July 29, 2021

Ever met a genius? Today’s your day

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OZY Genius Awards


OZY loves bringing you “the new and the next” — whether it’s bubbling trends or trailblazers you need to know. So we are proud to introduce you to this year’s OZY Genius Award winners, a program sponsored by Chevy. Like Amanda Gorman, who won the award back in 2017, these 10 students will be provided with mentorship and awarded up to $10,000 to launch their bright ideas.

A big thank-you to our terrific genius judges: former mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Cami Anderson, Dr. Monique Umphrey, Padma Lakshmi, Marc Lasry, Jalen Rose and Katty Kay.


Dr. Crystal Rose, Executive Director of Academic Affairs

want to channel your inner genius?

Read on to learn about the projects these winners plan to launch and how they hope to impact the world. Best of all? You can help. Please check out how you can get involved in helping these geniuses realize their dreams.

Dan Eggers

  • Baldwin Wallace University
  • The Next Trend in Education: Teach the Teachers How Best to Work With Transgender Students

Unless you are familiar with the National Center for Transgender Equality, you may not be aware that educators are obliged to respect transgender students under Title IX, which clearly prohibits sex discrimination. Unfortunately, many transgender students report not feeling safe or welcome in their schools. Dan Eggers, the first openly trans undergraduate at BW Community Arts School, wanted to help expedite a solution. His idea is to change the negative climate transgender students experience by training teachers. If you are an educator and would like to be a part of the training or if you have experience in transgender studies and would like to contribute, let us know HERE.

Read more about Dan’s genius project HERE.

Dyllen Nellis

  • Stanford University
  • Newest in the College Prep Field: Support for Low-Income Students

Low-income students bear the brunt of structural bias, including the fact that non-white school districts receive up to $23 billion dollars less than white districts. It’s no wonder then that college attendance and admission rates are lower for low-income students.

That’s the problem Dyllen Nellis aims to solve. Her genius idea? To provide a new college prep structure that helps low-income students bridge the gap. She found that she had a knack for the field in high school when she was tasked with supporting her fellow students, and something clicked. Starting from her own YouTube channel, she has since created a whole methodology that she hopes to provide to Title I schools, defined by their high proportion of low-income students. If you are in the field and want to lend your support, tell us HERE.

Read more about Dyllen’s genius project HERE.

Gabriel Saruhashi

  • Yale University
  • Newest in App Development: Connecting the Incarcerated With Loved Ones

Did you know a third of families with an incarcerated loved one fall into debt just trying to stay in touch? It sounds hard to believe, but ultimately, it makes sense when you consider the booming industry revolving around prison telecommunication. Gabriel Saruhashi’s genius idea allowed him and his team to create an app for individuals in prison to connect with their loved ones for free. It’s called Ameelio and it’s the first of its kind. If you have the experience to lend in the field of policy, technology or app building, let us know HERE.

Read more about Gabriel’s genius project HERE.

Marcinia Johnson

  • Bennett College
  • New Ideas to Mitigate Gentrification and Tap Into Community Resources

The National Community Reinvestment Coalition conducted a recent study on the displacement of people from once low-income areas, showing the widespread instability and community disruption it causes, as well as the need for protective policies to avoid such displacement.

Marcinia’s project strives to help alleviate the ill effects of gentrification, such as the rising costs of transportation and housing. Marcinia’s genius idea mobilizes a bedrock of the community, the church, as part of her mission. Alongside her local church and other community partners, Marcinia will be leading the effort to provide low-cost housing while making a dent in new approaches to public policies. If you are interested in contributing in the area of gentrification and Marcinia’s project, let us know HERE.

Read more about Marcinia’s genius project HERE.

