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Matthew kMatthew Kaplan, 17, Phoenix, AZ

When Matthew Kaplan’s brother was being bullied in middle school, Matthew was convinced that those who were bullied did not fully realize the consequences of their actions; they often used technology and were able to separate themselves from the damage they were causing. As a result, Matthew saw his brother struggle and retreat into himself; he knew he needed to take action for his brother and other young people like him.

Imani hImani Henry, 13, Wilmington, DE

When Imani Henry was younger, she struggled with reading. She was eventually diagnosed with a birth-defect that made it hard for her to see and caused severe pain, contributing to her difficulties with reading. Following the diagnosis, she started to receive additional support from male mentors and soon became an avid reader. After this experience, Imani decided she wanted to give back.

Eli eEli Erlick, 19, Claremont, CA

Eli Erlick came out as a transgender girl at the age of eight, and she has felt the effects of transphobia ever since. For six years, Eli felt lost and alone; she had no one and no resources available to tell her otherwise. So when she learned there were other young people like her, feeling just as isolated, Eli knew she had to take action.

Amit dAmit Dodani, 16, West Hills, CA

Amit Dodani struggled with a speech impediment, which led to bullying from his peers. But instead of feeling defeated, Amit took the time to examine his experiences and realized it was a lack of empathy that allowed for his peers’ negative actions. He then joined a debate club, overcame his speech impediment, and began sharing his story.

Amanda mAmanda Matos, 23, Bronx, NY

Amanda Matos is proud of her identity as a young woman of color, but she understands the challenges she and other women like her face; growing up, Amanda experienced her share of racism and sexism. So, using her education and unique understanding of the injustices women of color face, Amanda decided to take action.

2015 peace first prize winners

Brennan

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

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

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

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.

Yasmine

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.