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The Ultimate Guide to the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

If you’re passionate about combining community service with STEM or the humanities, definitely check out the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. It is an extraordinary award that celebrates the remarkable achievements of young individuals who have dedicated themselves to making a positive impact on their communities and the world. This prestigious recognition program goes far beyond traditional awards, providing a platform for young heroes, aged 8 to 18, to showcase their outstanding efforts in diverse fields. In this guide, we will delve into every aspect of the Barron Prize, from its origins to the application process and the incredible recognition and support it offers.


What is the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes?

Named in honor of its founder’s mother, Gloria Barron, this annual prize is dedicated to celebrating the exceptional leadership and service of young individuals. Unlike traditional recognition programs that often focus on a single domain of achievement, the Barron Prize honors young heroes who have excelled in various areas, such as community service, environmental conservation, and social advocacy.


Established in 2001 by author T. A. Barron, the Barron Prize annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment. Since its inception, the Barron Prize has awarded more than half a million dollars to hundreds of young leaders and has won the support of the National Geographic Education Foundation, Girl Scouts of the USA, and National Youth Leadership Council, among other organizations. So far, this program has honored 575 young people in the 23 years since its inception, with the youngest winner being just 8 years old. These winners have raised over $26 million dollars doing humanitarian and environmental service work.


Is the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes prestigious?

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes is indeed considered prestigious within the realm of awards and recognition for young people who have made a positive impact on their communities and the world. Winners of the Barron Prize typically receive a cash award and recognition for their accomplishments. The selection process is highly competitive, with only 25 winners every year. Because of the rigorous selection criteria and the prize's association with positive social change, it is often seen as a prestigious award that enhances students' college applications and resumes and highlights the exceptional efforts of young individuals dedicated to making a difference in the world.



Who Can Participate?

To apply for this program, you must be between ages 8 and 18. You must also be permanent residents of and currently residing in either the United States or Canada. And of course, you should be working on a service project (or should have done so within the past 12 months). This service project must be done individually — the Barron Prize does not accept applications from groups.


What Can You Win?

The Barron Prize offers a range of awards and prizes that extend well beyond the recognition itself:

  1. Recognition and Visibility: Honorees receive public recognition and visibility for their outstanding achievements, providing a platform to share their stories and inspire others. Winners also receive recognition gifts: a personalized plaque and certificate.

  2. Awards and Grants: The Barron Prize provides awards and grants to young heroes to support their projects and initiatives. This financial support empowers them to take their endeavors to the next level and make an even greater impact. Winners each receive $10,000 for higher education or their service project. Each winner will also receive a signed copy of The Hero’s Trail by T. A. Barron as well as a copy of Dream Big, a documentary film about several former Barron Prize winners.

  3. A Network of Like-Minded Individuals: By becoming a Barron Prize honoree, young heroes gain access to a network of individuals who share their passion for creating positive change. This community offers opportunities for collaboration and support, allowing honorees to connect with peers who understand the challenges and rewards of their journey.

  4. Inspiration and Encouragement: The recognition from the Barron Prize is not just a one-time acknowledgment; it serves as an ongoing source of inspiration for young heroes to continue their work. It encourages them to persist, and it serves as an example for others looking to make a difference in their communities and the world.


Dates And Deadlines

The Barron Prize operates on a well-structured timeline:

  1. Nomination Period (Year-round): The nomination process is ongoing, allowing anyone - be it parents, teachers, peers, or community members - to nominate young heroes they believe deserve recognition for their exceptional contributions.

  2. Application Period: Once nominated, young heroes are invited to complete the application process. This application includes details of their achievements, impacts, and the stories that define their journey of making a difference. The call for applications is in early January, and those applications are due mid-April.

  3. Review and Selection: A panel of judges, often experts in fields related to the honorees' efforts, carefully evaluates each application to select the young heroes who will receive the Barron Prize recognition. If applicants are selected as a winner, they will be notified in early September, and in mid-September, the winners will be officially announced on the website and through social media.

