Newark, New Jersey – Sept., 1, 2020 – The Gem Project has announced its 2020 award recipients for their annual cash award given to young changemakers The Gem Project Fellow Award. For the past three years, it has been an award that has focused entirely on service and one’s lived experiences to improve their local communities. The Gem Project Fellow Award allows youth and young adults from high school, college, and graduate school help support personal initiatives/projects, offer relief, and/or advance their education.
In a time of national upheaval due to COVID-19, the award this year was offered to anyone across the country and nearly doubled in size. It has garnered the attention of applicants from over 20+ schools, 12 cities, and 6 states. At time of application, these schools included:
Alpharetta High School; American History High School; Brooklyn Preparatory High School; Clark Atlanta University; Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism; Donald M. Payne Tech; Farmington High School Science Park High School; John Adams High School; Mill Creek High School; New Jersey City University; New York Law School; Passaic County Technical Institute; People’s Preparatory High School; Walnut Hills High School; West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North; Rutgers University-Newark; Seton Hall University; and The University of Virginia.
The judges spanned industries from nonprofit, consulting, education services, law, and finance. It included current and former Board members of The Gem Project: Kyle Burford, CISA; Brittany S. Hale; and Sonya Spann.
While The Gem Project appoints 3 honorees for its award, they have plans to open select honorable mentions with seed grants to support other initiatives by the end of the week. The total cash prize split for this year including honorable mentions is: $3250.00.
2020 Gem Project Fellow Award Recipients:
- Yasmine Boto: New York Law School (1L, First Year) | Essay
- Ishva Mehta: West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North (Senior, Class 2021) | Video
- *Kaci Xie: Yale University (Freshman, Class 2024)| Essay
*At time of application was a high school senior at Alpharetta High School
YASMINE BOTO – NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL
First in her family to attend a four-year university, Yasmine Boto beat all odds stacked before her and graduated cum laude at Seton Hall University. Boto now embarks on a new journey, entering her first year at New York Law School. “My desire to work in public interest comes from a deeply rooted understanding of how one’s identity determines their place in this world,” said Boto in her application. Whether it was advocating for youth in the foster care system at her internship at CASA or speaking to formerly incarcerated individuals during her time at ACLU of New Jersey, Boto stayed focused to unite her passion for justice and service. It is her goal to engage in advocacy driven by deep relationships formed with her clients as a public interest attorney. We welcome Yasmine Boto as a 2020 Gem Project Fellow Award recipient.
ISHVA MEHTA – WEST WINDSOR-PLAINSBORO HIGH SCHOOL NORTH
A storyteller, teacher, and activist Ishva Mehta is determined to shatter the socioeconomic gap in education. As a senior attending West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, Mehta has always had an interest in advocating for more equitable conditions within education to see all youth reach their full potential. Whether it was volunteering to provide free tutoring services for youth as a freshman in high school to now, she has taught over 50+ young people since the inception of her programs. It was not until she traveled to Mumbai, India, she made the decision to go international with Write & Co, the company she founded as a high school student to promote literacy and shatter the socioeconomic gap in education. We welcome Ishva Mehta as a 2020 Gem Project Fellow Award recipient.
KACI XIE – YALE UNIVERSITY
It was Kaci Xie’s passion for data and statistics that led to her improving better ways of matching students at her high school to tutees that navigated the challenges of accessibility and confidentiality in mathematics, quite seamlessly. “Seeing how my tutoring instilled confidence inspired me to show more people the power behind mathematics. At the time, my chapter organized tutoring through a public spreadsheet. Not only did this former system jeopardize tutee privacy, but it also encouraged members to cherry pick the people they wanted to tutor, causing a lot of people who needed help to go unnoticed,” remarked Xie. ”I wondered if there was a method to make tutoring more accessible and confidential, and thus, it became my mission to help as many students as possible with the subject I adored the most.” Closing at nearly 400 hours of tutoring during one of her final semesters between colleagues, Xie programmed better systems through mapping and formulas. She hopes to show others the stories hidden among statistical values. In her words, “I use Excel so others can excel.” We welcome Kaci Xie as a 2020 Gem Project Fellow Award Recipient.
About The Gem Project, Inc.
Founded in 2006, The Gem Project serves to boost high school to college student engagement through youth organizing, employment, peer-mentoring, and service-learning initiatives that take on a social justice approach. The Gem Project has been featured in Forbes Magazine, Forbes.com, Black Enterprise, and highlighted by the Barack Obama Administration on the White House Blog, for youth-run initiatives.