Hermela Shimelis

2024 - BOSTON

Hermela Shimelis is a junior at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Despite the presence of world-renowned institutions like MIT, Harvard and Kendall Square (dubbed "the most innovative square mile on the planet"), local youth in Cambridge face racial and socioeconomic disparities in academic achievement similar to those in less-resourced cities. Recognizing that the benefits of the city's economic growth and innovation are not equally shared, Hermela spearheads 2 Blocks. This initiative fosters meaningful collaborations between businesses and educational sectors to systematically provide opportunities and career exposure for underrepresented students. Her leadership extends to co-founding the "Voices of 2 Blocks" podcast, where she engages in critical conversations with community leaders to address educational disparities and advocate for community-driven solutions. The podcast has been applauded for discussing the current state of education and where it needs to go. Additionally, Hermela has facilitated dynamic workshops at companies like Microsoft, Google and IDEO, and hosted two annual summits uniting stakeholders from schools, universities, corporations and city governments. Her efforts have fostered dialogue on creating a diverse workforce in Cambridge through collaborative efforts. Through her involvement with Innovators for Purpose, she collaborates with a team of students to improve the quality of education in a district serving approximately 6,500 students, while amplifying the voices of underrepresented populations. Ultimately, this project represents Hermela's passionate commitment to making sure Cambridge's rich resources benefit all students via accessible and racially representative pathways, envisioning a future without barriers to tomorrow’s innovative economy.