Jennifer Hamad

2021 – TEXAS (HOUSTON REGION)

Jennifer Hamad is a senior at Heights High School in Houston, Texas. Her work to address educational inequities that disproportionately affect low-income minority children in public schools across the United States has taken on the form of a model to revolutionize the way children are educated in the country. Known as "HEEP II," the financially self-sustaining plan aims to undo systemic educational inequities by incentivizing student attendance and teacher pay, combating childhood illiteracy, reinvigorating classrooms, and bolstering student motivation. Jennifer has acted as the student spokesperson and student researcher throughout the development of the plan, which is now in the execution phase and holds the potential to impact the lives of the Houston Independent School District's 214,000+ students and the nation’s 50+ million K-12 children in public schools upon national implementation. Although resistance has accompanied her work to reform the public education system, Jennifer says her efforts to uproot educational inequities will not cease until every child has access to a quality education that provides them with the skills they need to succeed and achieve their dreams. Over the summer of 2020, Jennifer also developed and released a survey that received national attention and garnered over 3400 responses in efforts to gauge the opinions of parents, students, and teachers regarding school reopening plans in the fall semester in Houston Independent School District amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. After running statistical analysis on the survey, she discovered that low-income minority children would be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 because their families lack necessities at home that would force them to return to school in person if a choice is given. In response to her survey findings, Jennifer wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News, founded a free tutoring initiative for elementary aged children, and informed HISD's decision to bolster food distribution efforts to combat hunger in the district.