Arleen Lopez

  • Rutgers University, Newark
  • New Horizons in Patient Advocacy and BIPOC Healthcare Outcome: Language Translators and Advocate System

Perhaps more than ever, the past year has revealed disparities in health care outcomes. These are often dependent upon factors such as race, socioeconomic status and language barriers. The American College of Physicians addressed this in a recent policy paper. Arleen has seen the disadvantages up close and wants to create a consortium of translators who can also help advocate for patients. Those who have experience in recruiting, training or working with volunteers or languages and want to lend support, please let us know HERE.

Read more about Arleen’s genius project HERE.

Brandy Merriweather

  • Clark Atlanta University
  • The Next Union: For BIPOC Creators and Their Teams

Given the recent racial reckoning in the U.S., there’s also been an increased awareness of the lack of BIPOC representation in front of and behind the camera, as the UCLA- Hollywood- Diversity Report recently revealed. However, this isn’t due to declining BIPOC productions or artistry, but rather a lack of outreach perpetuated by a scarcity of BIPOC PR agents. Brandy’s idea is to create a union of BIPOC creators and their teams to help foster an environment where more BIPOC stories can be heard and amplified. If your sector expertise involves the creative industry and you are aligned with this genius idea, please let us know HERE.

Read more about Brandy’s genius project HERE.

Grace Fisher

  • University of Santa Barbara
  • New Horizons: Arts for Students With Different Abilities

What is the price of joy and the ability to express oneself, in a child’s life, particularly for children with differing abilities? We’d probably all agree that it’s priceless. Grace Fisher, an artist and young musician, would as well. Due to a virus, she became quadriplegic, andthe arts took on an expanded meaning for her. In addition to composing music, she’s launched a foundation to bring the arts to other children with disabilities. This is her genius idea. Inspired by Grace’s passion, a documentarian has captured her life in an award-winning film, Amazing Grace, that was featured in international film festivals. She wants to share this film broadly and bring hope to others. Those who have insight into these intersectional fields and wish to support her aspiration, please let us knowHERE.

Read more about Grace’s genius project HERE.

Joel Baraka

  • University of Wisconsin
  • Novel Solution for COVID-19 Achievement Slide: Educational Game Learning Modules

The learning gaps due to COVID-19 are real. A McKinsey study indicates that just as in other facets of life, there’s a striking racial disparity. Not only that, developing countries have been hit harder. Joel’s desire to find an answer for this dire situation led him to create a modular board game for students to learn core subjects like social studies, math, science and English. His genius idea? To send these learning modules to Ugandan students as he’s working directly with teachers who guide their lessons to make up for the COVID learning slide. If your skill set lies in similar areas, please let us know HERE.

Read more about Joel’s genius project HERE.

Tony Shu

  • Harvard University
  • New Solutions to Youth Homelessness: Career Training and Mentorship

Youth homelessness is an unspoken evil facing modern society. A study by Statistafound that youths aged 18 to 24 are some of the most vulnerable, with government protections only extending to minors. Tony Shu and his team decided to tackle this problem in Massachusetts, which is among the top 20 states for youth homelessness. The majority of youths facing homelessness have emerged from the most difficult situations: They’ve often survived the foster care system, abusive situations or home expulsions due to sexual orientation. Tony’s genius idea helps these youths find stable housing while also providing career training and mentorship. If you have expertise in this field, please consider letting us know if you’d like to help HERE.

Read more about Tony’s genius project HERE.

Antonia Ginsberg-Klemmt

  • New College of Florida
  • The Next Solar Panel Invention: Retractable Carports That Charge Electric Cars

The rising cost of energy combined with the scarcity of resources drives home the value of Antonia’s genius idea. She’s created a collapsible, mobile carport that keeps a car cool while also charging electric vehicles, and it can be put away in case of severe weather. With the automotive industry moving away from fossil fuels, the current grid cannot sustain all of tomorrow’s plug-in vehicles. Antonia’s idea is a step toward a better future. Specialists in sustainability or solar energy who are interested in contributing to the project, please let us know HERE.

Read more about Antonia’s genius project HERE.

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