2015 Grinnell Prize Winners

The power of words and language to effect positive change in individuals and societies is the focus of the 2015 Grinnell Prize, the largest monetary award presented by a U.S. college recognizing achievements in social justice.

Grinnell College has selected two winners of the $100,000 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize this year: Deborah Ahenkorah, cofounder and executive director of Golden Baobab, and Maria Vertkin, creator and executive director of Found in Translation. Each prizewinner will receive $50,000 as an individual and $50,000 for her organization.

Deborah Ahenkorah, Golden Baobab

Ahenkorah, 28, founded Golden Baobab in 2008 in Accra, Ghana, to encourage the creation, production and distribution of high-quality, culturally relevant children's literature by Africans for Africans. The first arts and literary organization to win a Grinnell Prize, Golden Baobab nurtures emerging African writers and illustrators through annual awards (with cash prizes), as well as workshops to provide resources and develop talent. The organization has formed its own literary agency and publishing company. Ahenkorah was nominated for the Grinnell Prize by her sister, Eunice, a 2013 graduate of Grinnell College.

Maria Vertkin, Found in Translation

Vertkin, 29, started Found in Translation in 2011 in Boston to support and train homeless and low-income bilingual women to start careers as professional medical interpreters. The organization attacks the twin challenges of economic disadvantages faced by minority women, as well as racial, ethnic, and linguistic disparities in health care. From 20 to 30 women graduate from the program each year, earning a certificate in medical interpretation and receiving career placement services.