They're Leading the Way

Meet the five young changemakers who are up for the 2010 Do Something Award

May 26, 2010 | By Vickie An

Do Something challenges young people around the world to recognize a need in their communities, believe they can make a change, and then take action. This year, 1.2 million youths are on track to answer the call. Do Something's mission: to help those kids do something, of course.

The organization provides resources and seed money to young people who are working to make the world a better place. Each year, the foundation presents five outstanding youth leaders with $10,000 for their service work. On Monday, during an event at the historic Apollo Theater, in New York City, the foundation named its top five changemakers of 2010.

Now Do Something needs your help to decide which of those five should win the coveted Do Something Award—and the $100,000 grant that comes with it.

The Power of Youth

The five nominees—all 25 years old or younger—come from different walks of life and from all around the country. They are champions for girls, for kids living with disabilities, for green projects in their communities, and for public health in other countries. Who are these remarkable youth leaders?

Micaela Connery, 23, is the founder of Unified Theater. It's a high school theater program that showcases the talents of young people who are living with physical and developmental disabilities. Her inspiration to start the program came from growing up with her cousin Kelsey, who is disabled.

Kibera is the biggest slum in Africa, and only 8% of girls there ever get an education. Jessica Posner, 23, is the cofounder of the Kibera School for Girls and of the Shining Hope Community Center. Since Posner started the school, she has given more than 5,700 residents a new chance to succeed.

When the DHL Express hub in Wilmington, Ohio, was shut down, some 8,000 people lost their jobs. Mark Rembert, 25, is helping to jump-start the city's economy with Energize Clinton County. It's a community center where locals can learn about the economic benefits of going green. Since launching in 2008, the community has received $1.4 million in grants to aid the town in its environmental efforts.

Jacqueline Murekatete was only 9 years old when she became an orphan in her native country, Rwanda, in Africa. Murekatete's parents and six siblings were killed because of their ethnicity. In 2007, she formed the Human Rights Corner to educate people about the brutal crimes being committed against ethnic groups worldwide.

Wilfredo Perez Jr., 23, has dedicated himself to public health care for youths in Haiti. Perez created a program in the hard-hit country that trains community health workers, all of whom are orphans, ranging in age from 16 to 21. So far, the program has provided treatment to over 1,200 patients.

They Did Something

Actor Andrew Shue and his childhood friend Michael Sanchez founded the Do Something organization in 1993. Their dream was to create an online community that would inspire, support and celebrate teenagers who wanted to impact the world in positive ways.

Seventeen years later, Shue and Sanchez's vision has empowered millions of young people to get involved in their communities. The organization works with more than 1,200 school clubs across the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. The groups tackle all kinds of causes, including human-rights issues, poverty, bullying and education.

A Star-studded Night

Several familiar faces from Hollywood came out to offer their support on Monday. Actress Sara Canning, of the CW's Vampire Diaries, is involved in Do Something's environmental campaign. "We can take so many things for granted, and for our youth to realize that and to want preserve our planet is awesome," she told TFK on the red carpet.

Canning got some of her costars to film public-service announcements for the green project too, including actor Zach Roerig. "The younger generation is so in tune with what's happening with our Earth," Roerig says. "I think it's important for everyone to do something about the problems we face in society, rather than sit home and complain."

Elizabeth Gillies stars as mean girl Jade West on Nickelodeon's hit show Victorious. Gillies was also excited about coming out to honor her changemaking peers. The actress says that protecting animals is high on her list of favorite causes. And what cause does she think her character, Jade, would support? "For some reason, I really think Jade loves animals too, so I would have to say animal rights," she told TFK.

In addition to announcing the five Do Something Award nominees, Monday's celebration recognized director Brett Ratner, VH1 president Tom Calderone and Icema Gibbs of JetBlue Airways for their support of the organization. The evening kicked off with a performance by the Backstreet Boys, who sang their new single, "Bigger," and one of their older hits, "I Want It That Way."

Musician Peter Buffett, son of billionaire do-gooder Warren Buffet, took the stage next to perform a song he wrote for Earth Day called "Plastic Tomb." The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Buffett said, inspired the lyrics. And what is the most important thing his father has taught him about giving back? "The best lesson my father taught me about philanthropy is a lesson he taught me about life, which is listen to your own heart and your gut and follow that," Buffett said.

Let the Voting Begin!

Voting for the 2010 Do Something Awards has already begun. The public is encouraged to vote online for which of the five nominees they believe deserves the $100,000 grand prize. Last year's big winner was Maggie Doyne, a young woman who started an orphanage in Nepal at the age of 17. Click here to read Doyne's inspirational story.

You can also vote for your favorite famous do-gooders in new categories such as Do Something Movie Star, Music Artist and Athlete. To learn more about all of the nominees and to make your selections, visit DoSomething.VH1.com. The Do Something Awards will air live on VH1 on July 19.