21-Year-Old Sierra Leonean Student Wins $100K Prize For His Efforts To Combat Energy Poverty
Photo Credit: Pan African Vison

21-Year-Old Sierra Leonean Student Wins $100K Prize For His Efforts To Combat Energy Poverty

Awarded for their efforts in making the world a better place, two trailblazers have received a global award.

Created in 2015, the Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million award granted annually to a teacher who is making a prolific impact in the lives of their students. This year a new sister award was launched to highlight a student who is making a difference for their peers and society. Jeremiah Thoronka — a 21-year-old Durham University student — became the first recipient of the inaugural Chegg.org Global Student Prize receiving $100,000 U.S. dollars.

“Words can’t express how I feel about this,” Thoronka said.

The master’s student stood out from a selection of over 3,500 nominations across 94 countries due to his work centered on sustainability. Growing up in a slum camp with his mother on the fringes of Freetown, they would burn charcoal and wood to be used for light and heat, SwitSalone reports. Here is where Jeremiah Thoronka’s passion for climate change advocacy was birthed. The idea would propel him to launch startup Optim Energy at the African Leadership University in Rwanda, which led to the inception of a device that can generate clean power fueled by the kinetic energy from traffic and pedestrians. 

The award was presented by prized actor Hugh Jackman, who celebrated Jeremiah Thoronka’s contributions.

“You’ve made an enormous difference to your community and far beyond,” Jackman said during a virtual ceremony broadcast from UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, according to indy100. “I’m sure that you will now use this incredible platform to make an even bigger impact.”

Thoronka also shared the spotlight with Keishia Thorpe, who took home the $1 million Global Teacher Prize award. The English teacher, who broke into tears upon hearing she would be the recipient, stood out for her mentorship efforts and her mission to ensure first-generation Americans, immigrants and refugee students have access to a college education. 

“Education is a human right, and all children should be entitled to have access to it,” Thorpe said in her winning speech. “Every child needs a champion, an adult who will never ever give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the very best they can be.”