Thursday, February 10, 2022

Nickelodeon and TIME Announce Top Five Honorees and Finalists for Second Annual Kid of the Year


Trevor Noah Returns to Host Kid of the Year TV Special, Produced by TIME Studios,
to Premiere on Nickelodeon on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT)

Special to Feature Appearances by Jabari Banks, Charli D’Amelio, Dude Perfect,
Rob Gronkowski, Scarlett Johansson, Zach King, Let It Happen, Charles Melton,
Gitanjali Rao, Meghan Trainor and More

Nickelodeon Stars That Girl Lay Lay, Young Dylan and Wolfgang Schaeffer Join
Kid Committee to Help Select Kid of the Year Honorees

Share it: @Nickelodeon @TIME #KidoftheYear

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--Jan. 19, 2022--Nickelodeon, TIME and TIME for Kids today announced the finalists for the second annual Kid of the Year, a multiplatform honor recognizing extraordinary young leaders who have made amazing and admirable contributions in 2021 in a range of fields, including social justice, science, education and more. Trevor Noah (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah) will return to host the Daytime Emmy® Award-nominated Kid of the Year TV special to highlight the top five honorees, with one outstanding kid ultimately being recognized as TIME Kid of the Year, and featured on the cover of TIME and in additional coverage in TIME For Kids. The special will simulcast across Nickelodeon, TeenNick and Nicktoons on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

The Kid of the Year TV special will introduce the top five honorees ahead of the ultimate Kid of the Year being named, and feature guest stars from entertainment, sports and pop culture to help surprise them and celebrate their work. Celebrity guests scheduled to make appearances throughout the special include Jabari Banks, Charli D’Amelio, Dude Perfect, Rob Gronkowski, Scarlett Johansson, Zach King, Let It Happen, Charles Melton, 2020 Kid of the Year Gitanjali Rao, and Meghan Trainor, among others.

Following a nationwide search that yielded thousands of inspirational kids to be nominated, the top five honorees are:

  • Cash Daniels (12; Chattanooga, Tenn.), an environmental activist working to conserve the rivers in his community, spending every day cleaning up cans and bottles near them. He has collected over 1,000 aluminum cans each week in 2021 alone and works to spread awareness about the interconnectedness of streams, rivers and oceans, and the threat that microplastics have on the environment. He is often joined by up to 25 kids for his regular clean-ups and runs a recycling program to collect cans from businesses. He also wrote a children’s book called “One Small Piece” about river pollution, which he reads to kids at the schools near him.
  • Mina Fedor (13; Oakland, Calif.), an activist working to end racism towards the AAPI community. At the age of 12, she organized a rally to help spread awareness about AAPI hate, which saw over 1,200 members of her community show up to support her and learn more about the issues that she, along with many others in the AAPI community, face in America. She also co-founded the middle school activist group AAPI Youth Rising (AYR), which is working to get legislation passed in California that would make the teaching of ethnic studies mandatory in public high schools.
  • Samirah Horton (11; Brooklyn, N.Y.), an anti-bullying advocate who uses music to spread awareness about the lasting effects of cruelty by others. Also known as DJ Annie Red, she has been rapping and DJing since the age of 6, using music as a way to share her message. Due to her deep and raspy voice, she has often been the target of bullies, leading her to write the song “No, You Won’t Bully Me” and book “The Bully Stop.” She travels across the country to give presentations to kids to bring awareness of the effects that words can have, and also to let kids who are bullied know that they are not alone.
  • Orion Jean (11; Mansfield, Texas), an activist who believes that spreading kindness is his life’s mission. He founded his cause, “Race to Kindness,” after winning a student kindness contest in 2020. Since then he has organized many successful “Race to Kindness” events that have included collecting over 500,000 books for kids who need them, collecting over 100,000 meals for families in need in the Texas area, and more. He also wrote his first book titled “A Kids Book About Leadership,” which aims to inspire other kids to start their own kindness campaigns.
  • Lino Marrero (14; Frisco, Texas), an innovator and award-winning inventor who has combined his love of sports with the desire to create practical, cool and eco-friendly devices. He recently invented the Kinetic Kickz 2.0, a shoe insert that can charge devices using energy that is generated from inside the sole of a shoe, charging as the wearer walks through the use of kinetic energy. The device has won at both regional and national competitions, and he hopes to continue inventing devices that can take advantage of this clean energy source.

The Kid of the Year finalists and honorees were selected by an Advisory Board made up of representatives from Nickelodeon, TIME, Special Olympics, Rosie’s Theater Kids and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA to help narrow down the top 20 finalists.  Of the 20, the five honorees were selected with the help of a kid committee comprised of Nickelodeon stars Alaya “That Girl Lay Lay” High (That Girl Lay Lay), Dylan “Young Dylan” Gilmer (Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan) and Wolfgang Schaeffer (A Loud House Christmas).

Each of the five Kid of the Year honorees will receive a cash prize and have the opportunity to serve as a Kid Reporter for TIME for Kids with exclusive access to a Nickelodeon event.  For additional information about the initiative, visit and here on for stories about the finalists rolling out leading up to the second annual Kid of the Year reveal.

The finalists also in the Kid of the Year top 20 this year are: Lujain Alqattawi (13; Millersville, Md.), Ruby Kate Chitsey (13; Harrison, Ark.), Miles Fetherston-Resch (9; St. Petersburg, Fla.), Gaurangi Gupta (11; Redmond, Wash.), Ethan Hill (11; Birmingham, Ala.), Khloe Joiner (9: Missouri City, Texas), Sadie Keller (14; Lantana, Texas), Zoe Oli (9; Atlanta), Jayden Perez (12; Woodland Park, N.J.), Genshu Price (13; Hauula, Hawaii), Kai Shappley (11; Austin, Texas), Jenell Theobald (15; Beaverton, Ore.), Sammie Vance (13; Fort Wayne, Ind.), and Alena Wicker (12; Cedar Hill, Texas). 

Kid of the Year is sponsored by Greenlight® and OshKosh B’gosh®.

