HALO is a year-round initiative that recognizes one deserving teen every month for their work to “help and lead others (HALO)” in their community.
Yao was selected for his work as an advocate for youth volunteerism and civic engagement and will be featured in an on-air spot on TeenNick and highlighted on TeenNick.com throughout the month. In addition, HALO Effect will award a $5,000 grant to Yao’s charity, Kids Change the World.
“Kids Change the World was founded on the principle of encouraging and enabling others to take action in order to create a domino effect of people helping others,” says Yao. “With every person helped, there is one more person to pass another good deed onto someone else.”
Yao, 17, founded Kids Change the World in 2007. The non-profit organization provides free websites, legal services, start-up grants and other grassroots services to young people who want to create their own charitable programs. It also raises funds for cleft lip and palate surgeries for children across the globe.
The organization began when, in sixth grade, Yao was diagnosed with a severe misalignment of the teeth.
“I was terrified of the expected gradual worsening of the condition,” he said. “If I left it untreated, I would not be able to speak or eat properly. During my research about my own physical condition, I came across online images of children with cleft lips and palates. I could relate to how they felt. In developing countries, these children are thought to be ‘cursed’ by God and are often abandoned by their own families. Without corrective surgeries, the prospect of a job, marriage, and a normal life is nil. I knew I had to do something, if even just to help one child.”
Yao organized his first summer Read-A-Thon that same year.
“By the summer’s end, to my surprise, I had raised $1,000—four times my initial goal!” he says.
To date, his organization has supported more than 70 of these life-changing procedures.
Since its founding, Kids Change the World has grown into one of the world’s leading youth-led civic service organizations. In addition to encouraging young people of all walks of life to volunteer, the group has helped create various service programs that benefit members of the armed forces, promotes recycling and provides at-risk students worldwide with educational resources through the organization’s Education Preparation program.
For this school year, Kids Change the World collected and distributed nearly 1,000 books and 200 school planners.
Yao will graduate from high school this spring and will attend college in the fall. He hopes to study the sciences, education policy and healthcare management in order to pursue a career that will allow him to incorporate his service work.
To join Yao in his efforts, visit www.kidschangetheworld.org.