Two Portland teenagers recently were recognized for their outstanding acts of volunteerism, specifically through founding nonprofit organizations seeking to better our community. Elliot Shin and Jaden Winn were both honored with the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes for 2020.

Elliot, an accomplished oboist, started a nonprofit called Olivenbaum that educates and empowers refugees and strives to bring peace through music. His group provides academic tutoring, free music classes and college scholarships for refugees in our community. Elliot recruited 45 peers to serve as academic tutors for refugee students. A local nonprofit matched them with refugee families. But he went a step further and also asked refugee students to share their knowledge by arranging for refugee students who spoke Arabic to serve as tutors for high schoolers taking Arabic language courses. “So often refugees are misunderstood as ‘outsiders,’ not worthy of belonging,” says Elliot. “I’ve learned the importance of overcoming misconceptions and that most everyone wants to give back and to belong.”

Jaden founded Youth Igniting Change, an alliance of youth activists working to promote climate justice, advocate for homeless youth, and advance the conversation around equity and inclusivity. His group helped organize Portland’s climate strikes in 2019, when nearly 30,000 people marched to demand climate action. Jaden and his team recently worked alongside organizations like Citizens’ Climate Lobby and Affected Generation to successfully advocate for statewide climate policy reform. Youth Igniting Change also helps homeless youth through monthly deliveries of self-care bags and will soon expand the program. “I believe it’s up to my generation to redefine what it means to be an engaged and caring citizen,” says Jaden. “My goal is to bring ordinary young people together to turn seemingly small everyday actions into a movement of social uprising.”

Denise Castañon
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