Michelle Qin, 17, of Santa Barbara, Calif., a junior at Dos Pueblos High School, is the founder and CEO of a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 100 students in California, New Jersey and British Columbia who work to empower girls and women around the world, focused on education, poverty and health. In 2015, a friend of Michelle’s returned from a trip to Guatemala and showed her pictures of girls living in poverty. “I was touched so profoundly because those girls were my age,” said Michelle. “Their stories opened my eyes to the spectrum of privilege we live in, and I realized that geographical situations alone can change the course of our entire lives and future.”
Michelle decided to organize a club at her school to assist the girls she’d seen in the photos, initially by holding bake sales to help pay education costs. As the club expanded to include more than 100 members in three branches, it obtained nonprofit status and tackled a variety of ambitious projects. So far, Michelle’s “Together to Empower” organization has not only raised funds to help 550 Guatemalan girls go to school, but also made it possible for several Ugandan women to learn business skills and entrepeneurship, organized a two-week computer coding camp for 25 girls, hosted a fundraising banquet to promote safe health practices for African women, and held tech workshops to teach 50 girls how to develop mobile computer applications. The group is now preparing to publish an art book depicting various artists’ interpretations of what it means to be a woman.