CNN has called them the "Oscars of youth service awards." They honor 12 incredible, courageous and inspiring young people with as much pomp and circumstance as you'd find in any Tinseltown awards show. They are the BRICK Awards, and they prove that the youth of today are capable of accomplishing great things.
Presented each year since 1996 by Do Something, the BRICK Awards are about recognizing young people and the efforts they are making to revolutionize community involvement. But the BRICK Awards go beyond just handing out some money. They hope to give children across the nation real role models to emulate; innovative young people, like themselves, who have taken the next step and done something positive to change the world.
The BRICK Awards were televised for the first time on April 12, 2007 on the CW. It contained all the elements of an awards show: a celebrity host, popular musical acts, celebrity presenters, and glitz and glamour. But the BRICK Awards are very different from any other awards show; they demonstrate that people should be rewarded not for how beautiful they are or what they're wearing, but for what they've done, what they continue to do and how their work can inspire the next generation of do-ers. The goal is to create a new type of celebrity: the rock star of social change.
In this article, we'll take a look at how the BRICK Award Finalists and Winners were selected and what the award entails. We’ll also explore what it means to have the event televised for the first time, everything that went into creating the show, and what the future of the BRICK Awards looks like for 2008 and beyond.
Selecting the Finalists
In 2006, around 1,000 people under the age of 25 applied for the BRICK Awards. Whittling it down from 1,000 applicants to 24 Finalists is a daunting task, but one taken on with pride by the judges.
In years past, judging for the BRICK Awards was handled by the BRICK Selection Committee -- a diverse group of people that has included leaders of other grant and scholarship programs, CEOs of major corporations and prominent venture capitalists. Beginning in 2007, the majority of the judging process was handled by a prestigious new entity, the BRICK Academy.
The BRICK Academy consists of all past BRICK Award Winners -- 72 in all. Formed specifically for the 2007 Awards, the Academy members are some of the most inspiring and innovative people of our time. While not the only members of the judging panel, they made up the majority of the judges and took part in every aspect of the selection process. Having the BRICK Academy in control, from start to finish, truly makes the BRICK Awards "by young people, for young people."
In selecting the 24 Finalists, the judges searched for young people who are making an impact on the world for the better. They didn't care about an applicant's GPA, what magazines he’s been in, or how many times he has been on TV. Instead, the judges wanted to know how many people the applicant has helped and see that the applicant has used his unique skills or talents to directly make his community stronger. The ultimate goal of the BRICK Awards is to motivate and inspire the next generation into becoming a generation dedicated to helping the world and creating colossal change. Searching through the applications, the judges looked for standouts in one of two areas: Social Entrepreneurs and Community Leaders.
Eventually, the Academy announced 24 BRICK Award Finalists. Each finalist is an amazing individual who has started an organization, spoken to thousands of people or otherwise made a serious impact in the world. These 24 Finalists were then brought to New York in January for an intensive weekend of workshops and interviews.
The 2007 Young Leaders Workshop for Change
Before spending a grueling day of interviews and judging, the 24 Finalists were treated to an amazing workshop where they learned about speaking to the media, budgeting, marketing, business development, working with foundations, how to find and receive grant money, and more. This was serious, no-holds-barred, "how-to" instruction that helped train the finalists in how to make their community action work more efficiently and effectively. The idea was to give each of the 24 Finalists the tools and resources to take their work to the next level.
The day included a surprise visit from Academy Award Winning Actress and renowned activist Susan Sarandon. Sarandon held a question and answer session with the Finalists, answering their questions about subjects including the power of youth to change the world, approaching celebrities to get them involved in causes and weighing the merits of social interaction versus political advocacy. She stressed that these Finalists were, in her eyes, the real hope for lasting social change. Sarandon believes that these grassroots organizations, working from the bottom up, are the key to the future.
Wrapping the afternoon up was marketing guru and best-selling author Seth Godin, who challenged the Finalists to better market their "products." He taught them that everyone has their own "worldview," a way of seeing the world. The finalists’ job is to find the worldviews that are predisposed to their cause. Godin stated that they should not waste their time chasing after people who will never listen or never respond.
The Judging Process
With the instruction from the previous day echoing in their heads, including tips on what the judges would be looking for, the 24 Finalists arrived on day two for an intensive round robin of judging, interviews and photo opportunities.
If you thought processing a thousand applications to find 24 Finalists was difficult, imagine cutting the number down to 12. These 24 Finalists are the best of the best. They've already accomplished so much, but now it was time to tell half of them that they didn't make the final cut.
The selection committee had some very specific questions in mind when they started the interview process:
- Has this Finalist already helped a lot of people?
- Is there the potential to go even bigger and have an even greater impact?
- When it comes down to it, is this person the top young leader in his or her field?
Each of the 24 Finalists participated in three different interview sessions with three different judges, including quite a few members of the BRICK Academy -- past BRICK Award Winners. The judges then got together and shared their thoughts, observations and initial recommendations. Over the course of the next few days, the merits of all 24 Finalists were debated until the judges reached a consensus. Finally, they selected the 12 BRICK Award Winners of 2007.
