YMCA of the USA Awards High School Students $5,000 to Lead Change in Their Local Communities

YMCA of the USA Awards High School Students $5,000 to Lead Change in Their Local Communities


YMCA Youth Governors 2024


WASHINGTON, (June 20, 2024)—YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), the national resource office for the 2,600+ YMCAs across the country, is excited to announce the winners of the 2024 YMCA Changemakers Summit. Now in its third year, the summit offers rising 9th–12th graders the opportunity to propose a project that addresses a critical issue or need in their communities. Finalists receive $5,000 to implement their project in their community.  

The summit took place June 12-14 in Washington, D.C. Out of the 80 students who participated, three teams were chosen by their peers as finalists. The awarded finalists and their projects are: 

  • Zoe Moreno and Annika Singh (TX) with project, Squads, Not Screens. During the pandemic, kids turned to online communities, leading to isolation, weakened real-life community bonds and deteriorating mental health. Squads, Not Screens aims to reverse this by promoting in-person school club activities, organizing school-wide events and educating students on recognizing and avoiding harmful online communities, ultimately fostering stronger local and national ties and improving teen mental health. 
  • Nandini Potturi and Jaabili Mallampati (TX) with project, Have Faith in Your Doctor. This project is an AI-driven app that connects users with doctors who respect their religious beliefs and simplifies appointment scheduling with matched practitioners. By using machine learning to consider religious preferences and healthcare needs, Have Faith in Your Doctor provides personalized doctor lists and detailed profiles, enhancing access to compatible healthcare services.  
  • Alice Chen and Mathew Reis (NY) with project Gorgeous Gardens: Long Island Nitrogen Pollution Solution. There is currently a pressing issue with nitrogen pollution caused by stormwater run-off in Long Island, New York, resulting in ecological dead zones, algal blooms and ozone depletion. Gorgeous Gardens will implement rain gardens in local public areas, reducing runoff, mitigating flooding and lowering nitrogen levels by 40%. These cost-effective, low-maintenance gardens will also filter pollutants, support pollinators and inspire community engagement and environmental awareness. 

YMCA Changemakers projects are completely youth-led. Each year, students participating in YMCA Changemakers select an issue based on the needs of their local communities and craft a proposal to address it. Past proposals have focused on topics such as emergency preparedness, youth mental health, period poverty, addressing hunger and more.  

The Changemakers Summit is informed by the YMCA’s Changemaker Strategy, which aims to prepare young people to be active contributors and stakeholders in decision-making within their communities. The Changemaker Strategy is guided by 3 principles: beliefs and values, meaningful experiences, and intentional settings. 

“Through initiatives like YMCA Changemakers, the Y empowers young people to address today's challenges and shape the future of their communities,” said Suzanne McCormick, President and CEO of Y-USA. “I am inspired by the finalists and every student who embraced this opportunity. Their dedication, ingenuity and civic mindedness give me great hope for a brighter tomorrow.”  


About the Y 
Driven by its founding mission, the Y has served as a leading nonprofit committed to strengthening community for more than 175 years. The Y empowers everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re from, by ensuring access to resources, relationships, and opportunities for all to learn, grow and thrive. By bringing together people from different backgrounds, perspectives and generations, the Y’s goal is to improve overall health and well-being, ignite youth empowerment and demonstrate the importance of connections in and across 10,000 communities nationwide. Learn more at ymca.org

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