2019 –TEXAS (HOUSTON REGION)
Melissa Khasbagan is a junior at Westlake High School in Austin. In 2017, Melissa traveled to visit her family in rural Inner Mongolia. Upon her return to the United States, Melissa began collecting books for her cousins in Mongolia who didn't have the necessary resources to learn English. Melissa eventually collected 1,000 English books to send to schools in Mongolia to bridge a divide in cultures and fight racism. To continue her work long term, Melissa officially established 1000 Books in 2018 as a 501(c)3 organization. Prejudice and stereotypes arise from ignorance and lack of knowledge, so 1000 Books aims to provide students with the resources to learn English to become global citizens. This youth-led organization sends books and entrepreneurship materials to rural and undeveloped areas across Mongolia, China, USA, Russia (Siberia), Liberia, Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Australia. 1000 Books has continued to develop learning resources by producing an audio curriculum, building libraries, and training teachers. Melissa also introduces entrepreneurship to students by conducting workshops and webinars, as well as hosting the Teen Entrepreneur Podcast, which interviews teen entrepreneurs from around the world who have been able to successfully create their own businesses. While her work has already impacted over 35,000 students and 400 teachers, she plans to expand to include additional countries in Africa, focusing first on Liberia. By 2020, she hopes to convene a youth summit in West Africa, with an emphasis on creating peace amidst conflict and poverty through entrepreneurship. Melissa believes that education and entrepreneurship can provide equal opportunity, and that young adults can come together to change the world.