First awarded in 2017, read below for information about past winners of the President's Prize. For more information or to connect with these past recipients, please contact


2020 President's Prize Recipients

Simone Bacon / Class of 2019
UnC.A.G.ED. - Changing the Achievement Gap in Education

Far too often, low-income and minority children across America do not have access to a prosperous education. As early as one year of age, children from low-income families have already fallen behind their wealthier counterparts, in part due to the word gap - the observed gap between the number of words spoken to children. This word gap disparity has the ability to grow into differential outcomes in education, negatively impacting the lifecourse of low-income children in job access, health, financial stability, and life expectancy. Through UnC.A.G.ED. it is my hope that low-income and minority children cease to experience barriers in attaining a quality education.

Read this Together As Buckeyes news story about how Simone is working to close the education gap.

Jen Schlegel / Class of 2020

Over 40 million Americans have limited dexterity and 1 in 5 have a disability, including 11% of undergraduate students. In settings where intense physical labor is not a requirement, society's heavy emphasis on physical capacity over mental capability is misplaced. Handicom is a software platform designed to address the technical barriers to success for persons who are physically disabled. This includes a mobile application that facilitates connections between ideas and written work, finger tap instead of a stylus, limited scrolling, and development of professional level outputs.


2019 President's Prize Recipients

Zac Graber / Class of 2018
rECOvery Organics

Wastefulness is a massive problem worldwide. In the United States alone, we only recycle about 35 percent of our waste stream, yet we currently have the technology to attain at least 70 percent. This waste sits in landfills while releasing harmful gases into the air, taking hundreds or thousands of years to decompose (if ever), and causes us to have to mine for new raw materials which is extremely energy intensive and harmful to the environment. Solving this problem requires both improved technology and changed consumer behavior. My project, rECOvery Organics, will extend the life of the Central Ohio landfill by dramatically increasing the organics recovery and improving the consumer experience toward waste. My research will focus on ways we can make the recycling process easier on consumers and economically feasible for both the public and private sector partners involved.

Read this interview with Zac Graber about his passion for entrepreneurship.

Christian McGhee / Class of 2019
Getting Ready Opportunities to Work

There may be as many as 1,500 homeless transitional age youth in Columbus alone. Getting Ready Opportunities to Work, or “Grow,” will create a home to provide youth who otherwise may be homeless with the resources and stability they need to be part of the vibrant community here. As a full-service transition center, Grow will strive to eliminate the many negative consequences that stem from being justice-involved youth on the streets. Many of these young people exit the justice system not knowing there are organizations out there to help them. We will help bring an end to that, and create a platform for lives to be transformed for the better. I am determined to be a voice for the voiceless. I will work as hard as I can to empower them to live a life they never thought they could have.

Watch this video of Christian and his work to fight youth homelessness.


2018 President's Prize Recipients

Alina Sharafutdinova / Class of 2017
Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

According to the Ohio Department of Health, the rate of drug overdose deaths has increased by 642 percent since 2015, surpassing the national average. On average this means eight people die every day in Ohio due to unintentional drug overdose.

Within Franklin County, five zip codes have been identified as high-risk communities for opiate overdose deaths. Within those areas, one high school and its surrounding community will be chosen to implement an in-school educational training curriculum and interactive drug prevention efforts.

The Ohio Opioid Action Plan will make strides in combating the opioid epidemic in Franklin County neighborhoods. The Plan’s goals are to empower children to make healthy life choices, reduce the number of fatal overdoses, and increase enrollment in drug rehabilitation programs. It will engage a diverse group of educators, law enforcement, local business partners, and volunteers to build a positive community response to this growing epidemic.

Read more about how Alina is addressing the opioid epidemic.

Anna Voelker / Class of 2018
STEM Access for People with Disabilities

A 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 22 percent of adults in the U.S. have a disability, and a 2015 study from the National Science Foundation shows that people with disabilities represent only 6 percent of employed astronomers and physicists.

From an underrepresentation of researchers with disabilities to a deficit of educational materials available for students with specialized needs, there are many science accessibility barriers that need to be acknowledged and addressed. AstroAccess, an astronomy and science outreach initiative, is specifically designed to do just that.

AstroAccess will help to address this accessibility issue. The project’s overarching goal is to make science more accessible for people with disabilities around the world through inclusive astronomy outreach initiatives. It will engage a global network of scientists and educators, including those in the local Columbus community, in science accessibility and education through a conference, student outreach and other initiatives.

Read this feature about Anna's road map to success.


2017 President's Prize Inaugural Recipient

Maggie Griffiths / Class of 2017
Fighting Columbus Food Deserts

Nearly 29 million Americans live in food deserts, areas with little access to the fresh produce needed for proper nutrition and development. The data for Ohio show that between 16 percent and 20 percent of the state’s population lives in a food desert.

The Unity Fridge Program is a food-sharing system that will place refrigerators within the local community, preferably around schools, and connect to community gardens and restaurants to fill each fridge with fresh, locally-grown produce. By placing the fridges in schools, children leaving school for the day will have immediate access to nutritious produce to bring home.

Additionally, the program will create an on-campus garden managed by Ohio State students and faculty. A student organization will help with planting, garden upkeep and produce delivery. The Unity Fridge Program will change lives and strengthen students’ commitment to bettering the lives of others.

Read this Ohio State News story about Maggie and the growth of the Unity Fridge project.

Key Dates


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