ZaNia Stinson (14), (Food Insecurity Special Topic Project)
Provides special bags to people experiencing hunger and homlessness packed with nonperishable food items, drinks, toiletries and encouraging reading material to offer hope.


The Colorization Collective - Seattle, WA
Anya Shukla & Kathryn Lao
Promotes diversity in the arts by supporting teen artists of color

Modern Divergence - Grand Prairie, TX
Faith Ajanaku, Maham Kazmi & Maxine Magtoto
Breaks the stigma revolving around mental and developmental health and raising awareness for the effect of mental health diagnosis on kids and teens

The Birthday Giving Program - Chicago, IL
Sonika Menon & Rinna Talwar
Provides birthday bags and celebrations to children, adults, senior citizens, and veterans affected by poverty, addiction, abuse, homelessness, violence, physical/mental challenges, old age, and loneliness30 Teens Nationwide Receive $3k Grants To Strengthen Communities