Alex B. Morse, Mayor, Holyoke, Massachusetts
The Challenge: The recent Brown University graduate now runs his hometown of 40,000, a city with one of the state's highest poverty rates.
How He Tackled It: Since taking office last winter, Morse has launched a needle exchange program and struck down plans for a casino ("Our economy shouldn't rely on gambling," he says), while providing support for a $168 million academic computing center that's under construction. Next up: hiring a director of arts, culture, and tourism to attract artists to the city, especially its abandoned warehouses.
Next Steps: While Morse has his detractors in the local government, he has engaged residents: "You'd be surprised," he says, "at the increase in attendance at City Council meetings!" —Amanda Angel
Alecia Page, President, Western Carolina University Student Government Association
The Challenge: North Carolina slashed some $400 million from the state university system's budgets.
How She Tackled It: "I kept seeing Facebook updates from my friends who could no longer afford to go to school," says Page, who has a teaching fellowship. "I thought I could tell their stories." With a borrowed video camera, she filmed her peers talking candidly about the devastating impact of reduced financial aid. The project, called Cuts Hurt, landed Page in Washington, D.C., playing the videos for North Carolina's congressional delegation.
The Happy Result: Lawmakers are considering rolling back some of the reductions in aid for 2013. "This is a huge issue," Page says. "We can't deny students the prospect of better lives." —A.A.
Emily Kane, President, New Mexico Professional Fire Fighters Association
The Challenge: New Mexico firefighters struggled to collect benefits.
How She Tackled It: Kane helped get state legislation passed that provides a $50,000 benefit to families of firefighters who died in the line of duty. She also lobbied for changes in workers' comp so that firefighters can now easily receive compensation if they fall victim to certain diseases. "We do our jobs in such an uncontrolled environment," says Kane, an 11-year veteran of the Albuquerque Fire Department. "You never know what you're exposed to."
Next Steps: Now running for a seat in the State House, Kane plans to retain her post as state association president. "I know the changes we've made have had a positive impact," she says proudly. —R.S.
Hannah Richmond, Girl delegate, Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas
As a nonprofit, Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas needs to pay for everything from campground maintenance to merit badges.
How She Tackled It:
Richmond, an exuberant 15-year-old, is one of 16 delegates representing 4,500 scouts in the San Antonio area, voicing their concerns to the region's governing board. But it's her business savvy that has won her so many fans—she has sold 9,858 boxes of cookies over the past two years.
The Happy Result:
Richmond's sales—which totaled $34,503—have helped fund local programs, including a mobile unit that houses laptops and uniform supplies, as well as scholarships to send scouts to camp. "I'd like to think that I make a difference in somebody's life," she says. —A.W.
Next: Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin: Yes, We Can All Just Get Along
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