Most kids with vision problems don’t look past the tip of their own nose when it comes to the issue of prescription eyewear. But not Yash Gupta, a 15-year-old high school junior from Irvine, California. His vision has extended to thousands of people who have benefitted from his nonprofit, Sight Learning, which provides eyewear for students who can’t afford it. The donated eyeglasses are distributed to students in need in the United States, Mexico and Honduras. To date, Sight Learning has collected more than $35,000 in donations and also organizes and runs eye exam clinics.
Gupta has been named one of 15 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes and awarded $10,000 in cash and a $7,500 educational scholarship for his outstanding work. Gupta wears glasses himself and knows firsthand how difficult learning becomes when you do not have the glasses you need. Sight Learning has partnered with other organizations, such as VOSH and New Eyes for the Needy. Gupta’s website (sightlearning.com) launched in January of 2011, and with the help of many Irvine optometrists who have placed collection bins in their offices, has collected over $70,000 worth of eyewear to donate. His goal is to hit the $100k mark by this November.
As Founder and CEO of Sight Learning, Gupta approximates he spends up to 25 hours a week facilitating his collections efforts with optometry offices and organizing eye exam clinics throughout the world. His greatest accomplishment to date has been the international clinics he has hosted, one in Tijuana, Mexico and the other in Copan, Honduras, which combined treated over 5,000 people. “After giving them a pair of glasses – the first they had ever received in their lives – the emotion, joy, and excitement they exhibited made the work Sight Learning has done that much more special,” said Gupta. “To see firsthand that the work you are doing is helping someone is a great feeling, and I’m glad we’ve been able to make an impact.”
Gupta joins 15 other remarkable youth from the United States and Canada who have demonstrated outstanding community leadership and service. Of the honor, Gupta said, “I’m very proud (to have been chosen) … There are so many amazing kids out there doing great things for the community, and I encourage my peers to do the same.” With Gupta’s stellar vision for making an impact on the world at just age 15, there’s no doubt lifelong success is within his sight.
Look at the other amazing Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes!
Allyson A., 16, Santa Rosa, CA
Allyson created Threads for Teens, a clothing boutique that helps girls in need, ages 13-17, build self-esteem and confidence while giving them hope. Girls have the opportunity to visit the store and shop for items they need, all at no cost. So far, Allyson has raised approximately $75,000 for Threads for Teens and has recruited 30 volunteers to help with her shop. She also has helped Girl Scouts receive Bronze Awards by providing opportunities for volunteerism. To date, more than 120 girls have visited her store and she has donated more than 70 backpacks filled with school supplies.
Blakely C., 17, Solvang, CA
Blakely created the nonprofit organization Cupcakes for Cancer to raise funds to support pediatric research, grant wishes, and assist children with cancer. She and her team of volunteers bake cupcakes that are sold after school and at local events. Through Cupcakes for Cancer, Blakely has raised $85,000, granted seven wishes and has been able to provide two $1,000 college scholarships. She has also designed a national outreach campaign, “Frosting HOPE Across America,” to inspire others to bake and donate. Fifteen states now have Cupcake Angels kids and clubs to further the cause.
Cassandra L., 13, Westerly, RI
After reading an article in the local newspaper, Cassandra discovered that many residents could not afford to heat their homes. Inspired by this need, she formed a team of five seventh graders to create TGIF (Turn Grease Into Fuel). She works with local biofuel companies to recycle the grease from residents and restaurants, refine it into biodiesel and distribute it to needy families and local charities. TGIF’s efforts have enabled 92 families to keep warm during the cold winters. The organization also drafted and passed a newly enacted law that mandates waste cooking oil recycling in Rhode Island.
Catherine M., 16, Oceanside, CA
Catherine founded Beauty 4 Life, a socially-minded business offering handcrafted Ugandan jewelry to create dignity, work and opportunity for Ugandan women. The goal of Beauty 4 Life is to help the Ugandan women educate their children and provide for their families. She has built women’s centers, schools and childcare centers. She has also provided business, finance, health, and language(English) lessons to Ugandan women. Catherine has raised more than $100,000 and donated over 5,000 pounds of school supplies and basic items to benefit her cause.
Clara P., 10, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Clara started Keys for Hope to raise money and awareness for Crisis Ministries, her local homeless shelter. Clara, with the help of her friends, decorates recycled keys with buttons and other embellishments. After the keys are decorated, each is attached to a card explaining the cause and sold as a necklace, key chain, zipper pull or ornament. Keys for Hope has sold approximately 2,000 keys and raised $12,000. Clara chose the key because it symbolizes home and the hope for a better future for Charleston’s homeless.