The Kid of the Year TV special is a co-production of TIME Studios, Day Zero Productions, Mainstay Entertainment and Nickelodeon. Executive Producers include Ian Orefice, Mike Beck, Maria Perez-Brown, Rebecca Gitlitz, and Jeff Smith (TIME Studios), Andrea Delbanco (TIME For Kids), Trevor Noah, Sanaz Yamin, and Ashley Dizon (Day Zero Productions), Norman Aladjem, Derek Van Pelt (Mainstay Entertainment) and Ashley Kaplan, Paul J Medford and Luke Wahl (Nickelodeon).

About TIME

TIME is a global media brand that reaches a combined audience of more than 100 million around the world. A trusted destination for reporting and insight, TIME’s mission is to tell the stories that matter most, to lead conversations that change the world and to deepen understanding of the ideas and events that define our time. With unparalleled access to the world’s most influential people, the immeasurable trust of consumers globally, an unrivaled power to convene, TIME is one of the world’s most recognizable media brands with renowned franchises that include the TIME100 Most Influential People, Person of the Year, Firsts, Best Inventions, World’s Greatest Places and premium events including the TIME100 Summit and Gala, TIME100 Health Summit, TIME100 Next and more. 

About TIME Studios

From one of the most globally iconic brands, TIME Studios is an Emmy Award®-winning television, film and immersive studio focusing on the development, production and distribution of truth-based premium unscripted and scripted storytelling that moves the world. With technical innovation and a brand defining visual language that dates back 98 years, TIME Studios aims to impact communities and the world at large with ideas that forge true progress. Combining the industry’s leading creators with TIME, one of the most trusted brands that reaches an audience of over 100 million people globally, TIME Studios is uniquely positioned to bring massive audiences to the world’s most impactful stories. Recent projects include, Black Gold (Paramount+), Big Vape (Netflix), John Lewis: Good Trouble (CNN Films), Amazing Grace (Neon), Right to Offend (A&E), Ricky Powell: The Individualist (Showtime), Mass Effect: The Story of YouTube, Kid of the Year (Nickelodeon/CBS), TIME100 (ABC), TIME Person of the Year, and the first scripted project for TIME Studios, Women of the Year (Amazon).

About Day Zero Productions

Day Zero Productions, a joint venture between ViacomCBS and Trevor Noah, develops and produces diverse, high-quality creative content for a global audience. With projects set up both within the ViacomCBS family, as well as at other studios, streamers, and live platforms, Day Zero focuses on entertaining and necessary content, with an eye toward authentic stories from diverse points of view. Among the current projects are the adaptation of Noah’s best-selling and award-winning autobiography “Born A Crime,” with Lupita Nyong’o starring and a reimagining of the classic Paramount feature President’s Analyst. Additional features include a biopic centered on 8-year-old Nigerian chess champion Tanitoluwa Adewumi and an untitled animated feature with Paramount Animation and Mainstay Entertainment, based on an original idea from Noah. On the television side, Day Zero is producing several scripted and documentary series including partnering with Time Studios and Sugar23 on The Tipping Point, which examines urgent issues around the world from voting rights to civil rights, human rights to healthcare, and American Democracy to the global refugee crisis. Day Zero also produces Nickelodeon’s annual Kid of the Year TV special alongside TIME Studios.

About Nickelodeon

Nickelodeon, now in its 42nd year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The brand includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, digital, location-based experiences, publishing and feature films. For more information or artwork, visit Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of ViacomCBS Inc. (Nasdaq: VIACA, VIAC).

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From BSCkids:

That Girl Lay Lay Talks Kid Of The Year – Exclusive Interview

Tonight we will find out who the Kid of the Year will be as the special will simulcast across Nickelodeon, TeenNick and Nicktoons on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT). That Girl Lay Lay is part of the kid committee that helped to select the five honorees and we had the opportunity to speak to her about that.

Trevor Noah (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah) will return to host the Daytime Emmy® Award-nominated Kid of the Year TV special to highlight the top five honorees, with one outstanding kid ultimately being recognized as TIME Kid of the Year, and featured on the cover of TIME and in additional coverage in TIME For Kids. The Kid of the Year finalists and honorees were selected by an Advisory Board made up of representatives from Nickelodeon, TIME, Special Olympics, Rosie’s Theater Kids and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA to help narrow down the top 20 finalists. Of the 20, the five honorees were selected with the help of a kid committee comprised of Nickelodeon stars Alaya “That Girl Lay Lay” High (That Girl Lay Lay), Dylan “Young Dylan” Gilmer (Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan) and Wolfgang Schaeffer (A Loud House Christmas).

BSCKids: Lay Lay, how did it feel to be selected to the kid committee that was going to help selected the five honorees and what do you feel was the hardest part of this job?

Lay Lay: It felt amazing to be on the kid committee. I had so much fun, and everybody was so sweet and positive to be around. The hardest part of this job was picking the honoree. Everybody had a great impact and had great things going or great inventions so I wanted everybody to win. lol

Tell us a bit about working with Young Dylan and Wolfgang on the committee. Did you get to work with Trevor Noah on the show and how fun was that?

Working with Wolfgang and Young Dylan was really fun. We had great conversations about the honoree and, yes, I did get to work with Trevor Noah which was also amazing!

If you had one message for all the kids that were going to submit for the next year, what would you tell them all?

If I had a message for all the kids who want to submit for next year, I would say go in really positive, be very supportive to all the honorees you’re going up against and really just make sure you’re doing something or have something that stands out and will have an amazing impact on the world.

Do you have the opportunity with your schedule to give back, and if so, what do you do?

Yes, I do have the opportunity in my schedule to give back. Sometimes I’ll go live or make a video showing kids how to make smoothies or how to garden. I show them how to do easy workouts to keep them healthy and I give out positive messages to everybody.

If you could guest star on any Nickelodeon show, past or present, which one would it be and why?

If I could guest star on any TV show it would probably be SpongeBob SquarePants. That’s one of my favorite tv shows on Nickelodeon!

