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Five CEOs received high honors in Washington last month.

These were not your typical chief executive officers, though. The oldest is just 25 years old. They're more inclined to wear jeans than power suits. And their business ventures are not oil companies or airlines, but nonprofit organizations.

Last month, Youth Service America chose the five young leaders as members of its second class of "social entrepreneurs."

YSA, a Washington-based alliance of youth-service groups, launched the "Fund for Social Entrepreneurs" last year to support young adults who want to create new community-service organizations. (See Education Week, May 5, 1995.)

The winners will be linked with mentors in the nonprofit world and will each receive $36,000 to help get their organizations off the ground. The groups will also receive free technical assistance from YSA for three years.

The honorees were selected from a group of 11 finalists who traveled to Washington last month for interviews with a panel of public- and private-sector entrepreneurs.

This year's winners are:

  • Eric Dawson, 22, the founder of Peace Games, a violence-prevention and conflict-resolution program in Boston.
  • Julie Book Kennedy, 25, the founder of DC Scores, a program for elementary school students in the District of Columbia that combines soccer, academic, and community-service activities.
  • Aaron Lieberman, 24, the founder of Jumpstart, a Boston program that enlists college students as mentors for preschoolers in Head Start programs.
  • Lynn Pinder, 24, the founder of Youth Warriors, a Baltimore group that mobilizes African-American youths to fight environmental and health hazards that disproportionately affect the black community, such as lead poisoning.
  • Akua Ama Robinson, 24, the founder of Power Unit for Motivating Youth in Syracuse, N.Y., a program for middle school students that emphasizes the arts, academics, and leadership skills.

Last year's winners are already succeeding on many fronts, said Tom Sander, the director of the social entrepreneurs' fund. All of their organizations are growing, and their YSA awards serve as "stamps of approval," helping leverage additional support.

One winner has been approached by at least four people who want to create similar programs. "Even in just a year, people want to take some of the ideas and incorporate them," Mr. Sander said.

--Meg Sommerfeld
e-mail: msommer@epe.org

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