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Jathusha Mahenthirarajan Canada, 18

Project: L.I.G.H.T. (Lead, Inspire, Grow, Hope, Transform)
Basic Human Needs: Education, Health

As a young teen, Jathusha was dissatisfied with the volunteer opportunities offered to young people. They lacked meaning and didn’t provide valuable knowledge or skills. Jathusha created L.I.G.H.T. (Lead, Inspire, Grow, Hope, Transform) to give young people employable knowledge and leadership skills. Their six core initiatives address topics ranging from literacy and educational opportunities, to mental health and physical health, to gender equality and self-confidence. L.I.G.H.T.’s programs tackle a variety of topics, but its overarching theme is empowering youth to create positive social change. Their initiatives teach the skills to create impact and provide a platform for youth to express their opinions to decision-makers and society at large. More than 200 students in the York region of Canada have completed L.I.G.H.T. training and implemented their own community projects, creating a ripple effect that has engaged an additional 1,000 young people. L.I.G.H.T. has influenced more than 10,000 people through social media, and mentored 60 children through their Start Small initiative. Jathusha intends to implement L.I.G.H.T.’s unique youth-engagement model globally with online versions of their workshops that will create systematic change in the way young people are engaged in society.