Grinnell College today named the winners of the first Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize: Boris Bulayev, president, and Eric Glustrom, executive director, Educate! (shared award); James Kofi Annan, executive director, Challenging Heights; and Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, co-founder and co-executive director, Encounter.
The Grinnell Prize, which received more than 1,000 nominations from 66 countries, honors individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change. Each winning entry receives $100,000, half to the individual(s) and half to an organization the winner(s) designates for a total of $300,000 awarded this year in prize monies. The inauguration of Grinnell College's 13th president Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D. marks a transition point for the college. The prize commemorates the occasion and celebrates Grinnell’s historical and future commitment to positive social change.
“The winners of the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize are outstanding examples of people who saw a huge social need and then worked creatively to meet that need and make the world a better place,” Kington said. “Since its founding, Grinnell has encouraged students to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good. Boris, Eric, James and Melissa exemplify this core Grinnellian value, and their stories and achievements will inspire students at Grinnell and around the world.”
The pool of nominees for the Grinnell Prize spanned a diverse array of social issues, including hunger relief, disaster relief and accountability, childhood education, economic development and the environment, literacy, community-produced news, youth arts, fair housing, violence prevention, immigration, GLBTQ, restorative justice, public access to healthcare delivery, children’s mental health, urban agriculture and global peace, among many others.
Details of Grinnell College Prize winners are as follows:
Glustrom started Educate! at the age of 17 after filming a refugee settlement in Uganda for a documentary. Bulayev became involved while both were attending Amherst College. Today, both have built Educate! to empower 1,400 youth across Uganda, where over half of the population is under the age of 15. Their organization provides social entrepreneurship training, long-term mentorship and access to capital to help youth create and lead solutions to poverty, disease, violence, environmental degradation and the highest youth unemployment rate in the world.
The government of Uganda recently asked Educate! to incorporate its social entrepreneurship course into the national education system. It will reach 45,000 youth annually and be the world’s first national social entrepreneurship curriculum.
A survivor of child trafficking, Annan established Challenging Heights to provide education and rehabilitation for children who have returned from slavery and horrific forms of child labor.
From the age of six to 13, he worked as a child fisherman in more than 20 villages before he finally escaped and returned to his home. At the time he could neither read nor write, but he befriended kindergartners so that he could use their schoolbooks and teach himself to read. He worked to feed himself and pay for school. Annan later rose to become a university graduate and manager at Barclays Bank of Ghana. In April 2007, he resigned from the bank to devote his full-time efforts to promote the mission of Challenging Heights – his multi-faceted approach includes addressing the root cause of child trafficking by providing education, health and advocacy programs for formerly enslaved and vulnerable children and their families.
Weintraub co-founded an organization training Jewish leadership to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by providing Jewish leaders with firsthand exposure to Palestinian narratives and realities on the ground. Encounter’s flagship program has brought more than 1,000 influential Jewish leaders on trips to Palestinian cities, representing the only significant non-military Jewish presence in Palestinian areas of the West Bank in the last decade. Encounter’s target audience—rising and prominent leaders, opinion-shapers and decision-makers—have wide-ranging constituencies, and therefore access to hundreds of thousands of hearts and minds. Melissa’s bold, transformative approach stresses civil discourse across political divides within the Jewish community, attracting "unusual suspects," supporting influential leaders on the right and left to gain a more nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and accordingly, to reshape their funding priorities, advocacy efforts, and policy decision-making.
On October 26 and 27, 2011, the winners will visit the campus to participate in the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize Symposium and awards ceremony. Through public lectures and interactions with students, they will share their experiences and perspectives in shaping innovative programs that effect positive social change. In addition, Morris Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center and noted civil rights lawyer, will be the keynote speaker at the symposium.
Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four-year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations and pre-professional programs.