The TeenNick’s HALO Awards (aka the Helping And Leading Others Awards) celebrate unique teens “who took their personal experience and, through service, made it meaningful on a bigger level—a level that really made a difference,” according to the TeenNick site. In other words, you have to be a pretty special kind of volunteer.
And Rocio Ortega and Miranda Fuentes—two of this year’s HALO Award honorees—are exactly that. Now, their hard work is paying off: these young women were celebrated at the live HALO Awards show in November, where they got to hang out with host Nick Cannon and TeenNick donated $10,000 to the causes they care about. A night to remember, indeed!
Read more about these champions for change and the organizations closest to their hearts:
The Girl’s Rights Champion: Rocio Ortega
Wellesley College student Rocio Ortega is a passionate advocate for girls. Since high school, she’s been involved in a number of amazing organizations: she was media trained with GlobalGirl Media (a non-profit providing media, leadership and journalistic training to girls from underserved communities), then she started a chapter of Girl Up (a UN that encourages American girls to speak up for girls’ rights in developing countries) at her high school. Eventually, she became a Youth Champion for Girl Up.
“I started a Girl Up Club in my high school to raise awareness and funds for girls in Malawi, Ethiopia and Guatemala,” she explained in a profile piece announcing her Coca-Cola Scholarship award. “It was shocking to me, but people in my Latino community had never thought about the need to educate and help women in developing countries. Through Girl Up, we introduced the words ‘female empowerment’ and ‘feminism’ to my community and people began to get on board.” Rocio has also served as a page for the U.S. House of Representatives, interned for a U.S. congress member and worked to pass legislation to prevent child marriage across the globe. So, she’s basically a total slacker. (Kidding—anything but!)
Now, she’s found another way to support girls: as part of her HALO Award, Nickelodeon donated $10,000 to GlobalGirl Media. Read more about her amazing service work, which she plans to continue in college, and watch her great Ted Talk: “Finding Your Own Voice” below:
The Autism Awareness Advocate: Miranda Fuentes
Miranda is passionate about two things—surfing and her kid brother, who has autism. So it makes sense that she’s committed to combining these passions as a volunteer for Surfers for Autism, an organization that introduces kids with autism to the sport and raises awareness/research funding for people on the spectrum. Miranda, 16, is the youngest master instructor for the non-profit and works with over 150 kids each year.
She has also helped the organization grow—events that used to have 40 volunteers now have 400! “I just like to talk to my friends about [Surfers For Autism], and they tell their friend,” she said about the power of word of mouth on the TeenNick HALO Awards blog. “I’m also in charge of the Instagram and Twitter for SFA. I like to tell them how SFA can change their lives. I show them pictures and invite them to events, and just watching the kids inspires them.”
Here, she’s pictured with Pretty Little Liars‘ Shay Mitchell, who according to the MTV Act Blog, is a big Miranda fan: “When Nick Cannon told me about the awesome work that Miranda was doing with Surfers for Autism, I knew I had to meet her. It’s absolutely amazing that she’s only 16 years old and so giving of her time to help others.”
Read more about Miranda’s inspiring work—including watching a video of this surfer with a big heart in action—on the TeenNick blog.