By Michelle Cohen
The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards recognize young changemakers who are committed to undertaking the most urgent and pressing challenges faced by communities around the globe. Now in its 12th year, the awards have given more than $4 million to 114 Jewish teens who are tackling global issues and creating lasting change through tikkun olam.
One of this year’s recipients of the award is 20-year-old Daniel Zahn, son of Allentown residents Alicia and Bruce Zahn, for his project of F.O.R.M. Consulting.
Zahn’s project, which he runs alongside fellow Penn State student Cory Steinle, recruits college student-mentors to conduct one-on-one sessions with prospective students from underserved communities. The program offers writing seminars to educate students on what admissions professionals look for in personal statements and helps students identify their writing styles. Mentors then review mentees’ writing, offer feedback on college applications and provide information on scholarship opportunities. To date, F.O.R.M Consulting has successfully impacted more than 100 students and partnered with six high schools. Mentees have been accepted to colleges and universities across the country, including many highly ranked institutions.
Zahn first became inspired to work on this project after talking with Steinle about their experiences applying to college. Whereas Zahn’s parents and older siblings all attended college and were able to give him help and advice, Steinle was a first-generation college student whose family didn’t understand the college application process and was unable to help him. F.O.R.M. Consulting came about as a way to alleviate the divide between college students with different levels of family experience.
The money from the award will help Zahn and Steinle bring F.O.R.M. Consulting to more colleges and create a national 501c3 organization. “Trying to get it to as many people as possible” is important for Zahn, who believes that “there’s no concept to me of starting too early in tikkun olam.”
When asked why he was interested in starting this organization, Zahn replied, “This implies the question of: why shouldn’t young people do this? Everyone should work to find their own unique way to give back to the world and repair the world, and you can’t do that early enough and can’t continue that late enough. It’s a lifelong thing.” For young people especially, “young people have the time and the passion to really cultivate something that they care about. Kids are able to solve problems by looking at them in a new light, which is incredibly important.”
“It’s such an honor to get this award and read about the other recipients to see how much people are working toward a better tomorrow,” Zahn added. “I am very grateful to the [Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties] for putting their faith in Jewish teens and carrying on the tradition of tikkun olam.”
Jackie Safier, president of the Helen Diller Family Foundation, shares a similar sentiment: “This past year has clearly demonstrated the power of youth and their ability to engage in helping repair our world. The 2018 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award recipients are confronting some of the most complex and divisive issues of our time with a passion, determination and courageousness that we can all admire and hope to emulate. These teens continue to remind us that individuals of any age can be leaders and advocates who seek to positively impact the world in a significant way.”
Anyone interested in helping F.O.R.M. Consulting reach new colleges is welcome to email firstname.lastname@example.org.