Congratulations to all of our Voya Unsung Heroes winners. Each year, 50 finalists receive $2,000 while three of them are selected as Top Winners to receive additional grants of $25,000, $10,000, and $5,000. You can find winners for your state or for a specific year using the controls below.

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My-Nga Ingram (2019)

San Diego, CA
Westview High School

Ingram's innovative teaching idea, "What's in your Gut?" focuses on giving high school students the opportunity to participate in college-level research. The program explores the intimate relationship between diet, disease, lifestyle and the beneficial bacterial communities that reside in the stomach. Participants will work with Dr. Rob Knight from UC San Diego who will analyze student-provided samples using cutting edge technology called Next Generation Sequencing. The students will analyze the subsequent data to develop their understanding of how supplemental commercial products such as Activia and Yakult, as well as how their own lives influence their gut health. Ingram hopes to demonstrate the benefits of personalized healthcare and introduce the students to the frontier of medical research.

Henry Grumet (2019)

Huntington Beach, CA
Ocean View High School

Grumet’s innovative teaching idea, “Robotics for All,” focuses on pioneering the first A-G approved robotics course for his district. In this course, students will build multiple versions of a robot, programming it to drive by itself and design 3-D printed objects. The goal is to solve a community issue of making an Earth Science replacement that was aimed at the same demographic and would allow Grumet to turn a low-level science class into an exciting, introductory robotics/programming course. With the Voya grant, students will learn about physics, engineering, 3-D design and programming, all while working on a physical robot that they can design, build, improve and test. Students will be focused on making a meaningful impact in a place they care about, and their work throughout the year will be guided by that goal. Grumet hopes to make his Earth Science class more engaging and hands-on for his low-income students.

Carly Starn (2019)

Ventura, CA
Cabrillo Middle School

Starn’s innovative teaching idea, “Write Like a Historian,” focuses on the implementation and expansion of an online Document Based Questions (DBQ) source program, which currently is only offered to eighth graders. Starn’s aim is to expand the program to the rest of the middle school to create a consistent and reliable writing development tool that fosters grade appropriate growth. The program allows for both guided and independent conclusions to be drawn to appeal to both advanced and special education students. To further develop critical thinking skills, the program institutes projects such as essays or multimedia presentations so students can demonstrate their understanding of the topic in both structured and creative ways. The long term results are students who are better equipped for high school level writing and analysis in a world that is constantly evolving around them.

Rebecca Fulop, Kati Maxkenzie, and Kasey Blackburn-Jiron (2019)

Oakland, CA
Life Academy

The team’s innovative teaching idea, “Oh Baby!” focuses on giving students a clinical perspective on how physiology is applied at the patient level. Students will attend a simulation lab in groups of 25 once a week for six weeks. During this time, they will hone their skills in applying respiratory therapy techniques, complete blood draws, practice resuscitation methods, and use personal protective equipment and learn correct hygiene techniques. They will also participate in patient scenarios, in which they will conduct hospital visits with a pregnant patient, monitor her vital signs and treat her for various digestive, respiratory and urinary ailments. To add to their experience, actual health care providers from the hospital will supervise and support students during the scenarios. Toward the end of their rotation, students will collaborate with their health care team to deliver public written and oral medical reports to hand off care to the next medical team, the next cohort of students. The culminating event is Birth Day, when they will deliver the patient’s baby via C-section, natural delivery, and epidural.

Kathryn Levenson (2019)

Piedmont, CA
Piedmont High School

Levenson's innovative teaching, "You've Got Skills/ Life Skills" focuses on helping to prepare students for their lives outside of an academic context. With the Voya Grant, Levenson plans to launch a lesson plan on her school's online learning platform pertaining to various aspects of one’s life beyond school. The program involves healthy coping mechanisms, personal finance, resume building and writing, interpersonal relationships, taxes and more. Levenson's goal is to prepare her students to care for themselves adequately in not only an academic sense but a domestic sense as well. By helping students balance their lives, Levenson is working against the toll of poor mental health and ill preparation to create a better society of well-rounded individuals.

Julie Kusiak, Heather Papandrea, Stephanie Parisi, and Brittany Pierson (2019)

Encinitas, CA
Ocean Knoll Elementary School

This team’s innovative idea, "First Grade Farmer's Market," focuses on teaching first graders basic economical principals and financial literacy by having them crate their own fully functional farmer's market. The student's will conduct polls, market research, procure raw materials and manufacture their own stands and goods. Profit and loss will be calculated and any and all profits will be donated. The program is designed to illustrate the fundamental nature of a free market and the power of the individual choice due to scarcity. The hands-on and robust application will allow the students a solid framework of economics on which they can build upon in the future.