Get the latest delivered to your inbox
Privacy Policy

Now Reading

HandsOn Network and Scholastic Media Announce Winners of Third Annual Contest to Support Civic Engagement

25-Year-Old Illinois Teacher's BIG Idea Receives $25,000 Grand Prize

HandsOn Network and Scholastic Media Announce Winners of Third Annual Contest to Support Civic Engagement

25-Year-Old Illinois Teacher's BIG Idea Receives $25,000 Grand Prize

Published 10-12-11

Submitted by Points of Light

Twenty-five-year-old Illinois pre-kindergarten teacher Andrea de Avila’s BIG idea to transform her school’s courtyard roof into a garden and play area for an early childhood program was awarded the $25,000 grand prize grant from the BE BIG Fund as part of the Scholastic Clifford BE BIG In Your Community Contest. Andrea’s vision will come to life with the support of Chicago Cares, a HandsOn Network affiliate. Ten additional contest entries were selected as first place prize winners and 19 second places winners will be awarded grants to help implement their BE BIG ideas to improve their communities with the help HandsOn Network, the volunteer activation division of Points of Light Institute.

The national “BE BIG in Your Community Contest” is a signature part of Scholastic’s ongoing Clifford The Big Red Dog BE BIG! Campaign sponsored by American Family Insurance. The contest invited participants to submit an idea that demonstrates Clifford’s Big Ideas (Share, Help Others, Be Kind, Be Responsible, Play Fair, Be a Good Friend, Believe in Yourself, Have Respect, Work Together and Be Truthful) for a chance to win a community grant to be used to implement the winning proposals. Since its inception in 2009, the contest has generated more than 2,500 entries from more than 60,000 children, parents, teachers and community leaders ranging in age from 2 to 70. Scholastic Media is a division of Scholastic Inc., a global children’s publishing, education and media company.

“We are excited to celebrate young, influential change agents like Andrea,” said Michelle Nunn, CEO of Points of Light Institute. “By joining forces with Scholastic, we hope to inspire and engage young people and families around the world to make service and civic engagement a priority in their everyday lives.” 

De Avila says she was inspired to apply for a BE BIG grant in order to provide a safe space for outdoor play and learning for her school’s students. By encouraging participation in the creation and maintenance of an eco-friendly garden, de Avila’s BIG idea will also foster an appreciation for caring for the environment and community. The project will depend on the support of local volunteers, who will assist in developing the play area and planting the garden.

“Andrea and her fellow teachers saw in the BE BIG Contest an opportunity to serve her school and its students,” said Deborah Forte, president of Scholastic Media and executive vice president of Scholastic Inc. “Clifford’s BIG ideas are inspiring people of all ages; Scholastic is delighted that so many people are committing to improve the lives of others in innovative ways, while taking pride in service to their communities.”

The 10 additional first place prize winning ideas will each be awarded a $2,500 community grant. Nineteen second place prize winning ideas – one from each state in American Family Insurance’s 19-state business territory – will also receive grants totaling $25,000. The 10 first place prize winners are:

  • Amy French, 35, of Columbus, Ga. will work with Volunteer Macon to create an educational support room for children who reside at her local battered women’s shelter
  • Brittany Bergquist, 20, from Nowell, Mass., along with her brother, will work with Boston Cares on her BIG idea, “Helping Heroes Home,” a project designed to provide prepaid cell phones to veterans facing financial hardships
  • Julie Raynor, 49, of Twin Lake, Mich. and her team will work with Volunteer Center of West Michigan on a residential summer camp program called “Camp Shout Out” for young people (ages 7-18) who stutter
  • Yoni Kalin, 17, of Washington, D.C. will work with HandsOn Greater DC Cares to expand the reach of “Color My World,” an organization that collects crayons from restaurants and recycles them to local schools and early childhood care centers
  • Megan Schreck, 26, from North Huntington, Pa. will work with generationOn to create “Beverly’s Birthdays,” a nonprofit organization that will provide birthday celebrations for local low-income and homeless children
  • Jess Davis, 18, of Santa Barbara, Calif. and her team will work with Volunteer Ventura County to expand the nonprofit organization “Everybody Dance Now!” by creating a global network of chapters committed to transforming the lives of young people through free dance programming
  • Hernando Buitrago, 27, of San Francisco, Calif. and his team will work with generationOn to expand MusicianCorps, an organization that teaches at-risk students to play a new instrument and uses the power of music to increase involvement in school
  • Atnreakn Alleyne, 27, of Camden, N.J., will work with generationOn to promote college awareness, college readiness, and high academic achievement in high schools through TeenSHARP college prep clubs
  • Kayla Lafi, 16, of Fairview, N.J., will work with Volunteer Center of Bergen County to launch “Teens Living With Celiac” and spread awareness of celiac disease in her community
  • Rubye Emerson, 70, of McGehee, Ark. will work with work with generationOn to create the Bicycle Factory, a program that introduces students to entrepreneurial business and marketing

The winning BIG ideas were selected by a panel of judges based on four criteria: feasibility, creativity, sustainability and impact. A complete list of finalists, and profiles about their BIG ideas, can be found at

About Points of Light Institute

Points of Light Institute inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. The Institute has a global focus to redefine volunteerism and civic engagement for the 21st century, putting people at the center of community problem solving. We are organized to innovate, incubate and activate new ideas that help people act upon their power to make a difference. Points of Light Institute operates three divisions that share our mission: HandsOn Network, generationOn and AmeriCorps Alums. For more information, visit

About HandsOn Network

The volunteer-activation arm of Points of Light Institute, Hands on Network includes 250 community action centers that deliver 30 million hours of volunteer service each year and extend to 16 countries around the world. These centers focus on helping people plug into volunteer opportunities in their local communities, partnering with more than 70,000 corporate, faith and nonprofit organizations to manage volunteer resources, and developing the leadership capacity of volunteers. Annually, the network delivers approximately 30 million hours of volunteer service valued at $626 million. For more information, please visit

About Scholastic

Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and a leader in educational technology and related services and children’s media. Scholastic creates quality books, print and technology-based learning materials and programs, magazines, multi-media and other products that help children learn both at school and at home. The Company distributes its products and services worldwide through a variety of channels, including school-based book clubs and book fairs, retail stores, schools, libraries, on-air, and online at

Points of Light Logo

Points of Light

Points of Light

Points of Light is a global nonprofit organization that inspires, equips and mobilizes millions of people to take action that changes the world. We envision a world in which every individual discovers the power to make a difference, creating healthy communities in vibrant, participatory societies. Through 145 affiliates across 39 countries, and in partnership with thousands of nonprofits and corporations, Points of Light engages 3.7 million volunteers in 16.7 million hours of service each year, contributing $498.7 million of value in people power into communities around the world. We bring the power of people to bear where it’s needed most. To learn more about Points of Light visit

Partnering with Points of Light means you’ll have the expertise and support you need to mobilize your colleagues and create community impact using all aspects of civic engagement. We've helped companies with a variety of needs including implementing large-scale employee volunteer events, tackling your larger social impact vision, expanding how you engage communities and consumers, infusing new ideas to your annual employee engagement programs, connecting with peers to bring the latest and greatest ideas on impact measurement, and getting company leadership investment and buy-in. Learn more today.

More from Points of Light

Join today and get the latest delivered to your inbox