Age: 19 and 18
Hometown: Conway and Sherborn, Massachusetts
Project: Dollars for Darfur
Nick Anderson and Ana Slavin's "big idea" for fundraising and activism was born over dinner at Applebee's the summer before their junior year. The Massachusetts duo was horrified by the violence happening in Darfur, and they felt a moral responsibility to rally their generation to help. They were confident that if more teenagers knew about what was happening to the Darfuri people, they would take action.
Ana and Nick brainstormed, and just a few weeks after their dinner, they boarded a plane to Washington, D.C. to present their ideas to the Save Darfur Coalition.
Save Darfur liked what they saw. In November 2006, Nick and Ana's Dollars for Darfur: National School Challenge launched as the Save Darfur Coalition's new campaign. Dollars for Darfur is a nationwide fund-raising competition for high school students. The ten schools that raised the most money by the end of the school year would each get to send two student leaders on an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
The key to this project's success was how Nick and Ana got others involved. They created informational fliers, PowerPoints and a curriculum for the Dollars for Darfur website that students could easily download and use. But their most important innovation was leveraging social networking tools to connect with more students. The campaign spread like wildfire.
"We felt that Facebook and MySpace would be the fastest, most efficient way to spread the word about the Dollars for Darfur challenge. We wanted to demonstrate the potential of a positive, philanthropic use of social networking websites," Nick explained.
By the end of the school year, high-school students across the United States had raised over $300,000 dollars. Half of the money went to Save Darfur Coalition's political advocacy efforts, and the other half was split between Oxfam International and the International Rescue Committee to support their humanitarian relief efforts in Darfur.
"It was very rewarding to see the enthusiasm from other students, especially those in middle school. In the first days after we launched Dollars for Darfur, hundreds of students joined our Facebook and MySpace groups. The numbers increased exponentially and soon we had thousands of members and almost a million pledges," said Ana.
Nick and Ana have tirelessly spoken out to the media and political leaders. The have appeared on national television and radio to raise awareness about Darfur, and they even testified before Congress at a hearing on Darfur and the Olympics.
Nick was selected as Oxfam International's first youth ambassador, and last summer spent one month in Darfur connecting with Darfuri youth. Now in college, Nick and Ana serve on the board of Dollars for Darfur, allowing other high school students to run the challenge and inspire their peers.