Inspiring Students We Met in 2023

pgodbole  //  Dec 14, 2023

Inspiring Students We Met in 2023

This past year at Scholastic, we met phenomenal kids from all over the world who have enacted real change in their communities, faced challenges head-on, and have gone above and beyond to accomplish their goals.

Check out five of the many inspiring students we’ve worked with and learned from this past year below. 

Azalea Williams – as featured in Scholastic Action Magazine

  • Azalea is a teen in Portland, Oregon, with an incredible backstory. Born in Ethiopia, Azalea’s birth mother passed away when she was an infant, and her birth father made the difficult choice to bring her to an orphanage, where she was soon adopted by an American family. However, when Azalea was eight years old, she learned that she had a twin brother named Mitiku who was still living in Ethiopia with her birth father and family. This led her and her parents to visit Azalea’s home country and reunite with her twin brother in their village, Shamo Boyo.
  • After leaving Ethiopia, Azalea couldn’t stop thinking about the village school Mitiku attended, and how it lacked resources like books, desks and enough teachers for more than a thousand students.
  • This led her to start selling lemonade and bracelets to raise money for the school, and her mom helped create a GoFundMe page too. Now over the past five years Azalea and her family have raised over $100,000 for Shamo Boyo and her brother’s school – so all children in the village have a chance to learn just as she does in Oregon.
  • Learn more about Azalea’s powerful story in Scholastic Action Magazine, here.

Ezra French – as featured in Scholastic Storyworks Magazine

  • Ezra is an 18-year-old from Los Angeles who was born with a rare congenital condition that affects limbs – specifically his left leg which was missing the knee and the fibula. However, this difference didn’t stop Ezra from pursuing his dreams as a Paralympic athlete, and even competing in the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo – with the help of an invention called the Flex-Foot Cheetah – an artificial limb shaped like a blade designed specifically for competitive athletes.

  • Through hard work and perseverance, Ezra diligently trained as a runner/high jumper, eventually qualifying for Team USA. He will likely compete in the 2024 Paralympics in Los Angeles as well

  • Read Ezra’s inspiring story in Storyworks, here.

Quade Kelley – Scholastic Kids Press 

  • Quade Kelley has been reporting the news for kids from California for four years as a Scholastic Kid Reporter. During this time, he’s written 35 stories, and interviewed extraordinary subjects from the likes of: Medal of Honor Recipient Leroy Petry, Astronaut Cady Coleman, National Geographic Explorer Bertie Gregory, Marvel Editor-In-Chief CB Cebulski, Caldecott Winners Dan Santat and Brian Selznick and Holocaust Survivor Rose Schinder. 
  • Quade recently started a new project at his public library called Reading Athlete to promote the importance of movement and daily reading for student success. He was appointed to the City Youth Commission by Encinitas Mayor, Tony Kranz. He also leads his school’s neurodiversity affinity group to help kids embrace their differences, and was recently offered the youth reporter job for San Diego's first Professional Women's Volleyball Team.
  • Check out a feature about Quade on Scholastic’s corporate blog, On Our Minds.

Sarah Fathima Mohammed – Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

  • Sarah Fathima from San Jose, California, was awarded the highest honor in the 2023 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards – The Gold Medal Portfolio. Her writing portfolio focused primarily on poems and vulnerable creative nonfiction essays on subjects like Muslim girlhood, violence, queerness, and kinship in her life. Sarah Fathima was not only a Gold Port recipient this year, but was also recognized as one of the top five youth poets in the country and named a National Student Poet in 2021. 
  • As a National Student Poet, she traveled the western region as a poetry ambassador, devoting her time and talents to spreading poetry throughout her community through individual service projects, readings, and workshops. Sarah’s award-winning writing portfolio earned her a $12,500 scholarship toward her continuing education as a current freshman at Harvard University.
  • Hear more from Sarah in this radio interview for KALW Public Media.


Seattle Public Schools’ Black Education Program Students

  • In 2022, a curriculum program from author Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s book Unearthing Joy went into place at Seattle Public Schools. In March 2023, using their learnings from the program, 22 students gave ‘TedTalk’ style presentations where they used works of art, music, and literature to showcase the work of Seattle Public Schools’ Black Education Program. 
  • The celebration highlighted students, teachers, district members, and included special virtual remarks from Dr. Gholdy Muhammad where she praised the program and encouraged the school to continue their work in supporting Black joy, history, and culture on campus. 
  • Read more about the First Annual Black Studies Showcase at Seattle Public Schools on Scholastic’s corporate blog, On Our Minds.