Name: Bobbi Piasecki
Hometown: Aberdeen, South Dakota
Project Idea: A reading program for Native American children in the community to increase cultural awareness, self-esteem, and reading skills
Sound bite: "I hope to provide an environment where children can identify positively with their Lakota culture and learn traditions that are being lost through the generations. The program will educate not only students, but also parents and the community. It is a bridge that connects the community with the surrounding culture of the region."
Name: Michaelle Pope
Hometown: Lauderhill, Florida
Project Idea: To coordinate community resources in the Fort Lauderdale area to address issues that bar low-income and minority youth in the Dillard High School Zone from succeeding
Sound bite: "I'm one of six children who migrated to the U.S. with my parents from Haiti. They literally gave up everything they had to bring us here. Each worked multiple jobs, struggling to clothe and feed us, and always with one goal in mind: that we be educated. We were keenly aware of what they gave up for that purpose. So succeeding wasn't an option; it had to happen."
Name: Rhonda Priest
Hometown: Cheyenne, Wyoming
Project Idea: To expand the services and efficiency of the Cheyenne Community Clinic and other agencies through the development of a multitenant nonprofit center
Sound bite: "Six years ago I moved to Wyoming for my husband's work. I'm a Georgia girl, so it was completely foreign to me. ... He was unfaithful, and I think he assumed I would just go running back home (he'd moved out of state). I didn't, because I had committed myself to the clinic and to helping people who were underserved. I felt embraced by this community. What began as my wilderness has become my sanctuary."
Name: Lori-Anne Ramsay
Hometown: Dorchester, Massachusetts
Project Idea: Business Advancement & Social Entrepreneurship Inc., helping at-risk, inner city Boston youth overcome barriers to graduating from high school, going to college, and becoming community leaders
Sound bite: "In our organization, mentors are required to have long-term, stable relationships with the kids, committing to at least a year. I have a father who walks in and out of my life, so I know what it's like for someone to pop in, make promises, and not be there when you need them. It was very important to me to create a model around these kids' needs.
Name: Bethany Robertson
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Project Idea: American Parents Association, a national membership organization that supports, connects, and activates American parents and caregivers
Sound bite: "This past year has been the most challenging of my life, as I was diagnosed with colon cancer. As someone who has been pretty independent and self-reliant in the past, I had a lot to learn about letting people take care of me. But when I invited them in, I was overwhelmed with positive support. I've been going through a tough healing process, but I'm excited to be diving back into my passions."
Name: Thena Robinson
Hometown: New Orleans
Project Idea: A New Orleans–based, nonprofit advocacy organization using video as a change-oriented tool to promote social justice
Sound bite: "I will never forget when Joan Hochman, COO of the White House Project, asked me at Women Rule! about my project and how things were going. I began expressing doubt in myself and she immediately interrupted me. 'Why are you here?' she asked. 'You need to believe in yourself in all that you do.' In that moment, I realized the power of self-doubt and how it inhibits all we do."
Name: Lindsay Ross
Hometown: Vienna, Virginia
Project Idea: The Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act, legislation that provides a support network and income security for at-risk youth, specifically foster children
Sound bite: "In college I studied the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and was awed by how these laws crippled the institution of Jim Crow. The power of legislation to provide civil rights and liberties inspired me to propose legislation where I could make a similar impact for another vulnerable segment of our society—children."
Name: Evan Ryan
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Project Idea: Home of the Brave, a conference to troubleshoot why so many veterans are unable to find post-service employment
Sound bite: "There seems to be little gratitude extended to veterans on their return. Men and women who have gone through such hardship come home to face difficulty finding work and supporting their families. The war in Iraq may be controversial, but our veterans shouldn't be. ... I want to play a part in welcoming vets home, but I want to do it in a way that gives them a hand up, not a handout."
Name: Christina Saint Laurent
Hometown: San Francisco
Project Idea: Shapeshifters, a line of dolls for girls based on global indigenous shamanism
Sound bite: "I was recently at a toy fair, where I talked to an intellectual property rights lawyer who works in boys' action figures. I shared my concept, and he said it would never work—that girls only want to be one of two things: models or mothers. This is not the '50s! ... Toys help create what kids envision for themselves, and right now it's very, very limited for girls. I want to change that."
Photos: Ben Goldstein