NEW YORK, N.Y.– On Tuesday, June 7, Working in Support of Education (W!se) held the 27th Annual Quality of Life INNOVATIONS (QLI) Awards Ceremony at PwC on Madison Ave, New York City. High school students from the five boroughs participated in developing innovative solutions to quality of life issues in their communities with eight teams selected to present their solutions to a panel of Final Round judges.

Deborah Smith, W!se Director Emeritus, said, “The students were so impressive. The energy was electric, and everyone was so excited to be in-person after being virtual for two years.”

The 2022 First Place $7,000 scholarship was awarded to Matthew Norris from James Madison High School for his project, “Out of the Closet: Diminishing the Stigma of LGBTQ+ Student Mental Health with GSAs and Transition Closets.” He founded a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at his school, creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ students and providing a learning environment for heterosexual students. Matthew also created a blueprint for a gender affirming lending clothing closet at his school.

Second Place was a tie between two teams, Ayana Chari, Ava Connor and Felicia Merino-Ostlund from the Bronx High School of Science for “Safety in Numbers: Improving Student Safety on Public Transportation Using a Buddy System” and John Pierre Alkhoury, Mandy Chen and Christine Zheng from Staten Island Technical High School for “Raising Awareness and Availability of Hygienic Resources.” Each team was awarded $3,000 in scholarships.

This year’s Finalists were Angelique Durso, Giselle Suarez, and Briana Wise from Bayside High School for “College Resources,” Shahzaib Zamir from the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology for “Learn to Eat, Eat to Learn: Promoting Better Nutrition to Improve Academic Performance,” Hillary Hernandez and Sonia Rosa from Midwood High School for “De-stigmatizing the Sex-Ed Curriculum in NYC,” Alexander Fernandez from James Madison High School for “On the Right Track: How to Improve Air Quality on the MTA,” and Grace Chen from Midwood High School for “The Lack of Asian American History Education in the United States.”

The inaugural Gold Ribbon Issue Brief was presented to Sandzhi Kegiarikov from James Madison High School for “Addressing Pedestrian Safety in the NYC Community and the Connection of Socioeconomic Status with Traffic Safety.” This year’s Writing Award was presented to Grace Chen from Midwood High School for “The Lack of Asian American History in Schools in the United States.” The Creative Idea Award was presented to Alexander Fernandez from James Madison High School for “On the Right Track: How to Improve Air Quality on the MTA.”

Each year, W!se honors individuals for their significant contribution to improving lives. For 2022, Cynthia Harvey was awarded the Inspirational Leadership Award for her extraordinary contributions to the performing arts as a prima ballerina and distinguished, sought-after ballet mistress. Sacket Harbor EMTs were honored for being exemplary high school students who made an extraordinary commitment to volunteer, care for their community, and help save lives during the pandemic as emergency services personnel. Urbain Blaise, from Midwood High School, was awarded Teacher of the Year for dedication to students and pedagogical talent. W!se also honored Sterling Roberson, former Vice President for Career and Technical Education at the United Federation of Teachers, with the Social Impact Award for ensuring that NYC students receive a quality education with college and career readiness skills.

For summaries of Finalist proposals please contact W!se.

About Quality of Life INNOVATIONS (QLI)
QLI invites high school students to become civically engaged and social entrepreneurs by using applied research to solve real-world problems. Students undertake scholarly research, develop feasible solutions and have the opportunity to submit their proposals for change. QLI is a New York City Department of Education Model for Applied Learning that has been featured in local media in the five boroughs of New York City and New Jersey. QLI is made possible by the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development, PwC, The New York City Council and Henry E. Niles Foundation.

About Working in Support of Education (W!se)
Working in Support of Education (W!se) is a leading educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in New York City with a mission to improve economic mobility through programs that develop financial literacy and readiness for college and careers. Our initiatives are built on 5 pillars –relevancy, real-world experiences, partnerships, volunteerism and evaluation.

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