YouthSpark Challenge for Change Winners Announced! Five Brilliant Sparks of Social Good

This past year has been about sparking change through Microsoft YouthSpark, so it’s fitting that we’re announcing the five grand prize winners of the YouthSpark Challenge for Change contest just days before the fireworks-filled U.S. Fourth of July celebration. If you’ve been following the contest, you already know we received hundreds of inspiring entries from university students across the U.S. – all incorporating Windows and Office into the proposed social good projects. Our judging panel selected 20 strong finalists, and then we turned it over to you to vote for your favorite to select five grand prize winners.
Congratulations to Adam Dunn, Brian Hickey, Sneha Jayaprakash, Christina Ong, and Meghan Shea! They will embark on a volunteer trip to Kenya in August and will receive $2,500 to help fund their project ideas. In addition to the Surface RT they won as finalists, the grand prize package includes a Windows Phone 8 and an Xbox 360 with Kinect.

North Carolina State University architecture and physics major Adam Dunn started Triangle Youth Leadership Services with his friends Joseph Bond, Steven Mazur, and Devan Riley, to harness the energy and creativity of young people to solve community issues.
What’s Next? “We will use the prize money, technology package, and partnership with Microsoft Citizenship to expand our model to partner universities, fund the most promising of our high school participants' ideas for community improvement, and finance our 501(c)(3) application,” said Adam.
Kenya Experience “After working with ThinkImpact in rural South Africa and independently researching water culture in rural Liberia, I've fallen in love with Africa. I'm looking forward to comparing my work here in North Carolina with my experiences in the three corners of sub-Saharan Africa.” Watch Adam’s prize-winning video!

Loudonville, New York native Brian Hickey will be a sophomore at Babson College studying business, entrepreneurship and marketing. He has worked with the Engeye program to support education in Uganda for several years, leading campaigns to raise thousands of dollars for textbooks and solar panels for the schools.
What’s Next? “I am excited to add the funds given by Microsoft to Engeye, which will get us closer to the goal of constructing a Business & Training Center in rural Uganda,” said Brian. “The idea is to help empower villagers with the basic resources and tools to enable their future success.”
Kenya Experience “When I traveled to Uganda, I was humbled and amazed by the joy and gratitude of the people I met, especially the children. One thing that struck me was the desire of the children for the basic things like education and healthcare. I look forward to learning about Kenya, meeting the children and people, and seeing how similar and different it is from my experience in Uganda.” Watch Brian’s prize-winning video!

Sneha Jayaprakash of Fremont, California is studying computer science with a focus on bioinformatics at University of California San Diego. She combined gaming with social networking to create Bystanders to Upstanders (B2U), which aims to revolutionize do-goodery by rewarding random acts of kindness and inspiring local students to get involved.
What’s Next? Sneha and her team will launch a mobile app and website later this year to bring B2U to life. “Long term, I’m hoping it will give students of all ages and backgrounds across the country the opportunity to become involved in their communities,” said Sneha.
Kenya Experience “It’s an unbelievable opportunity to get involved in a radically different culture. I’m excited to help build a school, to travel far outside the United States, and to meet the other winners.” Watch Sneha’s prize-winning video!

Sacramento native Christina Ong, a senior at University of California Irvine, hopes that you’ll give peace a chance. She’s studying political science with a minor in civic and community engagement, and designing a multidisciplinary peace-building curriculum for children and educators all across the globe.
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