Thanks to That Girl Lay Lay for taking the time to speak to us…


From TIME:

Meet TIME's Top Kid of the Year Finalists

Each year, TIME and Nickelodeon launch a nationwide search across social media and school districts to find kids age 8 to 16 who embody five key attributes: determination, passion, kindness, bravery, and innovation. The result is TIME’s Kid of the Year, and these finalists are each changing the world in unique ways, big and small.

Lujain Alqattawi, 13
Millersville, Md.
Alqattawi created “Sparkle,” an organization that offers online English lessons for children, especially those living in refugee camps.

Mina Fedor, 13
Oakland, Calif.
Fedor founded AAPI Youth Rising (AYR), a group of middle school activists. AYR works to collect and donate ethnically diverse books to California public libraries, and has partnered with national organizations to raise awareness and support education on racism, ethnic diversity and AAPI issues in schools nationwide.

Orion Jean, 11
Mansfield, Texas
Jean created “A Race to Kindness,” an initiative to help others and spread kindness. With his community, Jean has collected and distributed more than 100,000 meals to those in need, and 500,000 books to kids with none at home.

Sammie Vance, 13
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Vance works to install Buddy Benches in her area. The idea of the bench is that it’s a safe place to signal that someone is looking for a friend or a connection. If you are lonely, you can sit on the bench. If you see someone on the bench, you can sit with them and lessen their feelings of loneliness and alienation.

Alena Wicker, 13
Cedar Hill, Texas
Wicker created an organization called “Brown STEM Girl” to offer mentorship, engagement, opportunities and advocacy to girls of color in STEM under age 18.

Lino Marrero, 15
Frisco, Texas
Marrero is an inventor who was honored recently for his ingenuity at the first Annual Invention Convention Globals presented by Raytheon Technologies. His invention, Kinetic Kickz 2.0, placed first in the 6th-8th grade category.

Jayden Perez, 12
Woodland Park, N.J.
Perez established a non-profit called “From the Bottom of My Heart” to collect donations and resources to help those in need.

Ethan Hill, 11
Birmingham, Ala.
Hill created “Ethan’s Heart Bags 4 Blessings” to call for donations and then create packages of food and other necessities, which he delivers to homeless members of his community (with help from his parents and local police officers).

Gauranji Gupta, 11
Redmond, Wash.
Gupta founded Youth4Us, which operates programs like a Bookaid (give a book, take a book), art classes every week, painting birdhouses to donate to charities, and reading classes.

Ruby Kate Chitsey, 14
Harrison, Alaska
Chitsey founded “Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents”, a nonprofit organization in 2019. She and her Kid Board work with essential staff across America to fulfill small wishes for nursing home seniors.

Zoe Oli, 10
Atlanta, Ga.
Oli created “Beautiful Curly Me”, a line of dolls, hair care products, and books that she hopes can instill self confidence in young black and brown girls. She donates 10% of all of her proceeds to charities that celebrate the beauty of black and brown girls.

Kai Shappley, 11
Austin, Texas
Shappley is a trans activist and testifies regularly against anti-trans legislation.

Cash Daniels, 12
Chattanooga, Tenn.
Daniels recruits local kids and teens to help him clean up tons of trash from rivers and other natural habitats.

Genshu Price, 14
Hauula, Hawaii
Price created Bottles4College as a way to merge his two passions: care for the environment on his beautiful island of Hawaii and funding college for kids who need help. He has recycled over 100,000 cans and bottles, and his goal is to create and sustain two annual college scholarships for Hawaiian students.

Miles Fetherston-Resch, 9
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Fetherston-Resch created “Kids Saving Oceans,” which sells merchandise (hats, shirts, and stickers) made from plastic that was reclaimed from the ocean and recycled. His online shop has generated over $23,000 in donations to ocean conservation organizations.

Samirah Horton, 13
Brooklyn, N.Y.
After being bullied herself, Horton wrote a song called “No, You Won’t Bully Me” that became a book called, “The Bully Stop.” She visits schools and presents to kids on her anti-bullying message, incorporating music and her DJ skills to connect and excite them.

Sadie Keller, 14
Lantana, Texas
After surviving cancer, Keller began “Sadie’s Sleigh,” collecting toys for childhood cancer patients. She has collected over 600,000 tons of toys, and raised $2 million dollars for research.

Khloe Joiner, 9
Missouri City, Texas
Joiner founded “A Book and A Smile” with a mission to donate 1 million books to children.

Jenell Theobald, 15
Beaverton, Ore.
Theobald created “Let’s Peer Up,” an organization that advocates for representation for those with mental and physical disabilities.

Watch the Kid of the Year broadcast special, hosted by Trevor Noah, on Nickelodeon on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30pm/6:30pm CT to find out which finalist will be named TIME Kid of the Year


From TIME:

Kid of the Year Finalist Mina Fedor, 13, Speaks Out For Asian Equality

For Mina Fedor, there was no other option but to speak up. The preteen had witnessed a harrowing rise in anti-Asian violence since the start of the pandemic, including a troubling incident that happened to her mother, who is Korean, near their home in Oakland, Calif. She started small, calling out xenophobia during a virtual school assembly in March 2020. But after seeing the organizing around Black Lives Matter during a national reckoning with systemic racism and a shooting in Atlanta that killed eight, six of them Asian women, nearly a year later, Fedor wanted to do more to stand up to racist hate.

In March 2021, she organized a rally to bring attention to stopping racist violence towards Asian Americans, hoping that at least 70 people would attend; the rally drew a crowd of 1200. “I really just wanted to speak out for my community,” Fedor says.

Following the success of the rally, Fedor launched AAPI Youth Rising, a collective of middle school activists who are devoted to uplifting their community and stopping racist hate. In the fall of 2021, they joined other student-led coalitions in demonstrations of support for AB 101, an education bill that would require every public high school student in California to take an ethnic studies course.

“Asian American history is American history, and everyone’s history deserves to be taught and represented,” Fedor says. “Histories that negatively reflect America tend to not be taught as much and that’s very wrong, because we don’t learn about our previous errors.” She thinks that if more people were aware of the long history of anti-Asian violence in America, there might not have been the current surge in racist incidents towards the AAPI community—a rise that was exacerbated by xenophobic comments by former President Donald Trump.

