NEW YORK, N.Y. – On Tuesday, June 2, Working in Support of Education (w!se) held the 21st annual Quality of Life INNOVATIONS (QLI) Awards Ceremony, generously hosted by the United Federation of Teachers in downtown Manhattan. 150 guests attended the event, which was capped off with the announcement of the 2016 prize winners.

More than 790 high school students in the Tri-State Area and New Jersey submitted proposals with innovative solutions to quality of life issues in their communities. Of those teams, eight were chosen to present their solutions to a group of esteemed judges at the Final Round of the competition, which was also held at the UFT earlier in the day.

Erin Baskett, Managing Partner and CFO/CCO of Autonomous Research, a sponsor of QLI, presented the top teams with their trophies and scholarships.

The 2016 First Place award was presented to Eli Bacher-Chong, a senior at the HS of Telecommunications, Arts, & Technology, for his proposal “Heat It Up: Joining the Fight Against Plastic Bag Pollution with Solar Powered Recycling.” Mr. Bacher-Chong designed a solar oven that converts disposable plastic bags into more durable and sustainable reusable bags. He received $15,000 in scholarship money and will be attending the University of Vermont next year.

The Second Place award was presented to Kemal Aziz and Jakub Goclon, sophomores at Staten Island Technical HS, for their proposal “Reducing Human Exposure to PM2.5.” The pair developed an air filter to reduce exposure to PM2.5 and were awarded $8,000 in scholarship money. They also received the Implementation Award and earned an additional $2500 in scholarship money.

The Third Place award was presented to Olesya Burmistrova, a senior at James Madison HS, for her proposal “Out of the darkness: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness.” Ms. Burmistrova proposed holding informative presentations for students given by representatives from the National Alliance of Mental Illnesses. She received $6,000 for her winning proposal and will be attending Queens College-CUNY in the fall.

“Autonomous Research supports the Quality of Life INNOVATIONS program because it provides students with an opportunity to learn writing and research skills for college, while also teaching them the importance of being civically engaged citizens,” said Erin Baskett, Managing Partner and CFO/CCO of Autonomous Research, a sponsor of QLI.

w!se President and CEO Phyllis Frankfort Perillo noted: “I’m thrilled that for 21 years, students have been making a difference in their communities through this social entrepreneurship project. The proposals this year were extraordinary.”

QLI is the only program with certificates signed by the Mayor of NYC for students who complete a civics related research proposal with an original solution to a QLI issue. School policing, recycling, financial education, dietary diseases, early childhood reading and atmospheric pollution were among the issues students chose this year.

About Quality of Life INNOVATIONS

QLI invites high school students to become social entrepreneurs by using applied research to solve real-world problems. Students identify a real world social issue, undertake scholarly research, develop feasible solutions and have the opportunity to submit their proposal for change to the QLI Scholarship Competition. 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. Supporters of the program include the United Federation of Teachers, Museum of American Finance, the New York City Office of the Mayor and Marathon Ventures.

About w!se

Working In Support of Education (w!se), an educational not-for-profit, improves the lives of young people through programs that develop financial literacy and readiness for college and the workplace. Our Initiatives are built on five pillars – relevancy, real world experiences, strong partnerships, volunteerism, and evaluation. In 2016, w!se programs are in thousands of high school classrooms in 43 states. Follow w!se on Facebook and Twitter @wisenewyork. Media Contact: Steven Appel at

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