Prize-winning power girls
Two winners, in particular, that astonished me were Shannon McNamara and Heidi Keller.
Shannon has organized and founded the project known as SHARE, which stands for Shannon’s After-School Reading Exchange. She has stocked four libraries in Tanzania with over 20,000 books and offers after-school and weekend support with reading. Heidi has founded her own magazine to promote change and difference in the environment.
Read my interviews with them to find out more about these inspiring young women.
Shannon: I have always been an avid reader, and since I have also been a girl scout since I was five years old, my passion for girls’ education was fueled at a young age. Before my family and I traveled to Tanzania, I did some research about the needs of the community, and when I found out how drastically different girls were treated, I decided to put my passion to use by starting an all-girl after-school reading program.
Have you always had an interest with reading? Did that have anything to do with your decision?
Shannon: YES! My love for reading definitely impacted my decision. The typical student that we work with in Africa has never had a book to call her own. Even the schools only have about one textbook per classroom. I found this hard to believe, and wanted to give girls in Africa the same experiences with books that I was fortunate to have as a child.
How did you feel when you heard you had won the Barron Prize?
Shannon: Extremely humbled and honored. Winning the Barron Prize is wonderful news for SHARE, because a big part of SHARE’s mission is to spread awareness for the girls in Africa. Please visit our website: www.shareinafrica.org and “like” us on Facebook.
Do you have a message for other young girls who want to make a difference?
Shannon: Find something that you’re passionate about, and just go for it. Something that might seem like a small difference to you in the United States can be something that is life-changing for a girl in Africa.
And here is my convo with Heidi…
Heidi: The magazine was created to address two issues: Spreading the word about Change the World Kids as well as the environmental and humanitarian issues that we are concerned with, and to raise funds for the projects of Change The World Kids. We had many important projects which required funding, and no consistent source of revenue beyond grants, so I found a solution that could continue to further the group's work while generating income.
I work to promote an environmentally sustainable lifestyle, and want to encourage others to do so as well, because it takes a community effort—a community which includes people of all income levels and backgrounds, to make a global change. The title Regeneration represents the change that the next generation—my generation, is bringing about in the way we think and live in the 21st century.
What words of encouragement do you have for other young girls who want to make a difference?
Heidi: I feel like I can't really address this question without throwing dozens of clichés out there, but I've found that they all proved to be true. There is no age requirement for making a difference—skills need to be developed, but talent is carried by an individual right from the beginning, so there is no better time than the present to put your talents to work. Be persistent and don't be discouraged by obstacles.
How will you continue to generate sales for the magazine?Heidi: Graduating from high school in Vermont and moving on to college in New York City, I have since passed on my responsibilities as Editor-in-Chief of the magazine to a current high school junior.