The bill was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in October, and Fedor feels it will be key to stopping racial discrimination and violence. Now, AAPI Youth Rising has turned its sights to making sure that ethnic studies education is available to students in all states.

While Fedor says she believes “real change is in legislative action,” she is adamant that social change also happens with small actions daily, from calling out racist comments or bullying when you witness them to committing to vote or helping others register to vote. (AAPI voters are one of the lowest registered voter groups.)

“If there is one thing that anyone can do for their community, it’s to treat everyone with respect and kindness,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to stand up to people who are harming you. Don’t be afraid to speak out about things you feel are unjust and don’t be afraid to have opinions. You’re never too young for anything.”

Age has never stopped Fedor from taking action. She was first inspired by activism at the age of eight, when she traveled to Los Angeles for the 2017 Women’s March and was in awe of the power of rising up together in numbers.

She also credits her family with instilling the value of justice and standing up for what you believe in. Her maternal great-grandfather, a political activist in Korea during the Japanese occupation, is her personal hero. Fedor also looks up to intersectional feminist, activist, and journalist Helen Zia; the activist, poet and organizer Grace Lee Boggs; and Vice President Kamala Harris; as well as her parents, both immigrants to the U.S., and her friends who fight for justice alongside her in AAPI Youth Rising.

Now 13, Fedor knows her journey for racial justice will be life-long. She’s made it her personal mission to learn as much about AAPI history as she can, in addition to working to ensure that it’s taught in her schools. What excites her most about the future, however, is all that her generation is doing now for a brighter world.

“Youth can make a difference,” she says. “We are the future.”


From TIME:

Kid of the Year Finalist Lujain Alqattawi, 13, Teaches English to Kids in Refugee Camps

For most kids, the early stage COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 meant one thing: boredom. Many took the chance to start a new hobby, watch superhero movies, or spend more time on TikTok. But Lujain Alqattawi, a 13-year-old eighth grader in Maryland, saw the pause as an opportunity to do something different.

“With COVID we were just sitting at home and I felt like I wanted to help people or make an impact,” Alqattawi says. “I was just thinking like, what can I do to help people in general? What do I have?” A bilingual teenager of Palestinian heritage, Alqattawi realized something she had that others lacked: language skills. Inspired by her mom, who has taught English as a second language for two decades, and by her family history—her father emigrated to the U.S. from Jordan as a Palestinian refugee—Alqattawi decided she would teach Arabic-speaking refugees English.

Drawing on family ties to Palestinian refugee communities, Alqattawi’s parents made contact with the principal of a school in Jordan. While the adults sorted the logistics, the teen got to work designing a syllabus and lesson plans. She would be tutoring 9- and 10-year-old Palestinian girls, and so tailored her lessons appropriately, incorporating videos and emojis she knew they’d enjoy. And just like that, her non-profit, Sparkle, was born. “‘Sparkle’ means knowledge,” she says. “It outshines everything.”

Every Friday for six months, Alqattawi would finish her week of remote school and get to work preparing 30-minute beginner’s English classes. Then every Saturday, she’d spend her mornings on Zoom, beaming both the lessons and her infectious personality 6,000 miles across the world to groups of school girls in Jordan.

The project’s goal wasn’t just to impart a new skill, Alqattawi says, but “to empower girls to be more confident.”

Alqattawi is intelligent, driven and curious. She’s also a chatterbox. It wasn’t hard for her to connect with the 30-odd fourth and fifth graders she was teaching remotely; they talked fantasy books and anime, played Jeopardy, and did roleplay, all in a blend of elementary English and the students’ native Arabic.

Running the lessons by herself was tough. The girls didn’t have their own laptops, and sometimes their internet would cut out. Alqattawi had to adapt. But whenever she felt like giving up, it was the small wins which pushed her to keep going. “It was really satisfying to see how happy they were and how I made a difference in their lives,” she says.

Alqattawi’s mom, Ahlam, gave her advice on how to structure the lessons, but the activities, learning materials, and syllabus were all the teen’s own creation.

Despite the geographical distance separating teacher and students, Alqattawi recognized aspects of her own culture in the girls’ lives. “I’d hear some background noises and their mom’s cooking and stuff like that,” she says. “It’s like you feel the atmosphere in the background.” It’s a scene she knows well from her treasured childhood visits to Jordan, home to her grandpa and 10 aunts and uncles.

Sparkle didn’t just bring Alqattawi closer to the girls she was tutoring—it built a deep understanding of her family history. Like her students, Alqattawi’s father, Mohammad, was born a refugee in a country that was not his own. Jordan hosts approximately 2 million Palestinians, more than any other country, and 18% of them live in 10 camps hosted by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The camps were set up to house the influx of Palestinian refugees following the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948—known as ‘Al Nakba’ or ‘the catastrophe’, which saw 700,000 Palestinians expelled from their homes—and in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Talbieh camp, close to Jordan’s capital, was Mohammad’s home for the first 20 years of his life.

“I grew up in there,” Mohammad says. He attended one of the 161 UNRWA schools set up in Jordan for Palestinian refugees, “the same schools where Lujain is teaching these girls.” By the time Mohammad reached adulthood, his father had saved enough to get the family into permanent housing outside of the camps. Thanks to encouragement from his college professors, Mohammad applied to study in the U.S. There, he met his wife Ahlam, started a family, and built a career as an engineer.

Without education, Alqattawi’s father would not be where he is today. Alqattawi knows this. It’s why she gave up her Saturday mornings for six months to tutor girls she had never met. Her students, like Mohammad, started life on the back foot—Palestinian refugees in Jordan are more likely to live in poverty than the general population, and many lack access to the same rights as naturalized citizens.

