The ideas can be simple: converting a vehicle into a wash station for homeless veterans. Providing books for kids while they wait at the barbershop. Turning a passion for diving into a movement to save coral reefs.
All of the honorees will receive a grant along with organizational and capacity-building support from The Elevate Prize Foundation. They will also participate in the foundation’s annual Make Good Famous Summit in Miami.
Yasmine Arrington: Helping teens with incarcerated parents
Growing up, Yasmine Arrington knew firsthand the challenges that came with having an incarcerated parent.
“My father has been in and out of jail and prison my entire life,” she said. “I began to do research, and I learned that there’s so many other people that are kind of my age experiencing what I’m experiencing.”
When she was 16, she created the nonprofit ScholarCHIPS – with CHIPS as an acronym for Children of Incarcerated Parents – to help young people like herself with scholarships, mentoring and a network of support.
The organization has since awarded more than $450,000 in scholarships and other aid and supported more than 80 scholars working toward their college degrees. New scholars join the program each year.
Osei Boateng: Bringing health care to remote communities
In many regions of Ghana, it can take hours to get to the nearest hospital. As a result, many people lose their lives to treatable illnesses. Osei Boateng experienced this personally when he lost his grandmother and aunt.
Feeling an urgent call to help, Boateng decided he would make it his life’s mission to bring health care to remote communities in Ghana.
“These people don’t have the luxury of time,” Boateng said.
Boateng started his nonprofit, OKB Hope Foundation, and in 2021, he converted a van into a mobile doctor’s office and started bringing health care directly to those in need.
A few times a week, the mobile clinic and medical team travel long distances to remote communities in Ghana and provide free routine medical care.
Stacey Buckner: Meeting the needs of homeless veterans
In 2008, a stroke and subsequent traumatic brain injury (TBI) nearly killed Stacey Buckner. Today, she says her miraculous road to recovery led her to the outreach work that has become her life’s mission.
Through her program, Off-Road Outreach, Buckner has helped more than 1,000 veterans in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Using her own off-road vehicle – a Jeep that has accommodations for water, heating, and cooking – Buckner provides mobile showers, laundry services, and meals to homeless veterans.
Since 2015, Buckner travels to hard-to-reach places each week to find and serve veterans in need. Without judgment, Buckner asks what she can do to help them.
“There should be no homeless vets, period,” Buckner said. “I am to a lot of them their only family.”
Mike Goldberg: Rebuilding Florida’s coral reefs
In 1996, Mike Goldberg left his job in Los Angeles to follow his passion for underwater diving. Goldberg and his family later settled in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, and opened a dive shop, Key Dives.
As an avid diver, Goldberg developed a strong appreciation for the coral reefs and their essential role in the marine ecosystem. Today, he’s on a mission to help bring the area’s coral reefs back to life through his nonprofit, I.CARE.
Goldberg says the organization has transplanted more than 10,000 corals and educated more than 2,000 people. The I.CARE team monitors and maintains all of the transplanted coral, making sure it’s thriving.
“There’s so much work to do. We’re just getting started,” Goldberg said.
Tescha Hawley: Helping her Native American community
When Tescha Hawley received her breast cancer diagnosis at age 46, the lifesaving treatment she needed several times a month was at a hospital a three-hour drive away.
Hawley, a member of the Gros Ventre tribe, has two master’s degrees, yet the challenges she had to navigate to receive the care she needed were daunting. As a single mother, Hawley ultimately took leave without pay to complete her treatment.
“As American Indian people, we represent the highest (rates) of everything – diabetes, heart disease, cancer – and we receive the poorest health care,” Hawley said.
After her experience, Hawley founded the Day Eagle Hope Project in 2017, and her nonprofit has since expanded to address many other needs of Native Americans in her community.
Alvin Irby: Providing access to books and a love of reading
In 2008, first grade teacher Alvin Irby stopped by a Bronx barbershop after school for a haircut. Before long, one of his students came in.
“He’s kind of looking bored,” Irby recalled. “I’m looking at this student (thinking), ‘He should be practicing his reading.’ But I didn’t have a book.”
That moment stayed with Irby, and five years later he started Barbershop Books. Since 2013, the nonprofit has brought more than 50,000 free children’s books to more than 200 barbershops in predominantly Black neighborhoods across the country.
Irby is working to change lower literacy rates by encouraging boys to read for fun, on their own.
“Our program is about getting kids to say three words: ‘I’m a reader,’” he said.
Adam Pearce: Healing brain injuries with yoga and community
Kevin Pearce was at the height of his professional snowboarding career and bound for the Winter Olympics. During training, he struck his head on the edge of a halfpipe, resulting in a traumatic brain injury.
He had to relearn how to walk and talk. He eventually started yoga, and his family saw how it transformed him and gave him a sense of hope.
“I remember … coming out of a class with him and just seeing in his face this new expression, this new person,” his brother Adam Pearce said.
Wanting to bring hope and healing to others through yoga and meditation, Adam and Kevin co-founded the LoveYourBrain Foundation. The organization aims to create a safe space and supportive community where people with a TBI can heal together.
Estefanía Rebellón: Classrooms for migrant children
Estefanía Rebellón understands the fear and uncertainty felt by the more than 70 million migrant and forcibly displaced children around the world. She was a migrant child, too.
In 2018, she was so moved after volunteering in migrant camps in Tijuana, Mexico, that she put her acting career on hold.
“There were no schools set up to help these kids. They were walking around the camps barefoot,” she said.
Rebellón and her partner used their savings to buy tents and supplies and set up a makeshift school at the US-Mexico border. Then they transformed buses into mobile classrooms to reach more families.
Now, through her nonprofit, Yes We Can World Foundation, she provides education for children living in limbo in shelters at the border. Since 2019, Rebellón says the group has served more than 3,100 migrant children.
Mama Shu: Transforming a neglected block into a village of beauty
Every parent’s worst nightmare is losing their child. Shamayim Harris has lived through that nightmare – twice.
Her 2-year-old son was struck and killed in a hit-and-run in 2007 in Highland Park, a suburb of Detroit. Years later, her 23-year-old son was shot and killed while on a neighborhood watch.
“I needed to … change grief into glory, pain into power,” said Harris, who is known as Mama Shu.
In 2016, she created the Avalon Village, a nonprofit with the mission of creating a safe and nurturing space for the entire Highland Park community. Today, she and her organization own 45 lots of land across three blocks. The biggest project has been fully refurbishing an abandoned house into an after-school hub for children.
Dr. Kwane Stewart: Caring for the pets of the homeless
Dr. Kwane Stewart’s outreach on the streets started more than a decade ago. On a whim, the veterinarian stopped to examine the dog of a homeless man outside a 7-11 where he got his coffee.
Stewart treated the dog’s skin condition and the animal was transformed. But for Stewart, the man’s gratitude was a wakeup call: “Thank you for not ignoring me” were the words that Stewart says inspired his next chapter.
Stewart’s nonprofit, Project Street Vet, provides medical care to the pets of people experiencing homelessness.
“It doesn’t matter what your situation is … I see a pet in need, and I see a person who cares for them dearly who just needs some help,” Stewart said.