Olivia Russo-Hood (Photo illustration by Elena Scotti; Image courtesy of Olivia Russo-Hood)

Even after tragedy struck Olivia Russo-Hood’s family, she started looking for ways to help others. After a massive flood in Austell, Ga., destroyed her family’s home, Olivia noticed how many people came to her family’s rescue. So she knew it was time to pay it forward.

“If I hadn’t received help, I would still feel broken down inside,” she told Points of Light. “We were lucky, but I couldn’t help noticing that hundreds of others were displaced and that not everyone was able to get the help that we did. I felt like I needed to give something back.”

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CATEGORY: Green Innovation
AGE: 15
EDUCATION: University High School
HOMETOWN: Deltona, Fla.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook

In 2012, Olivia founded Save the Earth Projects, with a mission to “live responsibly, raise awareness and give to those in need.” When she learned that more than 300 million shoes end up in landfills every year, she started the project Leave a Good Footprint. In 2016, the organization collected 25,000 pairs of shoes and donated thousands of dollars to charities worldwide. The organization donates those funds to arts and science programs, groups that focus on the global water crisis and scholarship programs.

STEP, which Olivia runs with her mother and brother, has also built vegetable gardens and raised awareness about childhood obesity. In 2015, she received a letter from President Barack Obama for her volunteer service, and was a finalist for the Prudential Award for Community Service.

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“Knowing that people are active in their communities and caring and love one another is what makes this all worthwhile,” she told The Root.