T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge Winners Teach Schools How To Get Smarter About The Environment

Presented in partnership with T-Mobile

T-Mobile is all about BIG ideas, which is why the Un-carrier is supporting the next generation as they create programs that positively impact the community through its second annual Changemaker Challenge Contest. T-Mobile, the T-Mobile Foundation, and Ashoka have been on the hunt to find young entrepreneurs, ages 13-23, who have bold ideas in the areas of Technology, Environment and Education. And, while the contest is still in its final phase, T-Mobile recently announced the 30 finalists for the contest, all of which have already won $2,000 in seed-funding from the T-Mobile Foundation, and three category winners who received $5,000.

After over 425 youth-led teams submitted ideas to the contest, the company chose the BIGGEST initiatives, announcing the top 30 teams while also listing the three top winners in each category. Here are the top winners chosen by T-Mobile in each category:


  • Ava: A Video Game About Space Pirates and Social Situations (Pomona, CA). A role-playing video game that gives autistic players a safe space to try out social situations and emotional responses

The Environment

  • Youth Climate Action Coalition (Granite Bay, CA). A youth-led environmental organization mitigating the effects of climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of schools and communities


  • Stories Untold U.S. (Parkland, FL). A platform to give voice to everyone in the U.S. who has been affected by gun violence

So what did T-Mobile use as requirements to judge these BIG ideas for the Changemaker Challenge Contest? Here’s some of the criteria applicants were expected to have.

  • Changemaker Quality assesses preliminary work already put into each idea.
  • Creativity measures each idea’s degree of innovation.
  • Commitment determines level of devotion to seeing a project through and ensuring a lasting impact.
  • Connection determines each team’s ability and openness to working with others in their community.

With a wide range of ideas presented, T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere was impressed by what the young entrepreneurs brought to the table and was encouraged by the innovation that America’s youth had when it comes to making a global impact.

“T-Mobile is all about finding BOLD solutions — and driving CHANGE — and that is EXACTLY what our Changemaker Challenge is all about! This year we received hundreds of amazing entries from inspiring future leaders who have big ideas about how to create a better world and we were totally blown away by what we saw! These youth are going to ensure a brighter future for us all and we can’t wait to help them make their ideas a reality!” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile and president of the T-Mobile Foundation.

In February 2020, the 30 winning teams will travel to T-Mobile’s headquarters in Bellevue, WA. for the Changemaker Lab — a three-day immersive experience where they’ll meet with mentors from T-Mobile and Ashoka, while networking with other visionary teams from across the country. The category winners will pitch their ideas to T-Mobile senior leaders for a chance to be named the grand prize winner of the 2019 Changemaker Challenge, with that team taking home an additional $5,000 in seed funding ($10,000 total) from the T-Mobile Foundation.

We got a chance to chat with the founders of the top winning group from the Environment category, Kevin Malaekeh, Jake McCullough, and Jack Galloway of Youth Climate Action Coalition, who gave us some insight about what the opportunity with T-Mobile’s Changemaker Challenge means to them, as well as their ambitions for the rest of the competition. Take a look below at what they told us.

Can You Describe What Youth Climate Action Coalition Does?

The Youth Climate Action Coalition (YCAC) is an organization started by juniors at Del Oro High School in Granite Bay, CA who want to reduce the Carbon Footprint in schools and communities around the globe. Now an organization of over 60 members, we reach out to students and community members who sign a pledge on our website, letting us know they are committed to reducing their school’s carbon footprint. We then reach out to them and help them create a personalized action plan with environmental conservation strategies we have implemented in our own school and city. This helps mitigate the growing climate crisis. Our approach is more attainable for schools and communities because we provide personalized advice to combat climate change. We have helped over 17 schools in four states and four countries implement environmental projects.

What Inspired Your Idea, And Why’s It So Unique?

Our inspiration stemmed from realizing the impact we made at our school and in our community by undertaking environmental projects. We realized that we can truly make a difference as youth, which is why we decided to start YCAC and expand our efforts. We have started a composting program, hosted recycling drives, installed faucet aerators and are currently working with community leaders on a food scraps program in our city, which would significantly reduce organic waste in landfills. We believe our idea is unique because we are youth-led, and we primarily focus on helping and inspiring other youths to do their part to combat the effects of climate change.

Can You Describe The Biggest Challenge You’ve Experienced While Building The Initiative?

Our biggest challenge was the implementation of the faucet aerators on our school’s faucets. The aerators, which are small metal nodules that reduce the volume of water exerted by faucets, reduce our school’s water usage by 30 percent. We received grant money to install the aerators; however, we received resistance from our school administration when trying to install the aerators free of charge.

How Did You Solve Such Challenges?

We had to involve many people and convince the school administration of the merit of our idea. We also needed to persuade them of the benefits of installing aerators and that we were willing to take the necessary steps to get the project done. Finally, we received the approval needed to move ahead with the project. We are now in the process of installing faucet aerators in our school sinks.

What Does It Mean To Be A Top Team In T-Mobile’s Changemaker Challenge?

Becoming a top team in the Changemaker Challenge is an enormous validation for our team. We have spent hundreds of hours working on our website, undertaking environmental initiatives, and proposing our ideas to local leaders. While we are all willing to make sacrifices, the surprising news of being first place in the environmental category assured us all the time we spent was worth it.

Is There Something Specific You’re Looking Forward To Learning At The T-Mobile Lab When You Visit?

We are looking forward to hearing the ideas of other Changemakers at the Lab. We are optimistic about opportunities to network with other Changemakers and share our ideas. We can learn a lot from collaborating with other teams to integrate their ideas into our organization.

How Will You Use The $5K You’ve Already Won From The Changemaker Challenge To Help Your Business Idea?

The money we won will open doors for future projects. We will no longer have to worry about the cost to implement projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We can think of bigger ideas without being too wary of cost. We also hope to gain some insight at the Changemaker Lab around how to best use our seed-funding.

Any Advice For Other Hopeful Entrepreneurs?

We encourage anyone who wants to be successful to follow their passion and not be afraid of getting out of their comfort zone. For example, we all have a passion for the outdoors and conservation, and we are trying to do our part to help combat the effects of climate change. Do whatever you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life. Running YCAC truly feels like we were meant to be leaders for this cause.

What’s The Dream Scenario When It Comes To Youth Climate Action Coalition?

Our dream scenario is to have thousands of students and community members sign the pledge on our website and for us to help them implement initiatives that combat climate change. We want to reach every state in the nation and reach out across the globe. We want to help as many people as we can do their part in combating the climate crisis.

See more about the Youth Climate Action Coalition by following them on Instagram, where you can read about one of their current projects. The team is hard at work raising $12,000 to install a well in Swaziland which will provide fresh water for an entire community. You can donate to by going here. To see which team takes home the second annual T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge grand prize, visit: t-mobile.com/changemaker. You can also join the conversation on social media by searching the hashtag #TMOChangemaker.

The BroBible team writes about gear that we think you want. Occasionally, we write about items that are a part of one of our affiliate partnerships and we will get a percentage of the revenue from sales.