  4. Recognition and Celebration (Annually): The selected honorees are publicly recognized and celebrated for their exceptional achievements and contributions to their communities and the world.


Selection Criteria

  1. Winners must have organized and led an extraordinary service activity that has clearly benefited other people or the planet we share. The service activity must have been initiated and motivated primarily by the winner himself or herself. The service activity cannot have been done solely to complete an assignment for school or work.

  2. Winners must have: • demonstrated positive spirit, courage, intelligence, generosity, and high moral purpose. • shown initiative, tenacity, and unselfishness in pursuit of their goals. • accomplished something with inspirational value—something that could inspire others to make a difference. • done more than survive a difficult personal challenge. Their heroism must have made an impact on the world beyond themselves.

  3. Winners may or may not have received recognition for their heroic work. Fame itself shall not have been a motivating factor.

In your application, you will have to include 3 letters of recommendation: one from a Lead Reference (an adult advocate who knows about your service project well) and two additional letters. Then, you must write a project summary (general information about your project) and a project essay (about why you started this service activity, what you hoped to accomplish, what you learned, etc.). You are allowed to provide supplemental materials that may provide more context to your application. More specific information about the Barron Prize application can be found here.

Notable Alumni and Where They Are Now

Nina Vasan (2002 Winner): Nina founded American Cancer Society Teens in high school and has continued her passion for health care ever since. She is the Chief Medical Officer at Real, a mental health care company building a new therapy model. Dr. Vasan is also a psychiatrist and professor at Stanford University, where she founded and directs Brainstorm: The Stanford Lab for Mental Health and Innovation. She received an MD from Harvard Medical School and has worked as a healthcare advisor to the UN and the Obama and Biden presidential campaigns. In 2013, Nina co-authored the best-selling book Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action, and Social Innovation.


David Sanchez (2010 Winner): David launched Job-Link Racine in 2008 to connect low-income teens with part-time jobs in his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin. He went on to study political science at Vanderbilt University to better understand the role governments can play in addressing societal issues like poverty. He then spent four years working at Google before returning to the classroom at Harvard Law School. David moved back to Wisconsin in 2022 to begin a two-year clerkship on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He continues to believe there is a critical role for state governments to play in creating the optimal conditions for social progress.


Recent Winners and What They’ve Accomplished

Zoe Terry (2023 Winner): Zoe founded Zoe’s Dolls in 2011 to support girl empowerment and combat bullying through programs that promote self-expression, a healthy lifestyle, and volunteerism. Her nonprofit has donated more than 50,000 black and brown dolls to girls of color across the U.S. and in Africa, India, Cuba, the Netherlands, Trinidad, Jamaica, and Haiti. She has expanded her work to include school-based Zoe’s Dolls clubs, which give students opportunities to serve disenfranchised communities of color. As the head of her school’s club, last year she led 100 student volunteers in raising $20,000 to create gardens and renovate buildings at four underserved schools in Miami.


Karun Kaushik (2022 Winner): Karun created X-Check-MD, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that can diagnose Covid-19 and pneumonia with 99% accuracy in under one minute. His tool is an initiative of Democratize Health, the nonprofit he founded to save lives in impoverished regions using fast, accessible, and cost-effective technology. X-Check-MD allows doctors to snap a picture of an x-ray with their cell phone’s camera, upload it to a globally accessible website, and receive a diagnosis within seconds. It is faster, cheaper, and more accurate than traditional methods, eliminating the diagnostic backlog commonplace in developing countries while reducing delays in treatment.


10 tips to win the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes:

1. Define Your Passion and Purpose:

Start by clearly defining the cause or issue you're passionate about, such as environmental conservation or youth education. Think about any issues in your local community that you might want to address. Is there something you can do about it? Consider this service activity almost like a passion project. Share your personal connection to this cause. For instance, if you're dedicated to preserving natural habitats, you can explain how your childhood visits to a local forest or a memorable encounter with wildlife ignited your commitment.


