Barron Prize for Young Heroes
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes celebrates inspiring, public-spirited, highly diverse young people from all across America. Each year, the Barron Prize honors twenty-five outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. The top ten winners each receive a $2,500 cash award to support their service work or higher education. The primary goal of the Prize is to shine the spotlight on these amazing young people so that their stories will inspire others.
These young people are as diverse as their service projects. They are female and male, urban and rural, and from many races and backgrounds. Examples include Jaclyn, who survived brain cancer and then worked to help other terminally ill children; Ryan, who helped provide clean drinking water to more than 70 African villages; Michaella, who organized a rodeo for disabled kids; Joying, who cleaned up South Carolina's beaches; Shawn, who organized his neighborhood to build a community garden in the inner city; and Barbara, who created a successful motor oil recycling project in rural Texas.
I founded the Prize in 2000 to share the stories of such inspiring young people. And I named it after my mother, who was a quiet hero in my own life.
Who was Gloria Barron?
Gloria Barron, the woman I was lucky enough to know as my mother, never sought fame. She simply lived the life of a teacher who cared deeply about her children and her community. She was always learning: The day before she died, at age ninety-two, she was delighted to discover a new word origin! (The word, by the way, was “spittoon”.) This great old gal never lost her childlike sense of wonder.
My mother believed in the importance of good communication. She encouraged us to write in journals, stories, and letters. Her rule was that a good letter should contain "something funny, something beautiful, and something true." Beyond that, she continually urged her children to make a positive difference to the world, in whatever ways we chose. She didn't sermonize; she just lived her own life that way — and hoped that we would, as well.
Her love of children and nature combined to create a remarkable project. For over twenty years, she worked hard to create a unique nature museum at the Colorado School for the Blind — a museum where everything can be touched. Blind kids can experience the grandeur of an eagle by touching its wide wings, just as they can feel a hummingbird's delicate nest or a polar bear's rich, soft fur. She never sought any credit for this accomplishment, and the only reward she wanted was the satisfaction of knowing that these kids could now experience some of the wonder and beauty of the natural world. That's the sort of quiet heroism that countless teachers, parents, and kids show every day. And those people truly hold our world together.
That’s why, when the time came to choose a name for my prize for young heroes, I knew exactly who to name it for — a quiet hero who made a real difference in my life. Someone who never stopped believing in the power of every person to make the world a better place. Someone I loved and admired very much.
- T.A. Barron