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Difference Maker

Children who lend a helping hand show they can make a difference and change the world

We highlight five kids and teens who are making a difference through volunteer opportunities, proving that helping hands can be child-sized too.

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Beyond that, kids in each chapter design their own projects.

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"We really want the kids to be the leaders," Gram says.

In November, she was named a winner of the World of Children award (worldofchildren.org) for her work, and Kids for Peace was given a $20,000 grant.

"The passion to create a less violent world has really followed me throughout my life," Gram says. But a family tragedy last year brought it closer to home. Her only brother was murdered while on vacation.

"The police still have no idea what happened," she says. "He was found stabbed to death on the side of a road.... It's certainly been a struggle for all of us. But every single one of my immediate family members has a deeper conviction that nonviolence is the way to respond. We see my brother's death as just more of an inspiration to make sure that no other family has to experience this."

After graduation next spring, Gram hopes to work on peace issues in Bangladesh or at a refugee camp in Africa. Either way, she'll carry on with Kids for Peace, too.

"It grows with me, and I grow with it," she says.

Jordyn: Removing dangerous drugs from homes

Jordyn Schara was shocked "to see the insane amount of medication people have in their homes that have been lying around waiting to be abused or stolen."

Unused drugs create two huge problems: They are abused by teens trying to get high, who then can become sick or even die. Or they are flushed down the drain and creep into drinking water. "It means men are taking birth control [pills] and children are taking heart medications," she says. "It's definitely not a good thing."

But when the 14-year-old in Reedsburg, Wis., asked state officials what she could do to help, they told her she was too young.

That didn't stop Jordyn. She founded a Wisconsin branch of Prescription Pill Drug Disposal (p2d2program.org). She organized a drug drop-off day for her town, and recruited pharmacists and police officers to supervise the event.

The drug return day was "extremely successful," she says. "People lined up around the block to get in. That was just a really great feeling to know that people were willing to participate."

Hauling away and incinerating the drugs costs about $2 per pound.

"I had to get a lot of donations and grants to support the cost of this program," says Jordyn, who is now a 16-year-old high school sophomore. "I was the youngest person [at 14] to apply for and receive a state grant in Wisconsin" to help fund her project, she says.

The Save a Star Foundation (saveastar.org) in Highland Park, Ill., donated a prescription drug drop-off box, the size of a street-corner mailbox, that's been installed at the police station. Her project has now become an ongoing part of the community.

"Sometimes it's hard as a teenager. You think that people don't listen to you or don't pay attention to you," Jordyn says. "But, honestly, if you do a service project, people will start listening."

Her friends have been big supporters. One even wore a "Phil the Pill Bottle" costume to help publicize the drug drop-off event.

"It's tough at first," Jordyn concedes. But her family has helped, too. "My parents were very supportive and my brother was very supportive."

• To read more stories about people making a difference, go here.

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