Five Young Leaders Who Inspire Us…And What Inspires Them

Five Young Leaders Who Inspire Us…And What Inspires Them

From starting a scholarship for youth of incarcerated parents to building a mobile app that empowers foster care youth, young leaders today are finding innovative, powerful ways to make a difference for the leaders of tomorrow. This year, for the first time, America’s Promise is honoring five of them with a People of Promise award, which recognizes young adult leaders in their 20s who are using their experiences and talents to transform the lives of children.

Along with being formally recognized at our 20th anniversary Recommit to Kids Summit, each of these awardees will receive a gift of $20,000 to put toward their organization. AT&T is awarding the gift as part of its Aspire initiative.

In addition, America’s Promise will recognize Promise of America award winners, the leaders of industries, corporations, foundations or celebrities who reflect the values of America’s Promise; a Powell Legacy award winner, an organization that serves as a public model for the Alliance’s work; and Promise Heroes, the “unsung” heroes around the nation who tirelessly support their communities in ways large and small.

Read more about this year’s People of Promise below, and discover what each of them find promising about America’s future.

Sixto Cancel, 25, Empowering Foster Youth through Mobile App Think of Us: “When people mobilize, revolutions are started.”

Sixto Cancel grew up in foster care. In high school, he launched Stellar Works to offer afterschool tutoring and transportation for students with a history of foster care involvement. He later founded Think of Us to extend the duration and quality of foster care supports to youth. Think of Us is a life coaching web and mobile application that empowers youth to build their own support systems, including a personal advisory board. Cancel is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Follow Sixto Cancel on Twitter @SixtoCancel

What gives Cancel the most hope for America’s future? “The power of connection. We live in a world that is more connected than ever before, and when people connect, they mobilize for what they believe in. When people mobilize, revolutions are started. We will face several hardships ahead, but despite the political climate and other challenges, our ability to connect and mobilize will overcome.”

Quardean Lewis-Allen, 29, Combating Youth Unemployment through Made in Brownsville: “…limitless social connections that will bridge gaps, break barriers, and democratize knowledge.”

Quardean Lewis-Allen is the founder of Made in Brownsville, a nonprofit “youth creative agency and innovation hub” working to combat high levels of youth unemployment. Mentors working in creative fields train young people ages 14 to 24 through 12-week apprenticeships. Through art, creativity, and design, they learn STEAM skills and create products for sale in their online store. Lewis-Allen graduated from SUNY Buffalo and earned a Master of Architecture degree at Harvard. He teaches architecture at City College of New York.

Follow Made in Brownsville @madeinbville and Quardean Lewis-Allen @khward_deen

What gives Lewis-Allen the most hope for America’s future? “Knowing that youth will have access to limitless social connections that will bridge gaps, break barriers, and democratize knowledge. Our brightest minds won't be cultivated in ivory towers, but anywhere their creativity, inquisitiveness, and fingertips take them. #knowledgeforall”

Yasmine Arrington, 24, Supporting Youth of Incarcerated Parents through ScholarCHIPS: “With our brain power and collective force, I have great hope for America's future.”

Yasmine Arrington, whose father spent time in prison, founded ScholarCHIPS to break down the stigma and burden of shame that comes with having an incarcerated parent. The nonprofit provides mentoring, support, and scholarships to high school graduates who have incarcerated parents. To date, the nonprofit has given over $80,000 in college scholarships to 23 students. Arrington is a graduate of Elon University and a graduate student at Howard University School of Divinity.

Yasmine Arrington
Follow Yasmine Arrington on Twitter @yazziespeaks

What gives Arrington the most hope for America’s Future? "Though there are political agendas that are alarming and potentially threatening many Americans' wellbeing…many youth are working to make the world a better place, and these are the future political, religious, environmental, technological, business and social leaders of tomorrow. With our brain power and collective force, I have great hope for America's future."

Alejandro Gac-Artigas, 28, Closing the Reading Achievement Gap and Fighting Summer Learning Loss through Springboard Collaborative: “While we worry about the present, [youth] are building a brave new future.”

Alejandro Gac-Artigas is a first-grade teacher turned entrepreneur. He founded the Springboard Collective to fight summer learning loss and help close the reading achievement gap by coaching teachers, engaging and training family members, and cultivating reading habits. Students in the summer program gain an average of three months in reading proficiency. Gac-Artigas is a graduate of Harvard University and has a master’s degree in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Follow Alejandro Gac-Artigas on Twitter at @SpringboardNTL
Follow Alejandro Gac-Artigas on Twitter at @SpringboardNTL

What gives Gac-Artigas hope for the future? “Social progress is a stepwise function. For all the effort we put into making incremental progress, the next generation offers our society the best chance to leap forward. I have hope for the future—despite a deeply concerning political climate—because I know that our young people are smarter, more empathetic, more creative, and more progressive than ever before. While we worry about the present, they are building a brave new future.”

Law Loving, 26, Helping Students Become College Bound through CareerConnect: “...resilience and an innovative spirit…”

Law Loving grew up in Johnson, Tennessee. A star student, he received a Niswonger Scholarship, which covered his costs at Tulane University. Scholarship recipients pledge to return to a career in their hometowns, so Loving returned to earn an MBA at East Tennessee State University and to work for CareerConnect, a program to help students who are not college bound get the mentoring, career exposure, and planning they need to be ready for postsecondary education and high-quality jobs. Loving is working to expand CareerConnect from one pilot to 13 counties in East Tennessee.


What gives Loving the most hope for America’s future? “The country's youth have had to live through the Great Recession and all the economic impacts that came with it. From skyrocketing student loan debt to unemployment and underemployment, this is a generation that has been dealt a tough hand. Yet these obstacles have also bred resilience and an innovative spirit. These traits will help America's youth overcome any obstacles they face and ultimately will lead to a brighter American future than ever before.”

To find out which adults are receiving this year’s Promise of America awards, read Celebrating Progress: Five Industry Leaders Making a Real Difference for Young People.