But as girls, Alqattawi’s students face yet another barrier. Despite their high attainment levels, Palestinian girls in Jordan, both in and outside the camps, are nearly twice as likely as boys to drop out of elementary school. A combination of factors, including cultural attitudes, mean girls’ academic abilities are often underestimated. “I feel like girls are not given that much thought in general,” Alqattawi says. “‘Oh, she’s a girl, just whatever.’ Like, no. Girls are capable as much as boys and even more in some stuff.”

Alqattawi decided to focus on girls to break down the barriers holding them back. The fact that they felt more comfortable around their 13-year-old teacher didn’t hurt. “My idea was to have not adults teaching them but people who can relate to them,” she says. “Teenage girls.” Lujain now wants to get her Arabic-speaking female friends on board to expand the project and make a greater impact.

In many ways, Sparkle was a two-way process of learning. Alqattawi’s syllabus started small but got bigger—“We started with me, myself, and I, then my family, my neighborhood, my community, the world, the universe,” Alqattawi says. As the teen expanded her students’ horizons, they too broadened Alqattawi’s perspective. “She realized that people outside her world live a different life,” says Ahlam, “And that we’re so privileged here in the United States.” Alqattawi agrees: “It’s helped me grow.”

The teen has big plans for Sparkle’s next phase. “I would like to start a website where we can provide resources,” she says. She’s keen to help a fresh bunch of students, but also progress the original class to the next level—”Sparkle 2.0,” she calls it. She’s applied for grants to fund laptops for the girls to ease remote learning, and she plans to run in-person classes when her family next visits Jordan. The project has made her consider how she can impact her immediate surroundings. “I was also thinking of doing something with refugee girls here to help them adapt to their environment,” she says. “Not just teaching them English, but to help them with their emotional strength.”

Perhaps the most meaningful outcome of Alqattawi’s hard work is the friendships she has formed with people she would never have met were it not for Sparkle. Apart from a source of memes and jokes, the group’s Whatsapp chat provides a space for Alqattawi to track the girls’ improvement. “I recently just talked to them and they were more fluent, they could express themselves better, and they were more confident,” she says.

Alqattawi has certainly achieved her goal to lift up the girls in her class. What she’s most excited for is their futures: “I feel that we’re producing the next generation of girl doctors, engineers and these jobs that people usually don’t picture a woman as.”

Watch the Kid of the Year broadcast special, hosted by Trevor Noah, on Nickelodeon on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30pm/6:30pm CT to find out which finalist will be named TIME Kid of the Year


From TIME:

Kid of the Year Finalist Jayden Perez, 12, Collects Donations For Anyone in Need

Jayden Perez spent the weeks leading up to Black Friday asking anyone at the park or on the streets in his hometown of Patterson, N.J., if they’d heard of Giving Tuesday.

“I’m not afraid to approach strangers,” says Perez, who is a kid ambassador for Giving Tuesday, an online campaign created to encourage people to donate after the weekend known for holiday spending. “It was kind of as a joke, but I also just to get the word out.”

That kind of courage is necessary for the work that Perez is doing, which often relies on donations he receives from the community around him. He runs his own non-profit called From the Bottom of My Heart, which collects donations to give to people in need.

Throughout Perez’s childhood, volunteering has been a family activity. “Anything they can do to help others, they do it,” he says of his parents and older sister. “I was raised by that.” In the fall of 2017, when he was 8, he saw his mom, Ana Rosado, trying to aid family members in Puerto Rico after the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Maria. He wanted to help out too, and decided to do a toy drive for kids there. “Originally, I just wanted to give my Christmas presents,” he says, “but I realized it wouldn’t be enough.”

He reached out to family and friends, expecting to get 100 toys. But donations soon piled in; by the end of the drive, he had collected over 1,000. “My garage looked like a Toys ‘R’ Us,” says Perez. “That was a big success right there.”

With more toys than he could donate to charity, he traveled to Puerto Rico to distribute them that December. “Seeing the joy on kids’ faces made me want to keep doing it forever,” says Perez. During the trip, he was struck by the abandoned animals he saw along the streets. An animal lover with two dogs at home, he decided on his next mission, and began organizing again to collect food for the animals there.

As his work began to attract the attention of local media and companies started approaching him about making larger donations, Perez decided to set up a non-profit to keep the giving going. “I ended my first video with ‘Could you donate from the bottom of your heart?’ and I just kept saying it,” he says of his non-profit’s name.

Perez isn’t motivated by any one cause, instead choosing to direct his efforts wherever help is needed. He doesn’t have a single project that he’s most proud of but says that it’s the act of giving that gives him his purpose, regardless of the scale. “Just spreading kindness and seeing the joy and smiles on everyone’s faces after I give my donations [has been my favorite.]”

A community of giving has sprouted up around him in Patterson—friends and family members are the first to donate to his projects, his school shares his missions on the morning announcements, and the town’s mayor, André Sayegh, often joins Perez to help pack school supplies in backpacks or donate to his toy drives.

His ideas for the next mission often come while completing the current one. “Having connections with my community has been really helpful,” says Perez. “People always know what’s happening and who needs help.”

At the start of the pandemic, he overheard classmates talking about how rapidly sanitizers were selling out, so his mom helped him order over 1,000 bottles to distribute to the local fire department, school district, police department, and library. In 2021, his missions included a toy drive, donating school supplies, and hats and gloves in preparation for the winter.

After local press coverage of his efforts and his own outreach on Instagram, people around the country have started contacting Perez for help. Last fall, a preschool in Missouri asked for his help getting educational toys. When a mother in Arizona messaged him to share that her son was being bullied, Perez reached out to the boy’s principal to get their help.

After four years of good deeds, he shows no sign of slowing down. Perez hopes that his work can inspire others to give back in their own communities. “If we all come together,” he says, “we could make a difference in this world and make it such a better place.”

Watch the Kid of the Year broadcast special, hosted by Trevor Noah, on Nickelodeon on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30pm/6:30pm CT to find out which finalist will be named TIME Kid of the Year


From TIME:

Kid of the Year Finalist Ethan Hill, 11, on Helping the Homeless: 'If You See a Problem, Fix It'

than Hill was on his way to school one day in 2016, when he noticed a man living under a freeway overpass. Despite only being 6 years old at the time, Hill was determined to help the man. After school, he began to research ways he could provide aid to the homeless.

