The following videos were originally filmed as part of Dream Big, a documentary showcasing 7 Barron Prize winners and their projects. We love their stories and include them here because they continue to inspire us, even today!

Dream Big profiles a diverse group of passionate young people who are making the world a better place. These seven young heroes – all early winners of the Barron Prize – used courage, creativity, and commitment to address a wide range of environmental and community problems.

The documentary can be seen in its original, longer, format on the Barron Prize Website. This collection of videos also includes an in-depth interview with Dr. Jane Goodall, who speaks about her dreams and inspirations as a young girl, and encourages young people to change the world. The videos are narrated by Barron Prize founder and award-winning author T. A. Barron.

Ashley Shuyler – AfricAid

Ashley is the founder of AfricAid, a non-profit organization established in 2001 to support girls’ education in East Africa. She started the organization at age 16, following a life-changing trip to Tanzania five years earlier. During that trip, she realized just how powerful girls’ education can be in changing the futures of individuals and communities, so she established AfricAid to help transform the landscape of opportunity for young women in Tanzania.

After 10 years of leading the organization, Ashley Shuyler Carter handed over the reins to a new leadership team in Tanzania and Denver, Colorado that continues to grow the organization to this day. She has been a member of the AfricAid board since 2003 and remains an engaged advocate for the work of AfricAid. Ashley currently runs a consulting business focused on strategy development and operations design, with a focus on work that sits at the intersection of education and career.

Barbara Brown – Don’t be Crude

Barbara Brown was an active 4-H member when she created the “Don’t Be Crude” motor oil recycling program in her rural Texas county. She began her project after realizing that local farmers were pouring used motor oil on the ground in order to kill weeds. Concerned about the effects of this practice on the environment, Barbara decided to act. She worked with county commissioners and local sponsors to place five federally-approved motor oil recycling units in her county.

Her program expanded to seven counties, with over 18 recycling units that collected 60,000 gallons of used motor oil. Barbara says, “I know that with support and creativity, we can create solutions to environmental challenges and inspire others to do the same.”

Ellie Wen – Repeat After Us

Ellie created Repeat After Us, a web site that provides copyright-free literature with accompanying audio clips for people learning English as a second language. Her web site features over 5,000 texts, running the gamut from Mother Goose to Hamlet to Martin Luther King’s speeches. Ellie conceived of her web site idea while running a poetry workshop and tutoring program for Hispanic children in the Los Angeles area. To date, over 12 million visitors have used Repeat After Us, including teachers, Peace Corps volunteers, and students in literacy programs throughout the world. “I’ve learned that the world is full of opportunities and helping hands for those who dare,” says Ellie. “I’ve realized that people do care about others, and they do want to help.”

Ellie received her MFA degree in Documentary Film from Stanford University and now lives and works in San Francisco as an independent documentary filmmaker. She is passionate about telling intimate, human stories that provide a personal lens through which to view important social issues and underrepresented communities.

Gina Gallant – Pavement from Plastic

Gina invented a new type of road-paving material made largely from recycled plastic bottles. An avid inventor and scientist, Gina conceived of the idea while driving with her family along Cash Creek (known locally as Trash Creek), where she noticed hundreds of plastic bottles littering the stream. She took her idea of using the bottles to pave roads to businesses such as LaFarge and Husky Oil, where she worked for several summers learning how to blend oil for asphalt and experimenting with adding plastic to the mix. She finally landed on a winning formula that she named PAR (PolyAggreRoad) and recently convinced local officials to pave a quarter-mile section of road with her material. It is proving to be more stable and to crack less than conventional asphalt, and to reduce noise pollution by 5%.

“A wise woman once said, ‘No dream is too small to become a reality and no effort goes unnoticed,’” says Gina. “I hope I can inspire others to see that their ideas and dreams can become realities.”

Matthew Cavedon – Playgrounds for All

Matthew led a community-wide effort to construct an accessible playground in his hometown. Matthew has used a wheelchair all of his life and was unable to enjoy playgrounds until age six, when an accessible one was built in a nearby town. The playground became an important part of his life and in fifth-grade, he asked his class to help him make a “small donation” to Boundless Playgrounds, a national non-profit group that builds accessible playgrounds. When the fifth-graders’ fundraising efforts yielded $10,000, Matthew decided to think big. He set a goal of raising the $350,000 needed to build a Boundless Playground in his hometown. Matthew gave numerous speeches to community groups and convinced them to make donations.

Two and a half years later, in the Spring of 2002, the playground opened with the name Friendship Place. Matthew’s efforts yielded more than the playground itself. “Friendship Place brought a new sense of unity to our town,” he says. “It also made people realize how important accessibility is.” On a personal note, Matthew adds, “I realized that nothing is impossible — even raising $350,000 — if you try hard enough.”

Michaella Gallina – Exceptional Rodeo

Michaella created the Exceptional Rodeo for children with disabilities. She and her local 4-H Club raised over $2,000 to fund the rodeo, which included “bucking” broncos (made of hay and barrels), calf roping, and stick horse barrel racing. As a result of Michaella’s accomplishments, thirty-five local children with physical and developmental disabilities were able to experience the thrill of rodeo. “Children can come out of the darkness with just one special thing you do for them,” explains Michaella. “Just that one thing can change that person’s life forever.”

Michaella now runs investor relations for H&R Block and is on the Steering Committee for the Temple Grandin Equine Center (TGEC). TGEC is one of the leading equine-assisted services facilities in the world, offering a variety of therapy and therapeutic services to individuals with physical, emotional and developmental challenges, in a world-class teaching and learning environment. Clients of all abilities and backgrounds, ranging in age from 18 months to 99 years, are served.

Shawn Henry – Garden Angels

Shawn created Garden Angels, a non-profit organization that has transformed an abandoned, trash-filled vacant lot into a park and community garden. He was inspired to start his project in 2002 after reading the book Seedfolks, which chronicles volunteers’ efforts to create community gardens in a number of urban settings. “There is so much we can do to make this world, if not perfect, at least safer, healthier, and cleaner,” says Shawn. “It may sound like an illusory dream, but we have it in us to live that way. We do.”

Shawn is now a Program Director for Voyages Preparatory High School – South Queens. Voyages is a small, academically rigorous, full-time high school designed to re-engage students who have dropped out or who have fallen behind in credits at their previous schools. Voyages serves 315 students annually and Shawn supervises a staff 8 counselors.