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U-Lead Athens Co-director Finalist for MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award

U-Lead Athens

U-Lead Athens Co-director Betina Kaplan is one of three finalists for the MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award.

More than 750 people were nominated for the award for “extraordinary disobedience for the benefit of society.” Kaplan shares the honor of receiving MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award with Lorgia Garcia Peña, Pamela Voekel, and Bethany Moreton for their work as co-founders of Freedom University Georgia.

When Freedom University moved to Atlanta in 2014, Kaplan remained in Athens and co-founded U-Lead Athens, a volunteer driven organization dedicated to coaching students through the process of applying to college. The organization is open to immigrant children and children of immigrants. In this year alone, U-Lead Athens provided $130,000 in scholarships for 42 students attending college around the country. Kaplan explained that as U-Lead grows, the organization will require more funds and volunteers.

“Next year we will need even more funding because we’ll be supporting this year’s 42 students plus 15-20 anticipated new college freshmen,” Kaplan said. “People who want to help should contact us with fundraising ideas, grant writing skills, donations, or commitment to coach and tutor one of our students.”

The finalist for the MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award included James Hansen, a NASA employee recognized as a pioneer of climate change research; LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Jasilyn Charger, and Joseph White Eyes for their work as organizers of the Standing Rock protests; and the four faculty founders of Freedom University Georgia. They received a $10,000 honorable mention for their work. Kaplan is donating her share of the award for scholarships for undocumented students in Georgia.

“I hope that this recognition will encourage young people to continue to defy policies that prevent them from accessing higher education,” said Kaplan. “I also hope that this award will invite more people to volunteer and provide funding for the organizations in which these young people can thrive.”

Those interested in helping out with U-Lead should contact the organization at uleadathens@gmail.com or visit www.uleadathens.org