We’re doing something we’ve never done before, we’re giving out three kindness awards this month. We’ve been getting more and more nominations of truly inspirational people, making it that much harder to narrow it down to one winner. We’re so grateful for the generosity of our donors, who make it possible for us to give out these additional awards.
Our winners are Sarah Goody, Carmen Garner, and Nicole Munoz. Each of them has done exactly what the Jose Andres quote above says. They saw things that needed changing and set about doing it. So many people feel like they are only one person, they can’t make a difference. I give you these three amazing people who prove them wrong. One person starts the ripple and inspires others with their compassion and selflessness. That’s what our winners have done. They’re incredible and we’re so proud to have them as part of our MKRO family.
Nicole Munoz, (16 y/o) of Pacific Grove, CA, “is an incredible young woman who works each and every day to bring positivity and joy into the lives of others.
Nicole has always been passionate about the medical field and has devoted over 200 hours of service to healthcare organizations, and through this, she made the realization that one of the primary reasons that teens struggle with their mental health is a lack of acceptance and understanding, by many people in their lives. As young people, they are constantly evolving and changing and grappling with some of the fundamental parts of who they are. It is stressful and challenging, so Nicole wanted to be able to help youth understand themselves, their differences, and what makes up who they are.
Over the summer of 2020, Nicole decided to create a platform where youth could seek to learn and understand the importance of accepting one’s identity. She spent over six months researching and creating her organization which she named Positive I.
In her mission statement, she writes Positive I is an organization that aims to develop an understanding of what makes us different and the importance of who we are, through delving into the many facets that make up a person’s identity!
Nicole created a podcast as her first initiative through her organization, to share the voices of people within certain Identity Groups to speak about their own identity and provide a platform that would foster understanding amongst those who listened to these incredible voices.
She engages in important conversations with youth about the vitality of accepting one’s identity, with her ultimate goal being to create a world that begins with understanding and ends in acceptance.”
A beautiful goal, something we should all aspire to. Mental health is a huge topic to undertake, yet Nicole is fearless. She spent time analyzing causes of mental distress among young people and decided she could help. We love this mission and see it having an impact on so many lives.
Carmen Garner, of Washington, DC, is a teacher, artist, author, and now a non-profit founder of Inner City Anglers. Carmen used his stimulus check to start up a non-profit that takes inner-city kids fishing. He believes by investing in our children today, it will yield dividends beyond measure tomorrow. His goal is to instill life skills such as social-emotional awareness, perseverance, self-confidence, and empathy. “The Inner City Anglers represents the fulfillment of my life’s purpose. A long time ago, I promised myself that I would always be a mentor, an advocate, and a champion for change in the lives of young people.” Their motto is, “Where kids can cast dreams into reality.”
Carmen had a lot of adversity to overcome as a child and he never forgot it.
“I used to live in the ’hood and I never went outside. People get shot out there. People get killed out there. They get arrested out there. I wouldn’t go outside unless it was to go fishing,” he says of the trips he would take with his cousin’s boyfriend, a man he credits with saving his life. He told how his mother died of AIDS and how he passed through 17 relatives’ homes before graduating high school.”
He said these kids, “ don’t have the types of dreams that people with privilege have. You have people who always told you that, ‘You can be and you can do.’ And we have always been told, ‘You cannot be and this is all you can do.’ It takes people from outside your community to say, ‘You can be something different’ for you to know that. That’s my job. That’s my job as a teacher. That’s my job as a mentor.”
Garner says he modeled his nonprofit after a six-week mentoring program he led that focuses on teaching children about themselves. At the beginning of that program, he met a 12-year-old boy whose life had fallen along a similar trajectory as his.
“At the beginning of the program, I asked him, ‘What if someone says something bad about your mother, what would you do?’ ” Garner recalls. “He said, ‘I would kill them.’”
At the end of the program, Garner says he asked the boy that same question. His answer that time: “I got too much to lose to let another person determine my actions.”
He understood himself better, Garner says. He understood that he mattered.” – Theresa Vargas, The Washington Post,
Carmen had an adult in his life who showed him kindness and it had a huge impact on his life. The ripple of that kindness continues today with Carmen’s dedication to serving children through his Inner City Anglers program. Carmen shows inner-city kids, that they matter, and one day these kids will spread kindness that they learned from him. These kids are so lucky to have him in their lives. We see how Carmen touches the lives of so many kids and the difference he makes in our world.
Sarah Goody, (16 y/o) of Corte Madera, CA. You’ll read about the organizations she’s founded and her dedication to climate change and be as blown away by her as I am. But I also really love her openness about her early struggles with mental health and how she felt becoming active and volunteering saved her during her mental health crisis. In 5th grade, she was diagnosed with clinical depression, but says, “now, I’m a freshman in high school and completely unrecognizable from that sad, lonely girl. I’m hopeful about life again, and I have activism to thank. In fact, I think it saved me.” Powerful words and science backs it up.
Lucky for us, we’re all the beneficiaries of Sarah’s recovery as she threw herself into making our world a better place.
Sarah is “a fierce leader and the founder of Climate NOW, a youth-led group dedicated to bringing awareness to the climate movement and empowering our youth to take action for their future. She works tirelessly to educate children and teens on the effects of climate change, what it means to them, and how they can take action for a better future.”
In addition to the youth movement, “Sarah works throughout her community to bring awareness to the issue of climate change and its impact on a local and global basis.” She is also the founder of Broadway Speaks Up, an Instagram platform inspiring Broadway Performers to speak up for climate action. Broadway Speaks Up has rallied artists from over 50 Broadway Shows to bring climate awareness to their industry.
And when the world shut down during Covid, what was Sarah doing? She volunteered over 700 hours from June to November, living in Hawaii at Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary, taking care of the many animals including monkeys, ostriches, and zebras.” The mission of the sanctuary is to positively impact the environment while educating children about their place in the natural world.
Sarah passionately believes, “Your voice is powerful. So use it! Find an issue that personally speaks to you and from there, dive in and start learning as much as you can about it. Then, begin taking action by volunteering for an organization, organizing actions in your community, educating others, and changing your individual habits to reflect your beliefs. As a young person, you have the power to change the world and inspire others in the process.”
Sarah has proven that to be true, she’s inspired thousands of people to take climate action. Her work ripples out in everyone she inspires. She makes our world better every day and we’re so inspired by her.
Is there someone who inspires you with their kindness? Nominate them for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award of $250.
Do you have an act-of-kindness project you want to do but need help funding it? Submit your idea for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant of $250 and let us help you spread kindness.
5 thoughts on “Matt Kurtz Kindness Award Winners, May 2021”
Another group of terrific and inspiring winners!! Nicole’s work to foster acceptance and Sarah’s on the climate give you hope for the future. We learned about Carmen and Inner City Anglers last year and have donated to his very worthy endeavor! Love what he is doin to invest in children!!
thanks, yes, all so inspiring. you got the jump on me with Carmen, he’s such a kind soul.
Three AMAZING winners. Showing us all that it only takes ONE person to change lives.
yup, we can all make a difference, every act of kindness matters, no matter how small.
I loved reading about these 3 awesome winners! The maturity of the two 16 year olds is incredible.