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ILA’s 30 Under 30 List Honors Emerging Leaders In 12 Countries

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NEWARK, Del. (January 11, 2021) — The International Literacy Association (ILA) today released its biennial 30 Under 30 list, an initiative that shines a spotlight on the next generation of leaders who are working to create positive change in the global literacy landscape.

The 2021 list of honorees includes educators, nonprofit leaders, authors, volunteers, researchers and social entrepreneurs. Though their roles may differ, they all belong to a growing cohort of young innovators, disrupters and visionaries in the field.

“The start of 2021 is filled with much promise thanks to the work of this year’s class of honorees,” said ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “Their work—whether it’s research on multicultural literacy, helping young students find the power of their voice or dismantling systems of oppression in education—is impacting the lives of countless individuals and communities. Not only do these emerging leaders share in our mission of literacy for all, but also they are helping to ensure that the post-COVID era, when we get there, will be grounded in equity for all.”

Representing 12 countries, this year’s list celebrates emerging leaders such as

  • Patrick Harris, 27, founder of Good Trouble Media and humanities teacher at The Roeper School in Michigan, U.S., who helped transform his middle school English department into a humanities program geared toward preparing students to tackle social justice issues. Through his media company, he also creates education-focused podcasts, most notably The Common Sense Podcast, in which he and his cohost showcased the highs and lows of being Black teachers. 
  • Ondřej Kania, 28, CEO/cofounder of JK Education in the Czech Republic, which began as an advisory organization for students in Central Europe by assisting them with obtaining scholarships and financial aid to attend schools in the United States. Now, the organization is working to transform the education system in the Czech Republic and Slovakia with the founding of four schools grounded in personalized, project-based learning.
  • Havana Chapman-Edwards, 10, founder/executive director of Girls Have Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, whose youth-powered nonprofit aims to eliminate barriers to girls’ education. Chapman-Edwards, the youngest honoree on this year’s list, has raised more than $40,000 for girls around the globe for items such as books, school supplies, toiletries and transportation.

ILA’s 2021 30 Under 30 list also includes the following individuals: 

  • Saurabh Anand, 28, Graduate Student Research Assistantship Fellow, University of Georgia, Georgia, U.S.
  • Anna Bjork, 28, English Language Learner Teacher, Minnetonka Public Schools, Minnesota, U.S.
  • Ryan Brady, 18, Founder, Hippkids, Ohio, U.S.
  • Candace Chambers, 27, CEO, Educational Writing Services; PhD Student, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
  • Jimmie Chengo, 23, Founder/Executive Director, Afribuk Society, Kajiado, Kenya
  • Cedric Christian Ngnaoussi Elongué, 27, Founder/Executive Director, Muna Kalati, Accra, Ghana
  • Enwongo-Abasi Francis, 24, Ambassador, World Literacy Foundation, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria • Seth French, 29, English Language Arts Teacher, Bentonville High School, Arkansas, U.S.
  • Shayla Glass-Thompson, 28, Literacy and Language Equity Specialist, Badger Ridge Middle School, Wisconsin, U.S.
  • Tiyana Herring, 23, Fifth-Grade Teacher, Kate Sullivan Elementary School; Graduate Student, Florida State University, Florida, U.S.
  • Tori Hill, 27, Executive Director, Writers and Artists Across the Country, California, U.S.
  • Mahdi Housaini, 25, Founder, Parande Library, Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan
  • Jigyasa Labroo, 28, Founder/CEO, Slam Out Loud, Dharamshala, India
  • Roman Lay, 28, English/Drama Teacher, Alcoa High School, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Andrea Liao, 18, Founder/President, Book the Future, Washington, U.S.
  • Josephine Lichaha, 28, Teacher, Go Ye Therefore, Livingstone, Zambia • Austin Martin, 25, Creator/Director, Rhymes With Reason, California, U.S.
  • Simpson Muhwezi, 29, Founder/Creative Director, Wandiika Literacy Initiative, Kampala, Uganda 
  • Erin O’Neil, 26, Founder, Fishtail Publishing, Ohio, U.S.
  • Akash Patel, 28, Spanish Teacher, Ignite Middle School; Founder, Happy World Foundation, Texas, U.S.
  • Rebecca Quiñones, 28, Second-Grade Spanish Dual Language Teacher, P.S. 139, New York, U.S.
  • Zachery Ramos, 21, President/Founder, Traveling Library, California, U.S. 
  • Dwayne Reed, 29, Fourth-/Fifth-Grade English Language Arts Teacher, Chicago Public Schools; CEO, Teach Mr. Reed, Illinois, U.S.
  • Kelsey Reynolds, 25, Literacy and Education Advocate, California, U.S.
  • Mari Sawa, 29, Literacy Specialist, Earth8ight School, Okayama, Japan  • Olivia Van Ledtje, 12, Founder, LivBits, New Hampshire, U.S.
  • Tien-Hao Yen, 29, Founder, LIS Education, New Taipei City, Taiwan

ILA’s 30 Under 30 honorees are featured in the January/February 2021 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s bimonthly magazine, which published today. To view the Literacy Today feature and read more about the honorees’ accomplishments, visit

About the International Literacy Association 

The International Literacy Association (ILA) is a global advocacy and membership organization dedicated to advancing literacy for all through its network of more than 300,000 literacy educators, researchers and experts across 128 countries. With over 60 years of experience, ILA has set the standard for how literacy is defined, taught and evaluated. ILA’s Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 provides an evidence-based benchmark for the development and evaluation of literacy professional preparation programs. ILA collaborates with partners across the world to develop, gather and disseminate high-quality resources, best practices and cutting-edge research to empower educators, inspire students and inform policymakers. ILA publishes The Reading Teacher, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy and Reading Research Quarterly, which are peer reviewed and edited by leaders in the field. For more information, visit

Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

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