National Geographic Announces Winners of Inaugural Nat Geo Teen Service Award

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As part of an ongoing effort to recognize extraordinary high school and middle school students who are making a difference through outstanding service work, National Geographic has named three winners of its inaugural Nat Geo Teen Service Award. Alexa Grabelle, 15, of Voorhees, N.J., Eastern Regional High School, was awarded the grand prize for her work collecting and distributing books to low-income children through Bags of Books, a non-profit Grabelle founded at age 10. She will receive a community service trip with National Geographic Student Expeditions to Fiji and a scholarship for her college savings. The two runners-up, Delaney Reynolds, 17, of Miami, Fla., Palmer Trinity School, and Kaimana Idica, 18, of Wailuku, Hawaii, Kamehameha Schools Maui High School, will each receive a scholarship towards college savings.

Grabelle was selected from almost 300 student nominees as the recipient of the Nat Geo Teen Service Award. With her 501c(3), Bags of Books, Grabelle collects books, then donates them to schools in need. She also organizes pop-up “stores” where students can fill a bag with free books for his or her own home library. Since Bags of Books began, Grabelle has distributed more than 110,000 books to charities, non-profits, shelters and children’s hospitals in five states. In her submission essay Grabelle noted, “Changing the world means helping children–one book at a time.” National Geographic Kids Books, a leading publisher of children’s nonfiction, donated 300 books to Grabelle’s non-profit in celebration of her Nat Geo Teen Service Award.

Delaney Reynolds was announced as the second prize winner for her work with her Sink or Swim project, which uses public education and political advocacy to inform people of the local impact climate change has on Florida. Since the project’s outset, Reynolds has reached more than 35,000 people. In part, because of Reynolds’ advocacy, Miami Dade County has allocated .7 million to decrease the impact of sea-level rise.

Kaimana Idica was also named the third prize winner for his work educating the public about the impact of single-use plastic waste on the environment, both globally and locally, as well as eco-friendly alternatives. Idica has made significant strides to ban polystyrene take-out containers in Maui County.

Students had to be nominated in order to enter the contest. Judging was based on the student’s positive impact on the community/planet, commitment to community service initiatives and the strength of his or her nominator’s case for why the nominee deserves the award.

“Connecting with and benefiting communities around the world is a key focus of National Geographic Student Expeditions, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to recognize students across the country who are making a difference in their own communities,” said Deb Friedman, Vice President, Independent and Specialty Travel. “We were blown away by the nominations we received for these Awards.”

National Geographic Student Expeditions offers travel and field work opportunities to high school and middle school students, ages 13 and older. Students can follow in the footsteps of National Geographic experts, photographers, scientists and journalists on six different continents.

For more information on the winner and finalists of the Nat Geo Teen Service Award and National Geographic Student Expeditions, please visit

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