Lulu C., 12, Encino, CA
Lulu created LemonAID Warriors to empower youth in her community to make a difference. Her first event was a boys vs. girls LemonAID war to benefit Haiti. This concept spread across the country and more than 500 kids ordered LemonAID kits to raise funds and the events raised $4,000 in two weeks. She has since organized community events, called “PhilanthroParties,” to inspire her peers to get involved. Lulu has raised more than $12,000 to benefit various causes, collected more than 2,000 cans of food and recruited 600 volunteers to help support her efforts.
Madelyn M., 17, Belleville, IL
Madelyn co-founded NETwork Against Malaria (NAM) to help save Ugandan children’s lives and keep them in school. Due to malaria, the average Ugandan student misses 60 days of schools per year. NAM provides malaria and health education for American and Ugandan students and raises funding for bed net distribution to Ugandan students and pregnant women. Madelyn has helped raise approximately $75,000 and purchased 5,500 bed nets to protect up to 16,500 children and pregnant women from malaria. Madelyn’s leadership has inspired 30 high school and college NAM chapters in 18 states.
Neha G., 15, Yardley, PA
Neha founded the global nonprofit organization Empower Orphans, which has established five libraries, three computer labs, one sewing school and sponsored the education of 50 children. Neha’s mission is to provide orphaned and disadvantaged children with the skills and environment to enable them to become productive members of society. Empower Orphans also provides food, clothing, footwear, health care, and medical supplies to thousands of children. The organization is active in India and the United States and has raised $375,000, collected 15,500 books and 25 van loads of furnishings.
Nicholas L., 14, Cranston, RI
Nicholas started the Gotta Have Sole Foundation which donates new footwear to children living in homeless shelters across the United States. Shelter advocates send him footwear orders and Nicholas collects, packages and often hand delivers the shoes. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Nicholas held a special event to collect and send new footwear to more than 90 children of the first responders. To date, Nicolas has raised $49,000 to purchased 3,000 pairs of shoes for homeless children.
Rachel W., 12, Lighthouse Point, FL
Rachel has raised $167,400 to build 27 two-room homes and $132,000 to build a school complete with educational supplies in Leogane, Haiti. She has raised funding for her projects through garage sales, lemonade stands, school bake sales and dances, presentations to Chambers of Commerce and speaking engagements. She supports the efforts of the nonprofit organization Food for The Poor, and its quest to house the unsheltered in Haiti.
Sarah C., 18, Bettendorf, IA
Sarah founded The Sparkle Effect, an organization that helps students across the country form cheerleading and dance teams that include students with disabilities. Students can visit The Sparkle Effect website to obtain information on forming their own teams. The website offers a step-by-step quick-start kit for creating an inclusive team, fundraising ideas, practice tips, information on grants for uniforms, and free on-site training. To date, the Sparkle Effect has raised more than $150,000 and generated 55 inclusive squads across the country.
Will L., 9, Fort Worth, TX
Will created FROG, Friends Reaching Our Goals, a service group that creates programs and events to raise awareness and funding for the Tarrant Area Food Bank. As part of FROG, he started the “Hits & Kicks Against Hunger” program, where elementary students fight hunger while playing baseball, softball and soccer. He also started “FROG’s at the Plate,” which brings together business owners and community leaders to raise money for the local food banks. To date, Will and his FROG team have donated approximately 40,000 meals, 6,000 backpacks of food and 3,000 cans of food.
Yoni K., 17, Washington, DC
In an effort to promote recycling, Yoni founded Color My World (CMW) which collects and repurposes crayons discarded by national restaurant chains and distributes them to shelters and underfunded schools. He also created a coloring book that encourages recycling. Yoni has partnered with 27 restaurants in nine states, encouraging them to recycle crayons in a bin provided by CMW. He then sanitizes the crayons and contacts schools to organize drop-offs. Yoni has raised approximately $10,000 for his cause, collecting nearly 20,000 crayons and recruiting numerous teen volunteers to help manage the project.
Ceilidh M., 18, New Westminster, BC
Ceilidh volunteers over 40 hours a month as a teen reporter, spokesperson and peer advocate for bullying prevention. She shares information about the dangers and consequences of bullying through presentations, television appearances, and articles. Ceilidh’s work has been featured on the National Bullying Prevention Center and Teens Against Bullying websites.