Friday, June 5, 2009

Top 20 Under 20 awards: researchers, entrepreneurs and activists

Youth in Motion's award winners include cancer treatment researchers, a 12-year-old fundraiser and a mountain climber

June 02, 2009 05:45 PM EDT

Youth in Motion ( is the non-profit organization that runs the annual Top 20 Under 20, a national awards program that celebrates young Canadians who have demonstrated a significant level of innovation, leadership and achievement.

Applicants can be nominated, or nominate themselves, and must be under 20 on Dec. 31, 2008.

Winners are selected by a volunteer national judging panel of people who have made significant contributions in education, business, and the not-for-profit sectors.

Winners receive a bursary of up to $5,000 to be applied toward an educational experience. They also attend a four-day leadership summit and receive career coaching.

Profiles of the winners (whose ages are listed as what they were on Dec. 31, 2008) appear alphabetically below.

Please send questions to the winners at Their answers will appear below the profiles.

James Brooks, 12, London, Ont.

By Marjo Johne

There were a dozen things James Brooks could have bought with the $100 gift he got for his eighth birthday. But then he read about Kanzi, a bonobo that can communicate with people, who was living in Iowa. So he donated his birthday money to the organization that looks after the celebrity ape.

"Monkeys and apes were always my favourite animals," says James, who is now 12. "But then I found out that apes are an endangered species and I thought 'I really want to help.' " Having already raised about $4,000 for the Great Apes Trust by asking friends and family to make donations in lieu of birthday gifts, James decided to help the widows of park rangers in the Democratic Republic of Congo who were killed by ape poachers.

Last year, he started 1000 Classrooms. Through its website,, James is working to collect at least $3 each from 1,000 classrooms across Canada, money that will be used to buy henhouses. "The idea is to set up the widows with chicken houses so they can sell eggs and make some income," says James, who has so far collected money from about 70 classrooms. "But by bringing the program to classrooms, I can also teach thousands of kids about apes and maybe inspire them to help as well."

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