Daniel Kent Wins Google Zeitgeist Young Minds Competition
Daniel Kent, who will graduate from the College in December after taking a semester off to intern at the White House, was named one of 10 winners of the Google Zeitgeist Young Minds Competition, a contest for 18-24 year olds who are working to make a positive difference in the world.
As part of his prize, Kent (along with the nine other winners from the Americas) was invited to attend Google Zeitgeist, an annual“meeting of the minds” that brings together“big brains” and top leaders from the worlds of politics, tech, the arts, philanthropy and media. This year's conference was held in Paradise Valley, Arizona, in late September.
â€œIncredible doesn't even begin to describe it,” says Kent of his experience at the conference.“It was overwhelming, but in a good way. So many things happened, and I met so many incredible people.”
Some of those people included musicians like will.I.am, MC Hammer and the band OK Go; tech entrepreneurs like Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Co-Founder Larry Page; politicians like Newark Mayor Cory Booker; former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; and media moguls like Arianna Huffington, who asked Kent to blog for her Huffington Post about digital literacy issues. But despite Zeitgeist's impressive guest list, the highlight of the three-day event for Kent was interacting with the guests who don't have bold-faced names.
â€œThe best part was meeting the other Young Minds winners and listening to their stories,” he says.“One student was baking cupcakes to raise money to start the first girls soccer team in Western Nepal. Another student developed a belt that's based on visual sensors and vibration motors to tell blind individuals where obstacles are and to empower them to be able to walk around more. There was another student who developed OpenCurriculum, the first K-12 open source curriculum. It was great to learn their stories and see how we all might work together in the future.”
Winners were chosen based on one-minute video clips submitted through YouTube. Kent was recognized for his work with Net Literacy, a nonprofit he founded while still in middle school. The program, which was initially created to teach computer skills to senior citizens, has grown to include other volunteer efforts like computer refurbishing services and increasing computer access to underserved communities.
â€œWe've solicited a lot of students from the courts or even at-risk youth who are on free or reduced lunches and teach them how to refurbish computers,” says Kent.“It helps them learn job skills and life skills while giving back to the community, keeping them busy during the summer and keeping them off the streets. We've recently started a program engaging homeless youth. We provide them with a meal through generous donations from some of our sponsors, and we teach them a marketable skillâ€”how to refurbish computers.”
Kent's nonprofit, which he incorporated using money he was saving to buy a car, is almost entirely powered by young people. Half of its board of directors is comprised of youths, and students run all of its programming and day-to-day operations, even going so far as to write its grant applications and fundraising appeals. Kent is, therefore, a perfect match for the Google Young Minds Competition, which aims to discover and promote ambitious young people working to change the world around them.
â€œGoogle really has a strong commitment to youth,” says Kent,“and to focusing on us as leaders of tomorrow as well as leaders of today.”
-- Rebecca Raber