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Isabella Griffin, Grade 6, from Alamosa, CO wins First Place Gee Whiz Kids™ Award
Washington, DC - Isabella Griffin, Alamosa, CO was awarded First Place for the 2014 Gee Whiz Kids™ Award given by the Heart of America Foundation®.

Isabella started Be A Buddy-Not A Bully because she was being bullied in the 3rd grade for how she dressed and a few other things. She went to some of her teachers and administration and was told that she was being a tattle tale, and that she needed to learn the difference between being bullied and girl drama. Isabella felt alone, like she had no one she could turn to. She went home to her parents, and told them she was scared and didn’t know what else to do, because nobody would help her. Isabella's parents talked to her and told her the best thing she could do, was stand up for herself. If she stood up for herself and let them know she was not going to put up with their bulling, they would stop. Isabella did just that, and after a little while the bullying did stop.

The following year, when Isabella was in 4th grade, there was a kid in her class that had Autism. He was being bullied and picked on because he was different. This made Isabella mad. Why pick on him, because he was different? She began asking “why do we do this to people? Why is it so cool to be so mean to other people?” Again, she would go home and tell her parents how it made her feel and they told her that she needed to remember how she felt when she was being bullied and understand that maybe he doesn’t understand what is happening, or maybe he doesn’t know what to do to stop it. Isabella decided she was going to stand up for him and tell everyone to leave him alone. It didn’t happen over-night but eventually, after everyone realized Isabella was going to be there to stop them, their bullying turned into genuine approval of him. He was being included in things like lunch, and people were talking to him and not making fun of him.

It seemed simple, she saw the change she made and thought that if she can do it then everybody can do it. Isabella spent hours on the computer and reading some books about building self-esteem. She went to her parents with an armful of information about bullying and positive things you can say to people who are being bullied, and lots of statistics. All she really wanted to do was start a club in school, but she didn’t know how to because her elementary school didn’t have clubs. Her parents told her if it meant that much to her, they would all go talk to the principal. Which is exactly what they did. The principal was very supportive of the idea and Isabella presented to the 3rd-5th graders at her school. Isabella's idea is that if the 85% of students who are “by-standers” would STAND-UP and STEP-IN, then they can stop bullying. She came up with the “Three C’s” which is Compassion, Confidence and 20 seconds of Courage…with these, kids are un-stoppable and they have the power to put an end to other people being bullied or even stop being bullied themselves. She wants kids to stop turning their heads, and start stepping in. Isabella understands that kids have more of an effect on each other than adults do. Kids tend to follow the leader, do what is “cool”. “I think being nice, standing up for what you believe in and doing what is right is “cool” and I think if enough people stand up for who they really are, and aren’t afraid to be who they really are then we can change our environments completely. Don’t let people know that you are afraid of them, or what they think. Don’t let someone who wants control over you have it! Find your 20 seconds of courage, your confidence and your compassion for others, and you will be amazed at the change you can make. It just takes one!”

Isabella has every student take a pledge to Be A Buddy – Not A Bully. She asks them to make a commitment that they are no longer going to be a by-stander, they are going to Stand Up and Step in. Isabella makes posters for every school, which every student signs. Along with the pledge and the poster, every child is given a bracelet that says “Buddies Not Bullies.” It serves as a visual reminder to the students that they have made a commitment to STAND UP AND STEP IN. Isabella is trying to start a movement across the nation to empower kids to make change in their schools and their communities.

Ive Jones, Grade 7, from Apex, NC win Second Place Gee Whiz Kids™ Award
Washington, DC - Ivy Jones from Apex, NC was awarded Second Place for the 2014 Gee Whiz Kids™ Award given by the Heart of America Foundation®.

ivejonesA 12-year-old girl from Apex [North Carolina] is working to help West African kids left orphaned by the Ebola virus in West Africa. Ive Jones gave up her 12th birthday(Nov 5th) to raise over 4000.00 for the orphans. Ive Jones also decided to make purses out of Liberian fabric in an effort to raise money for the orphans the orphaned children through www.morethanme.org. As it is Ive's her birthday wish is to collect more than $4,000. She donated the money to www.morethanme.org..The amount commemorates Ive's 12th Birthday and it's a dedication to the children who have died and become orphaned. She is also collecting hand sanitizer and teddy bears." Ive is also the Founder of GrantAWishLiberia. Aimed to continue providing food and education for the children of Liberia through her fund raising and awareness campaigns. You can find about her work on twitter @iamivejones and instagram @iamivejones Ive has also started an Ebola Bleach Pail Challenge, a petition ·to encourage Americans to help orphaned West children and joined Amnesty International in an effort to break the cycle of silence and ignorance towards the virus.· Ive is also passionate about God, dance, acting, design, technology, spreading kindness. She states, “We must empower girls through innovative digital content that promotes love." Ive is a passionate explorer in pursuit of excellence (specifically becoming a principal ballerina). Ive believes, we all have our own individual strengths to empower each other, celebrate and BE KIND."

NEWS VIDEO: Apex 11-year-old raising funds for children orphaned by Ebola

Marko Zirdum, Grade 4, from Hillsboro, OR wins Third Place Gee Whiz Kids™ Award
Washington, DC - Marko Zirdum from Hillsboro, OR was awarded Third Place for the 2014 Gee Whiz Kids™ Award given by the Heart of America Foundation®.

This summer Marko wanted to do something to help homeless people. After thinking about it a lot and researching what they might need, he decided to create hygiene bags. With his mother's help, he let friends and family know he was collecting unused personal hygiene items - travel or hotel sized soaps, shampoos and lotions; toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and so forth. During summer vacation, Marko collected and sorted the donated items. He used money that was donated to purchase recloseable storage bags and additional personal products to assemble the maximum number of hygiene bags possible. On November 10 he personally distributed the hygiene bags to individuals in Portland, Oregon. He engaged each person in conversation and offered them a bag. It was a truly a gift of the heart, a one-to-one connection made by a nine-year-old with many strangers in need.

The Gee Whiz Kids™ Award is given to children age 12 and under
who exemplify the value of service in America.

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More information about the Gee Whiz Kids™ Award or the Heart of America Foundation® can be found on the Foundation’s website at www.heartofamerica.org or by contacting Colleen Noland at colleen@heartofamerica.org.

Founded in 1997, the Heart of America’s focus is to provide children in need everywhere with the tools to read, succeed and make a difference. A national nonprofit headquartered in Washington, DC, its programs uniquely combine volunteerism and literacy. Since 1997, it has provided children living in poverty with over 1.8 million books and has helped volunteers serve more than 1,020,000 hours giving back to the community.

CONGRATULATIONS! 2014 Gee Whiz Kids™ Award

Heroes of the Heart™ Gee Whiz Kids™ Award [download application]

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