20 Successful Nonprofits Started by Students

20 Successful Nonprofits Started by Students

by Lindsay Nichols, on 12/3/12 4:17 AM

The following is cross-post from Sophia Coppolla of OnlineCollege.org. You can find the original post here.

A group of Nazareth College students organized craft and classroom supplies to help RCSD School 41 prepare for their first day.

Colleges have always been hotbeds of idealism, where gifted minds, too young to be jaded, dream of better futures they want to bring into being. At the same time, one of our culture’s most widely promoted values has been the entrepreneurial spirit, especially in recent years. In the private sector, spinoffs of research done at institutions like MIT and Stanford have shaped our modern economy, taking companies like Google and Facebook from dorm rooms to the NASDAQ. Many business schools have recently made a significant shift in emphasis from molding middle management to acting as incubators for start-ups. So it’s no surprise that innovative ventures are actively being created, fostered, and rewarded in the nonprofit zone as well. Here are 20 amazing philanthropic organizations that began as student projects and are now going on to change their communities and the planet:


    Government and Politics major Ben Simon launched the food aid program that became Food Recovery Network when he was a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park. Originally a plan to collect unused food from campus serveries to feed the homeless, the organization began collecting from private restaurants as well, expanded to schools in other states, won two social entrepreneurship contests as well as outside seed money, and registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.


    New York University’s Eli Lowenfeld traveled to Iowa in 2008 after seeing TV reporting on the devastating effect of flooding in Cedar Rapids. During his volunteering, he noticed there was no organized Jewish effort to match the churches and other groups … so he founded one himself! Originally a student group, JDRC now operates under the umbrella of the Jewish nonprofit incubator Bikkurim.


    Two Cornell University freshmen, Ricky Panzer and Alex Friedman, launched this anti-poverty foundation in 2010. The pair’s first initiative, called Project Ndola, raised funds to buy shoes, produced locally in Ndola, Zambia, for children at the Haven of Hope Orphanage. Signature Donations is currently working to build a financially self-sustaining school in that same town.


    Gabriel Whaley, who was on the mens’ soccer team at West Point and later transferred to the University of North Carolina, founded this charity soccer camp in 2006. Participants pay in food donations rather than money. At UNC Whaley worked with mentors from the business school to obtain 501(c)(3) status, and hopes to build his nonprofit into a national or even international concern.


    Jean Leon Iragena, a Rwandan international student, was studying abroad as a junior at Millsaps College in Mississippi when he founded this U.S.-based charity to promote literacy in his native land. Donating e-book readers, awarding prizes in a writing competition for Rwandan youth, and publishing a thrice-yearly magazine are just a few of the Foundation’s current projects.


    George Srour created Building Tomorrow while he was a student at the College of William and Mary in Virginia and an intern at the UN, in order to improve educational facilities in Uganda. They’ve already built seven schools and eight more are on the way. To top it off, this year the young organization received the ultimate seal of approval in the NGO world, when former president BIll Clinton and his daughter Chelsea visited their school in Gita.

  7. PL-AIDS:

    Founded by a group of Brown University students in 2009 as the Brown Global HELP Initiative, Partners in Learning about AIDS is a nonprofit that “seeks to reduce HIV/AIDS prevalence and incidence around the globe through film-based outreach to at-risk populations,” sponsoring local prevention measures in Providence and southern New England as well as international prophylaxis education.


    First put together in 2001 with a social entrepreneurship award of $20,000 from the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, this microfunding venture disburses loans to local business owners in the New Haven area in order to stimulate prosperity in Yale’s own backyard.


    A group of undergrads at the University of California, Santa Barbara founded EENG in 2009 to bring free environmental education programs to California’s cash-strapped public schools. Since then, it’s expanded from a single second-grade classroom to an organization of four regional chapters with 220 volunteers serving over 3,000 children.