2. Initiate and Lead a Project:

Describe the project or initiative you've launched to address your chosen cause. Your service project does not need to address a global issue, nor does it need to make an impact. Of course, if that is where you see your service project heading, that’s great, too! However, it is most important that you start small and make direct contributions to some community or group of people rather than widening the scope too far. For example, if your project involves providing nutritious meals to underserved communities, outline how you initiated the program, organized volunteer teams, and assumed the role of a project leader, emphasizing the number of meals served and the volunteers you've mobilized.


3. Showcase Tangible Results:

Provide concrete evidence of the positive outcomes of your project. If you've been working on a program to empower at-risk youth through mentorship, highlight specific achievements like the improved academic performance of mentees, the number of youth who have successfully graduated, or any reduction in youth involvement in risky behaviors.


4. Share Personal Stories and Motivations:

Share a personal story or experience that motivated you to get involved in your chosen cause. If your passion revolves around supporting the elderly, recount a heartwarming encounter with an elderly individual who inspired you to create meaningful change in the lives of seniors.


5. Demonstrate Leadership, Commitment, and Collaboration:

Describe your leadership role in your project and how you've fostered collaboration. If you're leading a community clean-up project, explain how you've not only organized volunteers but also collaborated with local government agencies and businesses to ensure the project's success. Outline your plans for the project's sustainability and your long-term commitment to the cause. If your project is centered on a community garden, detail your plans for securing resources, recruiting volunteers, and expanding the garden's impact over the years.


6. Connect with former winners. Who better to ask about the prize than the former winners themselves? Since its inception, this program has awarded 575 people — this means there are 575 former winners that you can reach out to. Ask them how the application process works in detail, what would be a good project idea, how they went about brainstorming, etc. They may have better insights than anyone else.

7. Engage Diverse Audiences:

Share how you've reached diverse audiences and adapted your message for maximum impact. If you've been promoting mental health awareness, describe how you've tailored your awareness campaigns to engage various age groups, cultural communities, and demographics.


8. Measure and Quantify Impact:

Use data and statistics to demonstrate the project's effectiveness. If your initiative aims to combat homelessness, provide statistics on the number of individuals who have found shelter, the reduction in the homeless population, or the success stories of those who've transitioned to stable housing.


9. Share Your Vision for the Future:

Clearly outline your future goals for the project and how you plan to achieve them. If your project focuses on providing clean water to underserved regions, describe your vision of expanding to additional communities, implementing sustainable water purification systems, and ultimately eradicating waterborne diseases. Not only should you be authentic when deciding on your service activity, you should also be genuine in your application. Make sure you tell your story, and why you chose to tackle the problem you did. Create and convey meaning.

10. Submit a Compelling Application:

Ensure your application is complete, adheres to the submission guidelines, and effectively tells your story. You must send 3 letters of recommendation along with your recommendation. It is crucial that there are people who can speak to your strengths and your passion for your service project. Double-check that your application includes all necessary documents, such as letters of recommendation, transcripts, photos, and videos, to support your compelling narrative of change-making. Even though it seems like your service project is your application (although it is the majority of it), don’t forget that you also have to write a project summary and project essay. You may find it more difficult than you think to condense your service project into words, and you should not be rushing your writing.


Participating in the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes goes beyond mere recognition; it's about the opportunity to continue your journey of making a positive impact and inspiring others to do the same. Whether you're a young advocate, an environmental steward, a community leader, or a social change agent, the Barron Prize celebrates your efforts to create a better world. Visit the official Barron Prize website for accurate and up-to-date information on the prize's criteria and requirements. Your story, your passion, and your dedication can make a significant impact, and the Barron Prize is here to recognize and celebrate that impact. This award is prestigious and will also enhance your college applications and resumes.





One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to further enhance your resume while pursuing subjects that you’re passionate about, you should also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Jessica attends Harvard University where she studies Neuroscience and Computer Science as a Coca-Cola, Elks, and Albert Shankar Scholar. She is passionate about educational equity and hopes to one day combine this with her academic interests via social entrepreneurship. Outside of academics, she enjoys taking walks, listening to music, and running her jewelry business!


Image Source: Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes logo

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