Introducing the incredible, inspiring and motivated 2013 National AXA Achievers
|Colin Wells, Denver, CO
Teaches financial responsibility to children, teens and adults at the Young Americans Bank & Center for Financial Education. Concerned about the plague of credit-card debt, Colin has spent two years working at Young Americans Bank — the only FDIC-insured institution for people under the age of 22 — helping young people open accounts and explaining the banking process. He is also chairperson of the Youth Advisory Board of the Center for Financial Education.
|Jonathan Cohen, Highland Park, IL
Invented GreenShields, an airfoil for school buses that helps increase gas mileage of the heavy, boxy vehicles. To develop his device, Jonathan took classes on aerodynamics at Northwestern University, built a wind tunnel in his garage and consulted with professors at MIT. The biggest school-bus company in Illinois is set to install GreenShields on its buses, and school districts in California, Texas and Idaho are also interested in the device.
|Caleb Kumar, Blaine, MN
Designed a software program that automates the process of diagnosing bladder cancer, providing a fast, inexpensive and accurate way to identify cancerous cells by their shape, color and curvature. Caleb’s software is being used by BioView, a company that manufactures and markets imaging equipment. Having suffered a stroke as a high school junior, he is now working on an iPhone app for stroke patients in their rehabilitation.
|Dylan Mahalingam, Derry, NH
Seeing the incredible success of a fundraising website he helped create to benefit victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Dylan co-founded a nonprofit organization to inspire youth everywhere to work together in support of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The organization, Lil’ MDGs, harnesses the power of the Internet and social media to educate, engage and involve youth in solving problems in the developing world. So far, it has mobilized more than 4 million young people from 41 countries.
|Christopher Rim, Paramus, NJ
Founded an anti-bullying organization that has grown to include chapters at schools in his home state of New Jersey as well as overseas. The organization, called It Ends Today, raises awareness by conducting assemblies and programs at schools, and through the posters, booklets and bracelets it distributes. Now with more than 400 active volunteers, the organization has reached 65,000 students.
|Alec Urbach, Roslyn Heights, NY
Created a nonprofit organization, Giving From the Ground Up/Alec’s Animated Schoolhouse, to produce math, science and healthcare comics and films for elementary schools in Africa. The materials — which Alec writes, animates and edits himself — have been seen by almost 250,000 children in Ghana, Togo and Botswana. He is also the first sibling of a previous AXA Achiever to win a national AXA Achievement Scholarship; his brother Jourdan received one in 2009.
|Samantha Stoner, Mansfield, OH
Became the first blind runner to compete in high school cross country races with the help of a guide dog. Samantha, who lost her sight to macular degeneration in 8th grade, successfully lobbied to change the rules of her sport in order to run. She has appeared on Good Morning America and ESPN and has been profiled in hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, inspiring others while raising awareness of Stargardt’s Disease, the form of juvenile macular degeneration that caused her blindness.
|Maren Johnson, Watertown, SD
After learning that 2.4 million children die each year from hygiene-related illnesses, Maren enlisted more than 130 hotels in the United States and Canada to collect their used soap for recycling by the Global Soap Project, which sends repurposed bars of soap to Africa. She has developed a volunteer network of hundreds of teens and adults in three cities and created nearly 60,000 new bars of soap for donation. In 2011, Youth Service America named her one of the 25 Most Influential and Powerful Young People in the World.
|Joel Bervell, Snohomish, WA
Together with his sister, Joel started an organization called Hugs for Ghana to provide school and medical supplies for children in the West African country. He recruits and supervises volunteers, organizes collection drives, and arranges the delivery of supplies to Ghanaian villages, schools, orphanages and hospitals.
|Jordyn Schara, North Freedom, WI
Created HOPE, Helping Our Peers Excel, an organization devoted to volunteerism and community service. HOPE — whose projects include efforts to support American troops overseas, combat the contamination of water supplies by improperly disposed prescription drugs, and improve reading skills in poverty-stricken neighborhoods — seeks to create leaders, community activists and compassionate, global citizens.
AXA, in association with U.S. News and World Report, awarded $670,000 in college scholarships.
The winners, known as AXA Achievers, are students who demonstrate:
- Ambition and drive
- Determination to set and reach goals
- Respect for self, family and community
- Ability to succeed in college
Their achievements are recognized with two levels of scholarship awards:
- 52 state scholarships (plus DC and Puerto Rico) of $10,000 each
- 10 national scholarships (selected from the 52 state recipients) of $15,000 each (making their total $25,000)