Founder of Amazing Kids!, Alyse Rome is one of the biggest champions for kids I have ever met. She has launched programs that kids can participate online that allow them to become leaders and trailblazers in their own communities, as well as reach other kids across the globe. From The Tonight Show to Dreamworks, everyone is talking about how amazing Amazing Kids! is!
Love + Water- Tell me how you came up with the idea for Amazing Kids!
Alyse Rome- I started Amazing Kids! in 1998. I’m a former teacher, and was really concerned about the negative focus that the media uses to portray kids. As a teacher, I knew that one of the best ways for kids learn is from each other, through positive reinforcement and support. I believe strongly that if they’re only hearing negative stories about their peers in the news then we’re giving them a message that will hinder rather than encourage their growth. I wanted to have a place where kids could go online to read success stories about their peers to get inspired, motivated and learn what their unique gifts are. Almost immediately after I put up the first few stories on the site I received a call from The Tonight Show asking if they could feature one of our kids on the show. It was then listed in the Entertainment Bulletin, which goes out to everyone in the entertainment industry about who is going to be appearing on television that night, with one of our kids pictured next to Annie Lenox who was going to be on Saturday Night Live. Since then our kids have been featured on Oprah, The Today Show, CNN and NBC Nightly News, as well as the Disney Channel.
L+W- I understand you have an incredible mentoring program for the kids as well.
AR- We started the Mentoring Program as another way to help foster creativity in our kids. We encourage adults to become mentors in the lives of our kids, knowing that behind every amazing kid is an amazing adult who took the time to take them under their wing and help them grow. We have creative contests with some truly incredible sponsors. Dreamworks sponsored our animation contest and the head of the animation department became a mentor for the kids who won. One of the kids went on to become a professional animator years later as a result. The Mentoring Program is an international program, with kids from all over the world participating. We also foster literacy through our pen pal program, which allows kids to connect to other kids from different states and countries and is also extremely effective.
L+W- Can you talk about the Launch My Dream initiative?
AR- Our Launch My Dream initiative is all about collaboration with others to gather resources in their communities to help our kids launch their dreams for their future. We just had our second annual Launch My Dream T-Shirt Design Contest. Last year’s winner, Katie Scagliano, grew a 40 lb. cabbage in her backyard when she was 9 and donated it to a local soup kitchen. As a result they were able to feed 275 people with her one cabbage. While she was at the soup kitchen dishing out the soup she was touched deeply by the number of kids there who were hungry, so she began a project called No Hungry Children, which is what she won the T-Shirt contest for. She has a team that includes a master gardener, and all the proceeds from her winning shirt go to acquire more land for gardening so she can help feed hungry children. Since being on our website, she has been on NBC Nightly News and she was featured in People Magazine in October.
L+W- That’s such a powerful way for kids to take action in their own communities.
AR- It is, and they feel it as well. This year’s winner, Remmi, has a dream to start a group called Healthy Kids. She already has a Healthy Kids Cooking Show that will launch on our website. Her goal is to teach kids to be CHEFS: Cook Healthy, Exercise Frequently. We’re going to be selling aprons and her winning T-Shirt to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We will also have a Healthy Kids recipe contest and make a cookbook out of the winning recipes to sell to raise money as well. The other winner from Launch My Dream this year is Talia, who is now 6 years old. Her dream is Hope For Haiti’s Children. Her T-Shirt is helping raise money for the children of Haiti. We’re going to help her put a dream team together for this initiative. We already have a former Amazing Kids! participant named Ashley Smith who is the founder of Ashley’s Toy Closet, which gives toys to kids who are victims of natural disasters. She was on Oprah and in People Magazine this last year, so we are going to partner her with Talia and put her on Talia’s dream team. We are also going to establish pen pals for the kids who are victims of the Haitian earthquake with kids from French language schools in Louisiana and other parts of the United States. So we will not only be able to give them a toy, but we will be able to personalize it with a letter from a new friend in America.
L+W- Is there anything else we should know about Amazing Kids!?
AR- We have so many opportunities available for kids on our website and we encourage parents to look at it with their kids to find a program that is right for them. It really is amazing what kids are able to accomplish when they have guidelines and guidance. We also have a new Facebook Page and a Cause Page on Facebook as well. Our goal is to get 1,000 members by the end of the summer, and then we are asking people to donate $1.00 per Dream for our kids’ Dream Projects. We look forward to that as well.