A few weeks later, Hill used his Christmas money to buy food, snacks, water, tarps and toiletries to give to the man, who he came to know as Mr. Marcus, as well as others who were also living under the freeway.

“He was so kind, and he found a nice word to give me,” Hill says. “So after that experience, I learned that they are people too and if we can provide some help for them, they can be employed and have a stable living condition.”

Five years later, Hill’s bout of generosity has blossomed into Ethan’s Heart Bags 4 Blessings, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization centered on donating charitable goods to the homeless in Hill’s hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, and surrounding cities. The organization calls for donations so Hill, with the help of his parents, can create and deliver care packages to the homeless. Donors have the option of sending in necessities like food, clothing, hygienic supplies, and sleeping bags, for instance, or can choose to make a monetary donation to the organization directly.

As of 2020, there were 3,351 people experiencing homelessness in Alabama, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report. Nationally, this number swells to approximately 580,000 people. While 60% of people experiencing homelesseness lived in temporary locations—such emergency shelters—according to the report, nearly 4 in 10 people were living in “places not suitable for human habitation” such as in parks, or abandoned buildings.

As the country went into quarantine in 2020, people experiencing homelessness became uniquely vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. While making personal deliveries became unsafe, Hill didn’t let this deter him. He asked the local Birmingham Police Department if they were willing to help deliver his care packages while out on their beats, and they readily agreed.

“Like my parents say, if you walk into the house and you see trash, pick it up, put it in the trash can,” Hill says. “If you see a problem, fix it.”

With the help of local law enforcement, Hill’s packages were delivered to people in the middle of the night and in the parts of the county he wouldn’t have been able to visit on his own, growing the reach of his donations.

Hill says his work has also led him to building relationships, and gaining wisdom, from many in the homeless community.

“They can give you those little nuggets of life that nobody ever told you,” he says.

After meeting a homeless veteran last year—whom he refers to as Mr. Richard—Hill was determined to find him housing. With the help of his parents, Ebony and David Hill, Hill located a boarding home and, through donations to his organization, he was able to pay for the first month for Mr. Richard. The Hills then connected Mr. Richard with Veteran Affairs to help him find permanent housing.

“Over my journey I have found that no matter what, they are people. Life happens. You don’t have to look down on somebody because of the state they’re in,” says Hill.

Hill has since collected a village of supporters who donate and help package his bags. The organization receives “a couple thousand” donations a year, he says.

“The best part of it all is to be able to take the platforms that I get put on and flip those into donations, which go out to the people,” Hill says.

As for his hopes for the future, Hill believes he’s just getting started.

“I’m trying to build homeless camps in the future,” he says. “I’m trying to have a sit down with the President and talk about what we could do to get more funding for those that are out there and employ some of them that’s out there too and get them working, get them into stable conditions.” In September, the Biden Administration launched “House America”, a federal initiative calling on cities, counties, states and tribal government leaders to commit to reducing homelessness, in exchange for federal support and resources.

Hill doesn’t only want to help the homeless through a top-down approach, but hopes to work alongside those in the community to help him expand his efforts.

“I’d like to get some of those homeless people that [are] out there steady and I will try to see if they would try to help me with work, to go out and help. They know where all the populated places are. So they could tell us what the places are, we can go there and we can supply more people with the needs they have.”

Ultimately, Hill’s hope is that homelessness will end, but as long as people need help, he will be there to give it he says.

“Homelessness is a problem that we can at least try to solve. We’re never going to solve it. But we can at least strive to try. It never hurts to try. So if [we] can get [them] affordable housing, we can put some of them in rehab, get their life together, some of them. They can actually be a billionaire, one of those big corporation owners that influence people. They can be great.”

Watch the Kid of the Year broadcast special, hosted by Trevor Noah, on Nickelodeon on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30pm/6:30pm CT to find out which finalist will be named TIME Kid of the Year


From TIME:

Kid of the Year Finalist Jenell Theobald, 15, Fights For Mental Healthcare

There’s a quote stamped on Jenell Theobald’s contact cards, which she hands out to new connections: “We are all unique, and have our own special place in the puzzle of the universe,” it says, a nugget of wisdom attributed to the musician Rod Williams.

Theobald, 15, who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism when she was 5, always felt “different” from her peers. But she has gradually realized there’s nothing wrong with that. “Everybody kind of has their place,” says the ninth-grader from Beaverton, Oregon. “If you’re different from someone else, then you have a role to fulfill that no one else can fulfill.”

Theobald has many roles: She’s a budding graphic designer; a Potterhead; an older sister—and a staunch advocate for people with developmental and physical disabilities. “When people say diversity, they often think of racial diversity, because that’s what gets talked about the most,” she says. “But there are other kinds of diversity, and one I focus on in particular is neurodiversity and the diversity of different mental conditions. I think that in a way they make people unique, and I would consider that an important part of diversity.”

When she was younger, Theobald bounced from school to school in search of the right fit. She had tried out seven options by the time she reached fifth grade, which made bonding with one group of friends impossible. Throughout her childhood, she went to Camp Meadowood Springs in Weston, Oregon, an outdoor summer camp for kids with social and communication difficulties. It was the best week of her year. “I often struggled socially when I was a kid, and I kind of still do to an extent,” she says. “Camp Meadowood was a very unique place because the girls felt like kids who were like me, and I felt like they could understand me.”

There, Theobald met members of the Oregon State Elks Association, a fraternal organization that sponsors the camp. She realized the Elks lacked the resources to sufficiently promote it. Determined to help spread the word about the program, she created a Wikipedia page and made flyers that were posted in school districts throughout the state. In 2019, she organized 35 volunteers to travel to eastern Oregon and help prepare the facility for its summer sessions. Theobald noticed that the Elks she was working alongside received a ring for every year of their volunteer service. “I saw some older members with chains of dozens of rings,” she says. “Their commitment really inspired me to want to give back.”

