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$300,000 Awarded to Individuals Under 40 Working to Foster Positive Social Change

PR Newswire

GRINNELL, Iowa, May 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — 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:

Boris Bulayev, age 26, pres­i­dent, and Eric Glustrom, age 26, exec­u­tive director, Educate!

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.

James Kofi Annan, age 37, exec­u­tive director, Challenging Heights

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.

Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, age 35, co-founder and co-executive director, Encounter

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.

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