John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards® Recipients
May Boeve, 33, is the Executive Director of 350.org, a landmark grassroots campaign to engage and mobilize communities around the world in political action aimed at holding governments, corporations, and institutions accountable for addressing climate change.
Carlos Curbelo, 37, represents Florida’s 26th Congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he serves on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. He was elected to the House in 2014.
At the age of 31, Aja Brown became the youngest mayor in the history of Compton, California. Elected in 2013, Brown previously served over 10 years as an urban planner in municipalities across Southern California. She was elected to office on her 12 point plan, “Vision For Compton,” that focused on gang violence and bringing new jobs into the city.
As the founder and executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), Max Kenner has devoted his career to providing access to higher education and effective solutions to the criminal justice system. The leading program of its kind in the country, BPI enrolls more than 300 students across six prisons in New York State and has awarded nearly 400 Bard College degrees.
In January 2012, at age 29, Pete Buttigieg became the youngest mayor to serve a U.S. city of more than 100,000 people, and he quickly established South Bend as a model for municipal innovation and smart government.
Kirsten Lodal co-founded LIFT, an innovative anti-poverty nonprofit, during her sophomore year at Yale University. While volunteering in Head Start programs focused on at-risk children, Lodal was struck by the lack of comprehensive support services available to the parents of the children she served.
Svante Myrick became Ithaca’s youngest mayor in 2011, at the age of 24. Since his election, he has championed innovative partnerships and development to spur economic growth and entrepreneurship in Ithaca.
During a Fulbright fellowship in Africa, Nina Dudnik worked with highly skilled scientists who lacked access to the basic tools of scientific research. As a molecular biologist in the US, she saw opportunity in the fact that basic research tools were often discarded while they were still useful. She founded Seeding Labs to provide scientists in the developing world with tools and resources to enable vital research.
Tulsi Gabbard is one of the first two female combat veterans to serve as a member of the US Congress. An advocate for environmental policy, Gabbard first ran for the Hawaii state legislature in 2002, where at 21 she became the youngest person ever to serve in that body.
Charles Best is Founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that enables individuals to provide direct support to teachers and students in public schools. Best founded DonorsChoose.org at Wings Academy, a public high school in the Bronx where he taught social studies for five years. He came up with the idea during a conversation in the teachers’ lunch room, and his students volunteered to help start the organization.
Stacey Abrams is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly, and the first African-American to lead in the Georgia House of Representatives. First elected in 2006, Abrams has made a mark as a thoughtful, open-minded legislator and a master of detail in the formulation of public policy.
Two years ago, Veronika Scott, then an industrial design major at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, began working on a class assignment: "Design to fill a need." She spent months at a community shelter, learning about the needs of the homeless men and women she met. In particular, she was struck by the needs of those who preferred sleeping on the street to sleeping in the shelter, whether for reasons of privacy or pride or drug addiction or mental illness. For her class project, Scott designed a winter coat that converted into a sleeping bag.
In 2000, then a 19-year-old sophomore at Yale, Jennifer Staple-Clark took a summer work position as a clinical researcher of glaucoma in the office of her childhood ophthalmologist in New Haven, Connecticut. She was shocked by what she saw there: scores of low-income and homeless patients whose glaucoma had needlessly progressed into blindness. Over and over, she would hear the regret of patients who wished they had visited an eye doctor sooner. She felt compelled to do something.
In 2003, at the age of 23, Luke Ravenstahl became the youngest person ever elected to the Pittsburgh City Council. In 2005, he became City Council president, and ten months later, after the untimely death of then-mayor Bob O’Connor, Ravenstahl was sworn in as Pittsburgh’s 58th mayor. He was 26 years old, and Pittsburgh was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Hector Balderas, 37, was elected State Auditor of New Mexico in 2006, making him the youngest Hispanic statewide elected official in the United States at age 33. On taking office, Balderas worked to change the longstanding perception among state agencies that their expenditures would go unexamined and that mistakes and misconduct would be allowed to slide. Despite a limited budget, a small staff, and widespread resistance from agencies uncomfortable with having their books scrutinized, Balderas fought to create a culture of accountability in New Mexico.