Two years ago, eager to expand her volunteer efforts, Theobald founded Let’s Peer Up, a non-profit that advocates for equal representation for people with physical and developmental disabilities. It was the first-ever project run by middle school students to be chosen for the Portland State University Capstone Program. The experience helped Theobald figure out how to structure her non-profit to maximize success.

The group is currently researching ways to build a community support system that relieves some of the stress on local mental health providers. “We all know someone who’s struggling with mental illness,” she says. “There’s still a stigma—but if any other part of your body broke down, you wouldn’t be telling someone they were crazy; you’d be trying to help them. So why can’t your brain break down?”

Last year, Theobald and Let’s Peer Up convinced Beaverton to revive an Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Advisory Committee that will give the city’s disabled residents a voice. “In the entire state of Oregon, only Portland had a board that serves people with disabilities, which I think is a missed opportunity and a gap that should be filled,” she says. Theobald campaigned hard for the committee: She met with the mayor (which was “cool, but scary”) and reached out to the Massachusetts Office on Disability, which offered guidance. She spoke passionately in its support at a city council meeting in June 2020. “One in five people has some sort of disability—usually a mental disability,” she told council members. “Beaverton has no one representing the interests of people with disabilities. This is a huge problem, as it means one-fifth of the population is not being served.”

The speech was slightly nerve-wracking, she acknowledges, but she’s getting more accustomed to public speaking, and the payoff was worth it. Thanks to her tireless efforts, Beaverton’s new disabilities advisory board will begin work in January 2022. Theobald has already researched how to set it up, helped promote it and recruited potential members.

Beyond her work with Let’s Peer Up, Theobald—who logged more than 600 hours of volunteer work in the past year—helped create a cultural heritage garden in the historic Chinese section of an Oregon cemetery. She continues to brainstorm ways to add new cultural elements to it. She’s also a regular at volunteer sites around the state, like canned food drives. On a cold, rainy Saturday morning in December, she spent hours planting Wapato bulbs at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.

Advocacy work occupies much of Theobald’s brain space. “I’m always thinking about it,” she says. “But maybe not constantly working on it because I’m pretty busy.” Indeed: Theobald has a full schedule of classes, most notably art (she used to doodle on her math homework) and science (a recent highlight: measuring the effect of moonlight on stars). “School is basically my only place for socializing,” she says. “You meet a lot of people every day. It’s a good place to try to make friends and practice my social skills.”

Looking ahead, Theobald envisions an art career, and she’s confident she’ll continue her volunteer and advocacy efforts. “It’s my passion,” she says. “I try to work [on my various projects] for at least a few hours every week, because with even just a little bit of effort, if I’m persistent about it, I will be able to get far.”

Watch the Kid of the Year broadcast special, hosted by Trevor Noah, on Nickelodeon on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30pm/6:30pm CT to find out which finalist will be named TIME Kid of the Year


From TIME:

Kid of the Year Finalist Kai Shappley, 11, Takes on Lawmakers in Her Fight for Trans Rights

Kai Shappley didn’t feel scared when she sat before the Texas Senate committee in April 2021. Wearing a flowing yellow blouse, floral skirt and cowboy boots, the then-4th grader calmly introduced herself.

“I love ballet, math, science and geology. I spend my free time with my cats, chickens, FaceTiming my friends and dreaming of when I finally get to meet Dolly Parton,” she testified. “I do not like spending my free time asking adults to make good choices.”

Shappley urged lawmakers to vote against Senate bills 1311 and 1646, which banned doctors from providing gender-affirming treatment to transgender kids like herself. One of the bills even went as far as to define the treatment as “child abuse.” (Both bills ultimately failed.)

“It makes me sad that some politicians use trans kids like me to get votes from people who hate me just because I exist,” she continued. “God made me. God loves me for who I am. And God does not make mistakes.”

Beneath her composure, Shappley says she felt furious. Lawmakers were avoiding her gaze, she tells TIME, glancing at their watches, scrolling on their phones or doodling on papers. When the opportunity came to ask her questions, no one spoke up.

“Seriously? None of y’all want to know more about me?” she quipped.

Video of Shappley’s testimony quickly went viral. It wasn’t the first time she’s garnered attention. The now-5th grader has been publicly telling her story and calling for trans equality for years. She’s traveled the country with her mother, speaking at rallies for LGBTQ rights. She’s worked with the ACLU on pro-trans projects. She’s met with national lawmakers to urge them to pass the Equality Act, which would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender idenitity. But April was the first time she’d ever testified on her own. Her reasoning was simple. “I wanted to show them that all these lies people have been spreading [about trans kids] are not true,” she says.

Shappley is a force of nature. At only 11 years old, the trans rights activist has built a following online; children and adults have written to her saying she’s inspired them to come out. “It makes me want to keep on going, knowing that there are so many people who rely on me,” Shappley says. And amid an unprecedented rise of bills in U.S. state legislatures targeting trans kids—including over 130 anti-trans bills in 2021 alone, per the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign—she has no plans on stopping.

“Activism matters to me because it is a way to show that we belong,” Shappley says. “It’s a way to show that we will fight for what is right. We won’t sit silent.”

The first time Shappley watched her mom testify before Texas lawmakers on her behalf, she was only 5 years old. Her mom was speaking out against a bill that would prevent trans kids like Kai from using the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity. As more anti-trans bills appeared over the following years, the Shappley’s returned again and again. The days could be long. Sometimes Kai and her siblings would sleep on hallway benches or on the floor of the chambers. “She’s grown up in the Texas capitol,” her mother, Kimberly, says.

Shappley puts it differently. “I know the capitol like [I know] my glorious face,” she says, grinning.

It was before the funeral of Monica Roberts—a renowned transgender journalist and advocate who had become Shappley’s mentor—in the fall of 2020 when Kai decided she wanted to start speaking publicly without her mother. “Mom was like, ‘I’ll go up there with you.’ But I said, ‘I think I’m strong enough to talk for myself now,” she says. Shappley ultimately spoke about Roberts’ life and legacy for several minutes. By the spring of 2021, she’d decided she wanted to testify before lawmakers.

