Nominations open November 16, 2020

They’ve started nonprofits, built small businesses, created networks and solved problems. And they’re all under 18 years of age.

The 2020 Junior Achievement of Arizona 18 Under 18 all have something in common: They’re not waiting until they’re adults to make a difference in the world. Whether it’s helping refugees or selling shoes, publishing a book or finding a youth poet laureate, these entrepreneurs all realize the power that a single, driven person has. Their positive impatience has helped not just their school or local community. It’s gone global.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring aspects of each story is the fact that we’re sharing the projects they are most proud of – and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The depth of these 18 students’ experiences and success to date is rich and impressive. They’ve won national awards and recognition. They are exceptionally intelligent and talented. They’ve successfully balanced school, sports, family, arts, internships, friendships, and future aspirations. They are good students, teammates, children, friends and they are each visionaries.

Read on to learn their stores of determination, ingenuity and creativity. We all can learn from these young leaders.

The deadline for nominations is Jan. 24, 2021.

Entrepreneurial Spirit  |  Leadership  |  Making the Community Better | Extraordinary Skillset


Ryan Vakil
Junior Chaparral High School, Scottsdale

A family trip was much more than a vacation for Ryan Vakil. It gave him a mission. Now, he’s running a nonprofit organization to help put shoes on the feet of children living in poverty. It was supposed to be a typical family vacation to visit relatives. But when Ryan Vakil and...

Grace Schlenker 
Senior Arcadia High School, Phoenix

At an age in life when most feel the desire to document every moment, Grace Schlenker has devoted her time to organizing life-defining moments for terminally ill patients in Arizona. Through her volunteer efforts with DreamCatchers, Grace has helped to create moments...


Jordan Davis-Wiley
Sophomore North High School International Baccalaureate Program, Phoenix

Jordan Davis-Wiley heard a song in her head one day. That lyric turned into a book draft, that draft turned into a self-publishing venture and today, Davis-Wiley is a published author whose work is sold in airport bookstores across the country...


Arjun Moorthy
Junior BASIS Scottsdale, Scottsdale

Most aspiring physicians think about their career as an opportunity to help people. Arjun Moorthy didn’t want to wait for college and medical school to help the non-insured or under-insured: He found a way to reach...


Leila Khan  
Senior Scottsdale Preparatory Academy, Phoenix

Immigration and refugees are hot-button political topics, but they’re often distant concepts. Leila Khan put a face to those concepts, and started an organization to help ensure refugee students don’t fall through the cracks of the education system...


Jonathan Martinez
Sophomore Catalina Foothills High School, Tucson

Jonathan Martinez was an accomplished chess player, ranked nationally in his age group. But he saw a way to take his passion and help other people not only learn chess, but also build new relationships...


Junior Achievement of Arizona is preparing today's students to succeed in work and life by equipping them with critical skills to manage their money, be ready to enter the workplace and to think like entrepreneurs. Reaching 85,000+ primarily low-income students each year, Junior Achievement is giving these students the tools and confidence to break poverty cycles and achieve new heights. Check out JA’s online resources created in response to school closures.

Republic Media is Arizona’s largest media company and part of The USA TODAY NETWORK. Home to azcentral and The Arizona Republic, the company helps the community connect, understand, act and thrive by keeping people informed and giving back. From raising funds that help at-risk children and families, to sponsoring local events and so much more, Republic Media identifies problems, supports solutions and fulfills its mission to enlighten, education and empower.

Adaline Browning

Ahlias Jones

Alyssa Diaz

Anya Chaudhry

Byron Butaney

Claire Novak

Gabriella Kabamba

Joyisa Alvarez

Hannah Regan

Kasyap Chakravadhanula

Katelyn Cai

Mostafa Afr

Ximena Camacho

Naomi Sellers 

Natasha Spencer

Salil Naik

Samir Rein

Sierra Smith

Tadeusz Johnson-Borowski



Chandler Plante       
Freshman Camp Verde High School, Camp Verde

When Chandler Plante gets an idea, even if it requires city council approval, he finds a way to see it through to the end. Thanks to that tenacity, children with physical disabilities have Chandler to thank for their new playground equipment designed...


Elaina Ashton     
Senior Arizona College Prep – Erie Campus, Chandler

Inspired and energized by coding, mathematics and robotics, Elaina Ashton found a way to share her passion with kids all over the world. As the co-founder of Education Empowers Inc., Elaina helps to increase awareness of STEM-related activities...

Ethan Scher
Junior Chaparral High School, Phoenix

Every kid wants a cool pair of sneakers. When Ethan Scher realized he’d need to come up with the cash on his own to buy a new pair, a business was born. Now, Scher’s walking in style and managing a customer base from coast to coast.
Ethan Scher understands the old...

Laura Dunham
Senior Willcox High School, Willcox

After getting introduced to robotics competitions, Laura Dunham realized her career potential was limited only by her imagination. She wanted to make sure other students in Willcox had the same opportunities, so she started teaching elementary and middle schoolers...


Hannah Mason
Senior Westwood High School, Mesa

Service projects are often rewarding, but it’s not common to see a project reach its intended target in person. Hannah Mason took her service project and followed it all the way to Africa, seeing the benefit of all that good...


Suraj Puvvadi
Junior BASIS Scottsdale, Scottsdale

While most people approach home assistant devices as tools they can use, Suraj Puvvadi sees them as opportunities for ventures. Already, this high school junior has worked on three ventures to help improve experiences, share knowledge and aid communication via personal...


Dominique Luna 
Sophomore Sandra Day O’Connor High School, Glendale

Dominique Luna isn’t one to take, “no” as an acceptable answer. While she initially used her perseverance as a motivator for small ventures, she’s now harnessing the collective power of kids to make an impact at area schools...


Alexander Burt
Senior BASIS Scottsdale, Scottsdale

A self-proclaimed social entrepreneur, Alex Burt took something that was personally serious and socially aggravating – food allergies – and is turning it into a business where both consumers and restaurants can benefit. His app has potential to be an asset for diners and an advertising outlet for restaurants ...


Kayli Battel
Senior Saguaro High School, Scottsdale

Kayli Battel realized she could turn her natural inclination for STEM-related activities into a venture to get more girls involved in STEM. She partnered with like-minded teens to create Sisters in STEM: Girls Inspiring Girls, an organization that reaches out to girls age 4-15.


Cameron Deal
Senior Sunrise Mountain High School, Peoria

After learning about music and different instruments as a child, Cameron Deal knew that few other kids could get the same opportunity. That’s why he created Music Makers, a project to introduce students of all ages to musical...


Heather Jensen
Senior Red Mountain High School, Mesa

While arts programs routinely suffer to budget cuts in school districts across America, Heather Jensen works to connect and unify creative students in Arizona. Her organization, Creative Youth of Arizona, helps students find inspiration and develop their own networks...

Viveka Chinnasamy
Junior Hamilton High, Chandler

One person can make a contribution, but a group can do so much more. Using that philosophy, Viveka Chinnasamy took her nonprofit, Medical Hope, and expanded its network to include her school district...

Karen Fletcher  |  Katherine Cecala | Karen Quick 

Karen Fletcher  |  Katherine Cecala | Karen Quick

Nomination Form

Free Online Awards Event – May 15 at 4 p.m.

REGISTER2021 Nomination Form

For questions or more information contact   or phone 480.377.8500.

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Junior Achievement