Interactive Scholarship Program Celebrates Innovative Community Service Worldwide

This summer, SXSW Interactive put out a call to recognize individuals using innovative technology and new media to address significant community challenges. This program sought nominees across all sectors and countries whose innovative, impactful work (whether as a career or avocational passion) helps others. Non-profit leaders, grassroots organizers, individual citizens, and civic-minded entrepreneurs were all eligible to win.

At SXSW, we believe that the strength of community comes from diversity of thought, gender, geography, and background. To that end, we use a V-O-W-E-L scale of basic diversity principles in selecting scholarship winners.

Some of the essays collected through this process will also be considered as potential Dewey Winburne Community Service Award honorees. SXSW would like to thank Scott Henderson, Anne Mai Bertelsen, Cody Switzer, Brian Reich, and Allie Burns for their continued contribution to the success of this program.

Take a look at the 2015 winners below:

2015 SXSW Interactive Scholarship Winner Lauren Burke In 2012, immigration attorney Lauren Burke opened Atlas: DIY, the country’s first holistic service center and safe space serving undocumented youth. She began harnessing the power of the web to teach undocumented immigrants about their rights using YouTube and other social media channels, radically transforming the way legal services were delivered to young people across the country. Atlas:DIY's gaming component now allows users to cash in points earned by sharing content on their own accounts in exchange for actual services, such as a Skype session with an attorney.

Scholarship Winners Ana Cecilia Castillo and Adrian CatalanAdrian Catalan nominated his colleague (and sweetheart!) Ana Cecilia Castillo for her work as a diversity advocate in tech and especially in the software development industry through Girls @ Tech Guatemala. As one of the relatively new gender initiatives in Latin America, Girls @ Tech is working in two main areas: finding women role models working in technical positions in local industries and encouraging more high school students to choose technical degrees. This program is the first to focus on getting more women in tech in Guatemala and increasing diversity in the local tech scene.

2015 Scholarship Winners Jeremy Saxe and Megan CoffeeJeremy Saxe's mentor, Megan Coffee, nominated him for a SXSW Interactive registration scholarship for his work with Ti Kay Haiti. TB and HIV patients in Haiti often move between multiple homes, as necessitated by a lack of resources. Their homes are likely on no maps and the streets near them have no names. Natural disasters, hunger and limited literacy create obstacles to obtaining medications on a regular schedule. However, everyone knows how to use a cellphone – and maybe a few basic applications. Saxe and Coffee have worked to map patient homes and connect them through a simple-to-use patient database.

2015 Scholarship Winner Ameca Reali Executive director and co-founder of the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana (JAC), Ameca Reali is working to help the over 175,000 people living with criminal records in Louisiana, most of them for non-violent crimes. JAC's mobile and web based application, Louisiana Expungement Application (LEA), will greatly increase access to a much needed service and ensure lawyers working to provide these services can connect with clients in need. JAC hopes to leverage quantitative data collected through the app and direct it toward rational, responsive policy changes in order to increase access to expungements and help to create long term systemic reform in Louisiana's criminal justice system.

2015 Scholarship Winner Anne RockneThe most critical question Anna Rockne hopes to answer by attending SXSW is, "which new technology will give us the tools to close the degree divide?" Today a child from a low-income family is ten times less likely to earn a college degree than a higher-income peer. Rockne and her colleagues at College Possible provide students with intensive support through the college admission process, guiding them through scholarships, financial aid and the transition to and through college. College Possible students earn college degrees at the same rate as students from all other income levels, effectively closing the degree divide.