2020 - FLORIDA (TAMPA REGION)
Brandon Griggs is a junior at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida. At age 14, he attended a city council meeting in Jacksonville and noticed that there was a lack of youth representation, even though the youth in his community were impacted most by issues like crime, violence, drugs, and poverty. The lack of representation inspired Brandon to found Hear the Youth, an organization empowering youth to have a voice and improve the policies addressing issues that affect them. Hear the Youth fosters constructive conversations between youth and their schools, government, and legislators, allowing students in Jacksonville's lowest-performing school districts to express their needs and create change. Since 2018, Hear the Youth's team has grown to more than 130 teens at four schools. Two members were named to Jacksonville’s Crime Commission, working to decrease the prevalence of youth crime and gun violence. Thanks to Hear the Youth’s collaboration with the Duval County Superintendent, public school students now have improved educational resources, including free internet access and quality school lunches. In 2019, Hear the Youth was recognized by the City of Jacksonville for its work and was named the recipient of the Jacksonville Community Pearls Award. Brandon is currently working with Jacksonville students to outline a proposal of changes they wish to see in their schools and communities. Hear the Youth is determined to work collaboratively with local leaders until policy is implemented to reflect those changes. Outside of Hear the Youth, Brandon works to help improve race relations in his community by holding student-led panels in which teens can share their lived experiences with these issues.