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Reshini Premaratne headshotReshini P., 15, Virginia

Spending the early part of her life in Sri Lanka and later moving to a suburb outside Richmond, Virginia; Reshini has experienced two vastly different societies. She remembers being disappointed when she realized the prevalence of homelessness in the neighboring city of Richmond. “I learned that Richmond’s homelessness rate is the largest south of New York. And yet between my friends and my family, no one seemed to be talking about this.” Reshini was inspired to change her community’s attitude towards homelessness and started the X-Out Homelessness campaign in 2010. In the past 3 years, X-Out Homelessness has grown to include 21 schools throughout the Greater Richmond area, reaching over 10,000 students. Through the campaign, approximately $5,150 has been raised to benefit the homeless, and more than 275 pounds of goods have been donated to homeless individuals. In her words, the X-Out Homelessness campaign is helping “everyone recognize how powerful understanding and empathy are at encouraging people to lend a helping hand to those in need.”

But, a drive through the city to a night performance of the Richmond Ballet opened my eyes to the severe homelessness in my local community. I was suddenly empowered to make a difference.

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2015 peace first prize winners


brennan projectBrennan Lewis, 18, Apex, NC

Growing up a member of the LGBTQ community in North Carolina, Brennan saw firsthand the difficulties and feelings of isolation that LGBTQ youth can endure in a heteronormative environment. And while Brennan was very fortunate to have a loving support system in their family and friends, they saw others who weren’t as lucky. So with a strong sense of compassion, Brennan and a friend took action and courageously created QueerNC.


grace projectGrace Callwood, 10, Abingdon, MD

Grace is a cancer survivor who learned, through giving away clothing that didn’t fit her post-treatment, that anyone and everyone can help brighten the day of their neighbor. The girls who received Grace’s donation had just moved into a homeless housing complex and were thrilled to be getting new clothes for school. After hearing what a difference her donation made in their day, Grace wanted to help other children who were going through tough times.


jasmine projectJasmine Babers, 19, Rock Island, IL

After watching her best friend and sister endure bullying and witnessing the devastating effects that it can have on them, Jasmine decided it was time someone created an outlet to promote compassion and tolerance among young women.


xiuhtezcatl project 2Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 15, Boulder, CO

Growing up, Xiuhtezcatl’s father emphasized his obligation to taking care of the land – a privilege and responsibility that, in a world ravaged by climate change, he does not take lightly. He has been on the front lines of the fight for the environment since he was four, attending and leading rallies and summits, always willing to confront adult leaders for the current climate crisis we see today.


yasminearringtonactionphototwoYasmine Arrington, 22, Washington D.C.

2.7 million young people in the US have an incarcerated parent, and statistics show that they are more likely to drop out of high school and go to jail themselves because of it. Yasmine is one of those 2.7 million; she has experienced firsthand the financial and emotional burdens, and the marginalization that a family goes through as a result. And through building a meaningful relationship with her incarcerated parent, by forgiving him, she was motivated to do something to support her peers and help them find their own peace of mind and end this cycle of incarceration.