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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.

Matthew started the Be ONE (Open to New Experiences) Project, a bullying prevention program for middle school students, which aims to harness the power of peer pressure for good. The project holds four hour sessions that consists of games, teambuilding, and guided discussions that foster empathy, respect and community among its participants. As of October 2014, over 1,800 middle school students and 150 high school students and teachers have participated or volunteered with the Be ONE Project and it has become a core part of Matthew’s brother’s school curriculum. The Be ONE Project has also been featured on the Disney Channel through a PSA, reaching millions of young people.

“I felt I was in a unique position, as a teenager, to understand why the bullying was happening and to create a solution.”

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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.