The National Liberty Museum (NLM) will celebrate its 20th annual TD Bank Young Heroes Awards with a Virtual Awards Ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 12. The ceremony will honor 14 inspiring finalists, ages 18 and younger, who identified an area where liberty was lacking and took action to make positive change in their local schools or communities. Among those to be honored is Bill Zhang, a 16-year-old student a Holmdel High School.
Zhang founded DementiAid, a student-led initiative combating social isolation in underserved nursing homes through youth engagement in service. Through Zhang’s outreach initiatives, DementiAid has engaged more than 150 students across 13 New Jersey school in more than 600 hours of service. An example of the organization’s projects is Music4 Memories, where students provide devices such as donated MP3 players or iPods with personalized music playlists of seniors’ most beloved songs/artists as well as live performances by students. The project aims to to combine the power of music and technology to alleviate a lack of emotional connection patients so often exhibit in their day-to-day lives. In response to COVID-19, Zhang has raised and distributed more than 1,500 PPE supplies to a local nursing home.
Starting his freshman year, Zhang began devoted his weekends at the Millenium Memory Care living facility after his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In the midst of playing music, serving food or directing games, he couldn’t help but notice the loneliness, isolation and unsuitable living conditions – but also the fact that it seemed he was the only volunteer. This inspired the founding of DementiAid.
The TD Bank Young Heroes Award recognizes inspiring youth who, in protecting and preserving liberty, identified an area where liberty was lacking and took action to make positive change in their local school or community. Zhang will be joined by the other Young Heroes winners at a virtual awards ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 12 where they will receive a certificate of recognition, medallion and gifts as well as a plaque featuring their story, to be displayed for a year at the Museum’s Young Heroes Exhibition.
This year’s TD Bank Young Heroes were chosen from among a pool of national nominations from 11 states, and were submitted by friends, teachers and community members who recognized the incredible contributions of these outstanding young citizens. The award recognizes young people who have championed liberty through civic engagement, conflict resolution, diversity promotion, and school or community leadership. Each of the projects this year sought to help vulnerable and underserved populations, with many focusing on empowering other students in the use of technology and addressing community needs during the pandemic.
“We are proud to honor these young people for using their time, their talents and the needed resources to give selflessly to others, the very attributes of heroism that are ingrained in our museum’s mission,” said Gwen Borowsky, NLM CEO. “When these young people address inequities and injustice faced by those in their communities, they send a message to others that they are committed to protecting the cornerstones of our democracy – liberty and freedom. As they work every day to show that freedom and liberty matter, they make a difference in the world that is larger than their daily routine. These young heroes deserve recognition for the many purposeful and thoughtful things they do to make their schools and their communities a better place.”
Pennsylvania Market President Tom Shoemaker added, “TD Bank is honored to support this year’s TD Bank Young Heroes Awards for the 20th year at the National Liberty Museum. We greatly admire The National Liberty Museum’s dedication to celebrating diversity, promoting respect and defusing violence, qualities reflected in our own community philosophy.”
The Virtual Award Ceremony will begin at 1:30 pm. Each Young Hero will receive a special medal and certificate to commemorate the occasion, prior to the virtual ceremony. Additionally, a plaque featuring the winners’ stories will be displayed for a year in the Museum’s Young Heroes Exhibit. During the ceremony, one winner will be surprised with the honor of being named the President’s Honor Winner and will receive a $2,000 scholarship.
Other 2020 TD Bank Young Heroes Awards Recipients
- Nikita Bharati, 16, of Chandler, Arizona
Bharati founded the nonprofit Girl STEMempowerment to make available free, all-inclusive STEM-based programs to girls around the world. The program has impacted more than 15,000 girls in the organizations 20 chapters, offering workshops in introductory programming and environmental engineering, and hosting an All Girls BioTech Camp, All Girls Hackathon and All Girls Math Tournament.
- Molly Cantillion, 16, of Livingston, New Jersey
Cantillion established Techshare Project, a global youth-led nonprofit devoted to empowering underprivileged children in the world of technology. Techshare has hosted workshops in robotics, circuity, and coding; held more than 10 events in three countries; raised thousands of dollars to donate technology to communities in need in the Dominican Republic; and impacted more than 450 children.
- Brianna Davis, 17, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Davis wanted to create simple engineering activities that students with learning disabilities could enjoy. Her website, STEAM For All, features sensory and appropriate activities to engage students with autism.
- Andrew Diep-Tran, 16, of San Marcos, California
Diep-Tran founded Economics International, a nonprofit working to globalize equitable economic education access for underserved students, developing unique and engaging curricula for elementary, middle and high school low income communities of color. With four chapters in California and one in Seattle, there are also several chapters starting in South Korea, Singapore and Italy. In addition, he founded FIBE (Finance, Investments, Business and Economics) Fellowship at his high school, implementing two annual entrepreneurship competitions and organized the school’s first youth TEDx event.
- Matthew Genatempo, 17, of Sellersville, Pennsylvania
Genatempo used his engineering and 3D Printer skills to create Personal Protection Equipment for community hospitals and frontline workers in the Pennridge and Bucks County communities. Distributing PPE face shields to Bucks County Intermediate Unit No. 2, he exceeded his goal of 3,000 shields.
- Dev Joshi, 17, of Atlanta, Georgia
Joshi created the Carbon-12 Project to showcase the impact of climate change and developed in-person and online resources to empower communities to make environmental change at both the individual and systemic level. He is also fundraising to support The Children’s Eternal Rainforest’s tree nursery in Costa Rica to counter the country’s environmental deforestation issues.
- Amy Liu, 16, of Warrington, Pennsylvania
Liu founded Get in Touch!, helping to integrate the visually impaired community into daily life and bridge the blind and sighted communities. In addition to raising the money to purchase and distribute thousands of white canes, she started a braille magazine that educates blind individuals on STEM topics and fields.
- Trinity Pryor, 16, of Yardley, Pennsylvania
Pryor used her love for theater to develop a performance to raise awareness of eight local women veterans. In addition to two performances and a Youtube video, she repurposed the content into published books that were shared with the local VFW and American Legion.
- Tristan Riobe-Taylor, 10, of Nyack, New York
Riobe-Taylor oversaw a community holiday drive to collect pajamas for a local preschool and coordinated a project to decorate and package 25 small duffle bags of toiletries, a small blanket and a teddy bear for a local foster care and advertising agency so the children wouldn’t have to carry their belongings in a trash bag.
- Bianca Salerno, 9, of Haverford, Pennsylvania
Salerno has been baking daily sweet treats for First Responders at Temple University Hospital. In addition to individually packaging and decorating each treat, she writes an encouraging message on each treat.
- Zahyr Thomas, 17, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Thomas volunteers for the Mural Arts Program and Hip Hop Heritage. With Mural Arts, he has worked to beautify his school to make it a more inviting environment. With Hip Hop Heritage, he performs at local elementary schools, using dance as a way to encourage students to express themselves through dance not violence.
- Jace Wilson, 11, of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania
Wilson serves as a role model for young children on his block, tutoring and supporting them with their homework after school, and checking on his older neighbors, walking their dogs and maintaining their yards.
- Annie Zhu, 17, of Houston, Texas
Zhu initiated Fresh Hub designed to fight grocery store food waste and neighborhood food insecurity. Leading 15 Fresh Hub food distributions, she rescued 9,000 pounds of unsold produce and bread and delivered them to 1,200 residents in food deserts. In addition, she co-founded Readiness Across Mathematics, (RAM) to close inequity in education resources. The programs hosted a summer math camp and eight workshops in underprivileged neighborhood to help 90 fourth through sixth graders prepare for standardized tests.