There are a dizzying number of corporate-sponsored awards and fellowships available for college students. Precious few though reward the social conscience that so many students learn to put aside out of necessity as they figure out how to start paying their bills.

That’s why we were so pleased to report last fall that Grinnell College, a liberal arts institution in Iowa, had announced the creation of a $300,000 annual prize program to honor individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change.

The Nation commended Grinnell for sponsoring the award and encouraged all eligible readers to apply for this prize, which is one of the largest of its kind available in the US.

So, of course, we were interested in Grinnell’s announcement this week of the first winners of the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize.
Each of the three winners were selected from more than 1,000 nominations from 66 countries. Each winning entry receives $100,000, half to the individual(s) and half to an organization the winner(s) designates.

Meet the winners:

Boris Bulayev, age 26, president, and Eric Glustrom, age 26, executive director, Educate! (shared award), working to empower youth across Uganda

James Kofi Annan, age 37, executive director, Challenging Heights, which provides education and rehabilitation for children who have returned from slavery and horrific forms of child labor

Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, age 35, co-founder and co-executive director, Encounter, dedicated to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by providing Jewish leaders with firsthand exposure to Palestinian realities

In October, the trio will visit the campus to participate in the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize Symposium and awards ceremony. Through public lectures and interactions with students, they will share their experiences and perspectives in effecting positive and innovative social change. Noted civil rights lawyer and founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees, will deliver the symposium’s keynote address.

Kudos to Grinnell for its commitment to positive social change!