Lateefah Simon, 33, has advocated tirelessly on behalf of communities of color, youth and women since her teenage years. At age 15, she joined the Center for Young Women's Development, an outreach organization led by young women to provide peer-to-peer support to at-risk girls and young women in San Francisco. Simon began as a volunteer and eventually became a staff member at the Center, where she worked to help homeless, low-income and incarcerated young women transform and rebuild their lives.
Patrick J. Murphy, 36, became the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the U.S. Congress when he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2006. Since his election, Murphy has become a leader in the debate on Iraq and Afghanistan, and on military and veterans policy. In his first month in Congress, he introduced legislation calling for the responsible withdrawal of troops from Iraq in order to refocus on the fight in Afghanistan.
At the age of 19, Rebecca Onie founded Project HEALTH, a non-profit health agency that seeks to break the link between poverty and poor health. As a volunteer in a pediatric clinic at Boston Medical Center, Onie found that many patients returned to the clinic with recurring illnesses stemming from poor living conditions, inadequate diets, and other consequences of poverty.
When Cory A. Booker, 39, took the oath of office as mayor of New Jersey’s largest city on July 1, 2006, he assumed the leadership of a city plagued by crime and economic blight. Booker immediately launched a “100-Day Plan” to improve public safety, develop the economy, and reform city government.
Giovanna Negretti, 37, is the co-founder and executive director of Oiste?, established in 1999 to provide Massachusetts Latinos with the tools and training to enter public service. The organization was founded in response to concern about the underrepresentation of Latinos in public decision making roles. While its original goal was to provide non-partisan campaigning workshops to Latinos who planned to seek public office, Oiste’s mission quickly expanded to include civic education, leadership development and advocacy.
Jay Williams made history in November, 2005 when he became the youngest and the first African-American Mayor of Youngstown, Ohio. A former banker who left the corporate world to serve as director of the city’s community development agency, Williams staked his mayoral candidacy on an unusual and politically bold plan to revitalize the city.
Zainab Salbi founded Women for Women International in 1993 to help women in war-torn regions restart their lives in ways that are independent, productive, and secure. The organization connects American women with women in war-torn regions through a tiered sponsorship program that begins with direct financial and emotional support, and leads to greater awareness and understanding of women’s rights.
During his five years in public office as a member of the Los Angeles City Council, including serving as President of the City Council in his second term, Eric Garcetti has taken on some of the city’s most pressing public problems including affordable housing, environmental issues, and economic development.
Jane Leu, 37, Founder and Executive Director of Upwardly Global, a nonprofit organization that helps legal immigrants reclaim their professional careers in the United States and assists employers in tapping into the talents and skills of foreign-born professionals, was honored with the 2006 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award for a non-elected individual whose contributions in the realm of community service, advocacy or grassroots activism have had a positive impact on a broad public policy issue or challenge.
When 38-year-old Kica Matos became Executive Director of JUNTA for Progressive Action, she accepted the leadership of the oldest Latino community service organization in New Haven, Connecticut. But prior to her arrival, JUNTA had fallen into disrepair, even as New Haven’s Latino population surged in number and need. In a few short years, Ms. Matos has transformed JUNTA into a model service provider and a powerful community force, expanding the organization’s mission and programs and multiplying its client base with each passing year.
When she took her oath of office in 2003, Lisa Madigan became the first woman ever to hold the position of Illinois Attorney General. At the age of 39, she serves as the state’s chief consumer advocate and law enforcement officer.
In 1999, at the age of 30, Karen Carter beat out a diverse field of candidates to fill the legislative seat of Louisiana civil rights legend Rev. Avery C. Alexander. Her legislative district encompasses the heart of New Orleans and during her first year as a legislator, her colleagues selected Representative Carter as “Rookie of the Year.”
While still an undergraduate at Princeton University, Wendy Kopp outlined her idea for Teach for America in her college thesis. Frustrated by the poor quality of America’s public school system, Ms. Kopp decided to create a national corps of energetic young teachers by using funds from corporate sponsors to recruit top college graduates to teach in the nations’ most desperate school districts.
The Dan Fenn Award for Political Leadership was established by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in 1987 to honor a Massachusetts elected official aged 35 years or younger who demonstrated outstanding and effective political leadership in addressing or resolving a public policy issue or need. The award is named in honor of Dan Fenn, the first director of the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and a former member of President Kennedy's staff.