“People say she just has that ‘it’ factor… she’ll take any platform and any microphone,” Kimberly Shappley laughs. “She’s just who she is, 105%, all the time until she passes out.”

But activism hasn’t consumed all of Shappley’s time. The sixth of seven kids—and one of only two girls—Kai loves going to school and playing strategy games with her friends, whom she calls “the beauty squad.” She’s completely devoted to Dolly Parton, and appears visibly offended when asked why she likes the famed country singer.

“Why wouldn’t you love her?” she exclaims. “She’s nice. She’s gracious. She’s fabulous. Her hair. Her dresses!”

Shappley says she wants to be “everything” when she grows up. “A mother of 103 cats. An actress. A director. A writer. A scientist. A ballerina. A musician.” She loves acting, and even appeared in an episode of Netflix’s 2020 show The Baby-Sitters Club. “Next thing you know, I’ll be on Broadway,” she beams.

Shappley’s family moved from Pearland, Tex., to Austin in 2018 after her previous school refused to let her use the girl’s bathroom. She loves the new city. Even still, her mother says they worry about the state becoming a hostile environment for trans kids. And after Texas lawmakers filed at least 13 bills directly targeting trans kids last legislative session, the family decided they’d seen enough. They plan on moving out of Texas, the only place Shappley has lived her entire life.

“I don’t think people understand the whole picture of what trans families are going through,” Kimberly says. “It’s not safe.” The attention on Shappley’s activism has also directed unwanted online hate towards their family. They’ve even received death threats.

But the family has a saying: It’s Mom’s job to worry. It’s Kai’s job to tell her story. And so she’s going to keep telling it. Shappley plans on testifying against more anti-trans bills in the future, and says she is prepared to testify “every single time” if she needs to. She feels a responsibility, she says, “to stand up for all of those who [cannot] have a voice of their own.”

“It’s in my nature to do what’s right,” she adds. “And it’s in my nature to get into a lot of drama.”

Watch the Kid of the Year broadcast special, hosted by Trevor Noah, on Nickelodeon on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at 7:30pm/6:30pm CT to find out which finalist will be named TIME Kid of the Year



We now know that the Time for Kids and Nickelodeon 2022 Kid of the Year is 11-year-old Orion Jean. Orion was selected from more than 5,000 nominees to land this year’s top honor. And of course, the selection process was very rigorous. Among the Advisory Board made up of various entities were also Nickelodeon stars Alaya “That Girl Lay Lay” High (That Girl Lay Lay), Dylan “Young Dylan” Gilmer (Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan) and Wolfgang Schaeffer (A Loud House Christmas). That Girl Lay Lay, Young Dylan, and Wolfgang Schaffer sat down with BCKOnline to dish in an exclusive interview about their journey to choose the Kid of the Year.

That Girl Lay Lay

You know her face and definitely her name. Alaya “That Girl Lay Lay” High is the star of her own Nickelodeon show, That Girl Lay Lay. Renewed for a second season, That Girl Lay Lay promises to bring more fun and music to fans of the show very soon.

Recently, BCKOnline caught up with this truly talented rising star to find out her personal process for picking the top five honorees for the 2022 Kid of the Year and her personal advice to all the finalists and nominees.

The second annual Kid of The Year is airing on February 9th. You were instrumental in helping to pick this year’s top five honorees. Tell us about your personal process.

Yes, it’s so exciting. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. The personal process was very fun. Very hard to pick the honorees because everybody was so amazing, but in the end, we picked an amazing kid. Can’t wait to see everything the winner is about to do.

What is your advice to all of the finalists and nominees?

My advice to all the finalists and nominees is to stay positive, keep going, keep pushing, don’t take no for an answer, never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something if you put your mind to it. You can do it! Remember to be nice to everybody and be very supportive of everybody and, last but not least: have fun!

Young Dylan started out as a rapper, catching the attention of not only Ellen DeGeneres, but Tyler Perry as well. While on Ellen’s talk show, the young rising star got the surprise of a lifetime when Tyler Perry himself came to make him a Hollywood star with his own Nickelodeon show, Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan. Tyler Perry’s Young Dylan is in it’s third season and fans cannot get enough!

Recently, BCKOnline caught up with this truly talented rising star to find out his personal process for picking the top five honorees for the 2022 Kid of the Year and his personal advice to all the finalists and nominees. Take a look at what he had to say.

The second annual Kid of The Year is airing on February 9th. You were instrumental in helping to pick this year’s top five honorees. Tell us about your personal process.

I look for someone who will be impactful in the future and inspire other kids.

What is your advice to all of the finalists and nominees?

My advice to the finalist and nominees would be keep working and never give up on your dreams. Also, always be yourself.

Rounding out this incredible trio of decision-makers is the super talented Wolfgang Schaeffer. Wolfgang is following in the footsteps of his father, who was also an actor. Wolfgang’s sister was the first person to take acting classes in the family and Wolfgang saw how much fun she was having, so he decided to give it a try and the rest is history! Wolfgang is most recently known for his role in the live-action movie adaptation of The Loud House, A Loud House Christmas, we have a feeling that this is just the beginning of amazing things to come for this talented rising star! 

Recently, BCKOnline caught up with Wolfgang to find out his personal process for picking the top five honorees for the 2022 Kid of the Year and his personal advice to all the finalists and nominees. Take a look at what he had to say.

The second annual Kid of The Year is airing on February 9th. You were instrumental in helping to pick this year’s top five honorees. Tell us about your personal process.

Well, my process is to make sure I know what characteristics are in the person I would pick as Kid of the Year, and then name the one primary trait about each contestant and see if they match what I’m looking for!

What is your advice to all of the finalists and nominees?

Some advice is good luck! You all did great jobs supporting your causes and you might be the next Kid of the Year!!!

Awesome advice like that from these three definitely can transcend and apply to us all. We cannot wait to see what is next for That Girl lay Lay, Young Dylan, and Wolfgang Schaeffer. We all will unquestionably be watching!


Originally published: January 19, 2022 at 19:50 GMT.

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