In 2013, Trisha Prabhu read a news story that broke her heart — a 12-year-old girl had taken her life after experiencing cyberbullying.
Prabhu was only 13 at the time and couldn’t understand someone younger than her taking her own life. However, instead of processing her shock and moving on, she decided to do something about it.
“I started thinking about what I could do to stop this from ever happening again,” writes Prabhu in an email.
The inner workings of the brain had always fascinated Prabhu, so she decided to research adolescent behavior as it relates to cyberbullying for a science fair. What she found was startling — adolescents are 50% more likely to impulsively post hateful things online than adults because the part of their brains that makes decisions isn’t fully developed yet.
Armed with that knowledge and her coding skills, Prabhu began working on an app designed to fight cyberbullying.
She called it ReThink.
According to her research, if given the chance, adolescents will change their minds and not post a hurtful message 93% of the time. With the help of her teachers, her parents, and endless Googling, Prabhu developed the ReThink app, which detects a hateful message before it’s sent and gives the creator the option of deleting it.
The app is now available for most smartphones and tablets, and so far, over 3,000 schools have adopted it. Not only has it received an overwhelmingly positive response from parents, students, teachers, and law enforcement officials, it has been awarded scientific merit by Google, MIT, Northwestern University, WebMD, and even the White House. Today, Prabhu is traveling the world, speaking out against cyberbullying and advocating for STEM education, especially for young women. At only 17, she’s certainly an innovator to watch.
That’s why she’s one of the 2017 Tech Impact AllStars. Presented by NationSwell and Comcast NBCUniversal, Prabhu is one of five social innovators who are using technology to solve problems in their communities.
And she’s in good company. Here’s a look at four other trailblazers making a major impact on the tech world.
1. Dan Rhoton, Executive Director of Hopeworks ‘N Camden, is preparing at-risk youths for careers in tech.
Not only does the nonprofit provide job training support, it offers counseling for kids who’ve experienced all levels of trauma.
This is why their mission states, “we believe every youth, no matter their history, has the ability to succeed and thrive. Not just survive.”
Rhoton joined Hopeworks in 2012, and helped direct its focus on trauma support. As a result, the program’s college enrollment numbers increased more than 300% and job placement by 70%.
2. Felecia Hatcher-Pearson, Co-founder of Code Fever, is helping to bring more people of color to the tech community table.
Hatcher-Pearson runs a coding and entrepreneur training facility in Miami called Code Fever for kids age 13 to 21. The organization was specifically created to help underserved minorities break into various STEM fields and take up leadership positions in order to level the cultural imbalance that currently exists.
Hatcher-Pearson’s no stranger to overcoming obstacles. When she was younger, her guidance counselor told her she didn’t have the grades to get into college, so she taught herself how to code and landed over $130,000 in scholarship funds. She’s basically the archetype for the idea “if you can dream it, you can be it,” so now she’s made it her mission to inspire others. She’s already introduced over 3,000 kids and adults to the tech ecosystem.
3. Kelsey Foster, Campaign Director for the Committee for a Better New Orleans, is using a video game to make city budgets more accessible to the people of New Orleans.
Public finances aren’t exactly the easiest things to understand, especially for the majority of people directly affected by them. That’s why Kelsey Foster helped come up with a user-friendly video game to clearly show them how it all works.
It’s called the Big Easy Budget Game, and it allows residents to see just how city budgets are balanced and where their hard-earned tax dollars go. Users play the mayor and are allotted the same budget (simulated, of course) to dispense where they see fit. Who says budgeting has to be boring?
Right now, 80% of New Orleans’ population feels neglected when it comes to budget decisions. Foster knew it was high time they found a way to include them in the conversation, which is why the data the game collects is being used to inform voters ahead of the mayoral election.
4. Jeremy Peskin, Co-founder of Borderwise, is streamlining the citizenship process for undocumented immigrants.
Before Peskin became an American citizen, he always feared he’d be deported when he traveled back to see his family in Canada. He wanted to find a way to eliminate that fear for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.
He created Borderwise in 2016 to reduce the cost for immigrants to achieve citizenship status and to make the application process much easier to digest. By putting all the paperwork online, costs are lowered from thousands to just $500. Peskin hopes this will help more immigrants, who might otherwise be unsure how to proceed, apply for citizenship.
While only in its first year, the program’s already helped hundreds of immigrants get the process underway.
Developing technology is an ongoing process, but with such brilliant minds like the ones above at the helm, there’s no telling what a difference they’ll make.
Innovations like these have the power to change millions of lives, especially in the hands of compassionate creators.
Prabhu put it succinctly: “If I am working on making the world around me a better place, in ways big or small, I would consider myself to be on the right track.”
Vote for your favorite 2017 Tech Impact AllStars presented by NationSwell and Comcast NBCUniversal from October 2nd through November 2nd by clicking here.
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