THE GOLDEN BRICK Award
Now that the judges have chosen the 12 BRICK Award Winners, there is one final step. The BRICK Awards, in partnership with Yahoo!, have divided the 12 Winners evenly into four categories: Global Impact, Health, Education & Environment and Community Building. From March 1st until April 10th, internet users voted for a Golden BRICK Award Winner in each category. The four Golden BRICK Award Winners received an additional $15,000 grant for their cause.
Here's how the voting turned out for the 2007 BRICK Awards:
2007 Golden BRICK Winner: Global Impact
2007 Golden BRICK Winner: Health
2007 Golden BRICK Winner: Education & Environment
2007 Golden BRICK Winner: Education & Environment
2007 Golden BRICK Winner: Community Building
2007 BRICK Winners:
What They Win
All 12 BRICK Award Winners receive $10,000. Winners 18 and under get a $5,000 scholarship and a $5,000 grant to support their project or organization, while Winners over the age of 18 receive the entire $10,000 as a grant for their cause. Add the $15,000 that the four Golden BRICK Award Winners receive, and four incredible young people walk away with $25,000 in grants and/or scholarship money. This means the BRICK Awards distribute $180,000 in total in one night. The BRICK Awards have awarded over $1.5 million dollars through 2007 via grants and awards since their inception in 1996. And it just keeps getting bigger.
In addition to the grants and scholarships, BRICK Award Winners receive lots of free support and recognition, some pro bono legal services and an invitation to the BRICK Awards Ceremony in Times Square.
And that's not all. In the spirit of helping turning these amazing young people into the rock stars of social change, the BRICK Awards are working on some amazing and unique methods of promotion for the Winners and Finalists to get their faces and stories out to the public, to help to make these inspirational young people household names.
The Susan Sarandon Roll Up Your Sleeves Award
In addition to the 12 BRICK Award Winners, two of the remaining Finalists received the Susan Sarandon Roll Up Your Sleeves Award, which comes with a $2,500 grant. The award came about in 2007, for the first time, thanks to Sarandon's birthday. Her friends wanted to do something special for her, and Sarandon, who had presented at the 2006 BRICK Awards, suggested that they contact the BRICK Awards and look into getting involved. The result was the creation of an award that allowed two more Finalists to walk away with a little more help, recognition, and funding for their cause.
The 2007 BRICK Awards also recognized Lance Armstrong for his Livestrong Foundation, which raises funds for cancer research and advocacy, and Petra Nemcova for her Happy Hearts Fund, which benefits children affected by natural disasters. Each Celebrity Honoree received $10,000 for their charitable organization.
Bringing the BRICK Awards to Television
The 2007 BRICK Awards Ceremony was held in New York on April 10th. In the past, the ceremony was a standard dinner. People would show up in nice suits and pretty dresses and awards would be handed out like any other banquet or charity dinner. Not anymore.
This year, for the first time, the show aired during primetime television, on the CW Network on April 12th, just two days after the actual event. This year, not content with just being referred to as the “Oscars of youth service awards,” the BRICK Awards will be the Oscars of youth service awards.
The decision to put the BRICK Awards on television was, in many ways, a reaction to the creation of celebrities who were famous for being famous, and little else. Airing the ceremony on the CW introduces millions and millions of people to a new type of celebrity, and it gives the Winners an experience they will never forget.
Once the BRICK Awards decided to air the ceremony, the question of which network was easy. The youth viewership for the CW is huge: it has more viewers in the target youth demographic than even MTV. The CW is also a new network. This is the first time the BRICK Awards have been on television, and it's the first awards show to air on the CW.
Not content to simply put on the show and hope for the best, the BRICK Awards was produced by Alex Coletti. Coletti has produced a number of previous award shows and Super Bowl half-time shows, and has a knack for creating memorable moments. Remember the kiss between Britney Spears and Madonna at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards? What about the unforgettable Aerosmith/ NSYNC Super Bowl half-time show in 2001? Coletti produced both shows.
Coletti agreed to produce this year's show after attending the 2006 BRICK Awards ceremony. He was blown away by the power and inspiration of the young people who were being honored. Coletti’s involvement will make the 2007 BRICK Awards relevant, edgy and instantly recognizable.
Singer LeAnn Rimes, who is the International spokesperson for the Children's Miracle Network and also involved with The Giving Hearts Foundation and Coalition to Salute America's Hereoes, hosted the show (past hosts have included Anthony Edwards and Jimmy Fallon). Mandy Moore dazzled the crowd with her first public performance of her new single "Extraordinary" and Chris Carrabba from Dashboard Confessional rocked the crowd with "Stolen". These two performers are also stand-outs for their advocacy. Moore is involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation which support kids with cancer, and Carraba raised tens of thousands of dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief.
The ceremony, naturally, ran longer than the time allowed on the CW, so outtakes and extra content will be available on the Web site (http://www.brickawards.com) after the show.
The Future of the BRICK Awards
The 2007 BRICK Awards Ceremony has been in development for over a year. So, some in the organization are already looking towards the 2008 Awards. They are talking to potential sponsors, getting ready to start accepting applications, and bouncing ideas back and forth. Mostly, they are waiting to see what happens with this year's show. Moving the show to television is a huge step, and only after the show has aired will they be able to sit back and look at what worked and what didn’t.
But there's one thing they promise for the 2008 BRICK Awards: It will be even bigger.
For more information on the BRICK Awards, check out the helpful links on the following page.