Young Heroes

by Elizabeth Ammirato

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from all across North America. Established in 2001 by author T.A. Barron, the Barron Prize annually honors a diverse group of 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive impact on people or the environment.  Fifteen top winners each receive $10,000 to support their service work or higher education. For more information, visit

Here are some recent winners of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes:

Alex Mancevski, age 17, of Austin, Texas founded a non-profit working to eradicate preventable diseases, especially pediatric Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. In the past two years, he has recruited 150 student volunteers from six local high schools to mentor 1,500 children each month at 20 elementary schools. His volunteers act as science coaches for underserved students, promoting health awareness and teaching the material needed for kids to participate in science fairs – a staple of the fourth- and fifth-grade curriculum nationwide, but an opportunity that many low-income students don’t have

Armando Pizano, age 18, of Chicago, Illinois created a tutoring program in Chicago to provide students in under-resourced communities with free weekly after-school tutoring and mentorship. His non-profit matches elementary students with high-achieving high school-age tutors. During the past school year, his program paired 100 tutors from five high schools with over 300 students at four elementary schools in the same neighborhoods. Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Armando believes the high levels of crime, gang violence, and poverty that often
characterize his Back of the Yards neighborhood stem from a lack of academic support and scarcity of role models. His tutoring program addresses both issues.

Mercedes Thompson, age 17, of Baltimore, Maryland co-founded an organization to reduce trash and plastic pollution in their city on the Chesapeake Bay. In the past year, their non-profit of more than 500 students, many of them young people of color, has convinced the Baltimore City Council to pass a citywide ban on Styrofoam food containers. They’ve also convinced Baltimore Public Schools to switch to compostable lunch trays. Mercedes and her co-founder began their work two years ago after learning that Baltimore incinerates most of its trash, including plastics, releasing toxic chemicals into the air. They were also tired of seeing their school’s Styrofoam lunch trays floating in the waters of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The girls decided to take action.



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