The afternoon of May 15, 2019 started out with me getting out of my AP English Language Test, absolutely exhausted from five hours of testing, yet proud of my performance. I drove home, and began folding my laundry. Then, I got the call.
Last year, I applied for the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, awarded for “Tikkun Olam” which means “to repair the world.” Started in 2007 by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, this initiative receives hundreds of national applicants every year. Only fifteen applicants are selected. In the previous selection cycle, I made the finalist round (top thirty applicants), yet did not receive the award, consisting of national publication and recognition, a trip to San Francisco for a leadership summit, and a $36,000 scholarship.
As the phone rang, I was confused as to who would be calling me from the San Francisco Bay area. When I answered, I knew. From the other end of the phone, I heard “Ethan, congratulations! You have been selected as a Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awardee!” I was absolutely shocked and had trouble getting even a few words to leave my jaw-dropped mouth.
This award is an absolute honor. I am one of fifteen select applicants who have been given this amazing recognition and I could not be prouder of myself. I am being awarded for my Autism advocacy efforts and my leadership within some of the respected communities that I am involved in. When I applied earlier last year, I never thought that I would become an awardee. With this recognition, I am being told that what I do matters in this world, that I am making a difference. There’s nothing better than that feeling. This award will allow me to grow The Journey Through Autism’s operations with new initiatives, more quality content, and an increase of loyal viewers.
I am so excited for this next chapter of my journey. I would like to take a moment to thank the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award program staff and selection committee, along with all of my supporters so far. The support I get from my family helps me beyond belief. The amount of support and love my friends give me gives me the inspiration and motivation to keep going. The viewership and messages of my viewers remind me of why I am doing what I do.
I cannot wait to make the trip to San Francisco in August to meet the other applicants and staff, go on this valuable summit, receive my award, and most importantly, connect with the communities I serve. Thank you all again for your continued support, loyalty, and messages. I will keep you updated!