    Kibera is a troubled district of Nairobi where 60 Kenyans are employed by this NGO, founded in 2001 by UNC senior and former Marine Rye Barcott. It treats over 40,000 patients at its clinic and over 5,000 children in its youth programs. In 2007, Senator (now President) Barack Obama paid a visit to CFK in his ancestral homeland, and when violence broke out following Kenya’s 2008 elections, the group played a valuable role in providing aid.

  11. J.E.S.S.I.C.A. CARES:

    Jessica Ballew describes herself as Chief Empowerment Officer and Founder of J.E.S.S.I.C.A. Cares, whose name is a backronym standing for “Journey to Becoming an Extraordinarily Strong, Successful Individual with Courageous Aspirations.” Ballew founded this group that does leadership and self-esteem outreach on behalf of young females while studying at the for-profit Berkeley College, where she was a nontraditional student, having worked in banking for over 14 years.


    In an educational environment where it often seems the privileged can buy up the test scores, essays, and internships one needs for a bright future, CollegeSpring is one nonprofit aiming to level the playing field by giving SAT prep and college counseling to low-income students. Stanford students Garrett Neiman and Jessica Perez founded the organization as SEE College Prep in 2008, and it now serves over 2,000 students in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.


    Amber Koonce, another UNC student (they seem to be particularly prominent in this field), created Beauty Gap after a 2009 trip to Ghana, where she noticed that little African girls only had little European-featured dolls with which to play. This struck Koonce as unfortunate, if not flat-out imperialistic, and her 501(c)3 aims to provide dolls of color “to promote the affirmation of every child’s God-given features in a world where they are not usually celebrated.”


    100% of donations made to Nyaya Health, founded by Yale School of Medicine medical students in 2005, go directly to funding hospitals and other medical programs in Nepal. The group was named a “standout organization” by GiveWell, a nonprofit that does extensive research to determine which charities are most clearly worthy of support.


    Brandeis University student Jessye Kass founded this nonprofit in collaboration with artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, whom she had met at an orphanage during a gap year in Ghana. The group received funding from the Sorensen Fellowship and DoSomething.org, and now serves over 1,000 students and is hoping to open its own school.


    Lest we think that all these groups need be founded by Westerners to bring help abroad (in fact, those were just the easiest to research in the English-language press), we should keep in mind Kartavya, founded by students at the Indian School of Mines (ISM) Dhanbad and expanded to other schools in the country. Volunteers at this nonprofit tutor the next generation of Indian students, working to develop villages and slums into healthy, plugged-in centers of education and upward mobility.


    Founded by students at Brandeis and Northeastern in the Boston area, Project Plus One focuses its work on the Bairo Pite Clinic in Dili, the capital of East Timor, one of the globe’s youngest and most troubled nations. Patients here are badly afflicted by diseases that many Westerners rarely even recognize as a scourge, like tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis, leprosy, and HIV.


    The abbreviation in this nonprofit’s name stands for Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser Syndrome, a hereditary condition “that results from the incomplete development of the female reproductive tract.” This little-discussed condition is usually first noticed when an adolescent female never begins to menstruate. While women with MRKH appear no different from their peers in most ways, they often suffer from emotional struggles as well as severe difficulties in having children. The group was cofounded by Christina Ruth, a college student at Appalachian State University, and works to advocate for those affected by MRKH and give them a venue to share their experience.


    The no-nonsense name of Slavery is Real fits its mission: “raising awareness and taking action against human trafficking.” It was founded by Austin Knight, a student at the University of Kentucky, when he was just 19 years old. Being a young man, the Galahad-like Knight figured he was in a unique position to lend a voice saying “no” to the sex industry and dispelling the idea that prostitution as practiced is a victimless crime.


    API was founded by Aziz Yuldashev and Dmitriy Nurullayev, two young men from Uzbekistan who had both studied in America (at Seattle University and Hendrix College, respectively). Both have been held by the Uzbek secret service for their work, which includes activism against child labor, and had to seek asylum in the U.S. when their student visas expired, to avoid imprisonment upon return.

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