North Central News

Local teen awarded Peace First prize

Matthew Kaplan, 17, of North Central Phoenix, was one of five winners of the 2nd annual Peace First Prize, presented by Peace First, a national nonprofit dedicated to creating the next generation of peacemakers.

The Peace First Prize is a national award recognizing youth peacemakers, ages 8-22, who are leaders focused on making lasting social change in their communities. The five inspiring young people were selected as 2014 Peace First Fellows because through their compassion, courage and ability to collaborate with others, they have been the driving force behind positive changes in their communities.

After witnessing his brother being bullied at school, Matthew created The Be Open to New Experiences (O.N.E.) Project, a nonprofit dedicated to developing curriculum and facilitating an interactive day seminar aimed at creating a positive and inclusive school environment. The Be O.N.E. Project uses team-building activities to connect middle and high school students to each other through the sharing of personal insecurities and past bullying experiences.

“We have been teaching peacemaking in schools for 20 years and know first-hand that young people can make a real difference in their communities. The Peace First Prize is our way of celebrating youth peacemaking in action,” stated Eric D. Dawson, president and co-founder of Peace First. “We are proud to recognize our extraordinary Prize winners and are excited for them to join our growing number of young peacemakers and to invest in them as national peace leaders.”

Kaplan, who attends Tesseract School in Phoenix, and the other winners received a 2-year, $25,000 Fellowship to further their peacemaking work.

In August, Kaplan was named a regional winner in the Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program. Fifty-three youth from Arizona each received a $50 gift card and recognition certificate from Kohl’s for their volunteerism. As one of 182 regional winners, Matthew also received a $1,000 scholarship.

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