Paradigm Challenge

Sabina Perez and Addison Marshall

By combining creativity and hard work, two local second-grade students have won 1st place in the 4-8 age group in The Paradigm Challenge, the world’s largest youth innovation and kindness competition. Students from 180 countries participated in this year’s competition, which challenged students to come up with new ideas to reduce waste, improve health, decrease home fires, and provide food security.

Addison Marshall (Cross Classical Academy, Brownwood) and Sabina Perez’s (Panther Creek) award-winning idea of creating public toy libraries focused on reducing waste.

“When you open a toy, the toy is always smaller than the amount of packaging. Public toy libraries where kids can borrow any toy they wanted, combined with less packaging from toy companies, would stop creating too much trash,” explained Perez.

The idea for the project came to Perez when she observed her brother opening birthday gifts. As the gifts were opened, the amount of paper, cardboard and plastic grew higher and higher. The disproportionate ratio of waste to toys catapulted the “Saving the Earth One Toy at a Time” project.

Immediately, Perez knew she could not do the project on her own, so she reached out to Marshall to join the journey.

“Having a partner isn’t just about sharing the work. It’s about sharing ideas and making each other better,” Perez explained.

Marshall and Perez collaborated with Becky Isbell, director of the Brownwood Public Library, where they learned that the addition of toys to the current library was not an immediate possibility due to space limitations and funding; however, this revelation did not end the mission. Instead, it inspired Marshall and Perez to creatively develop additional ideas to help the library, spread awareness, and reduce the waste created by toys and gifts.

"Saving the Earth One Toy at a Time" is in competition with the 1st Place winners from two other age groups for The Paradigm Challenge Prize of up to $100,000, to be awarded at a black-tie ceremony in Los Angeles on July 27, 2019.

In addition to awarding cash prizes, the private foundation behind The Paradigm Challenge is committed to turning the best student ideas into reality. “We want to empower students to help address real-world problems and, when they do, we will help implement those ideas,” said Jeff Richardson, the CEO and Founder of Project Paradigm, the private foundation that funds and runs The Paradigm Challenge.

The Paradigm Challenge offers up to $250,000 in prizes to the top 100 Finalists and their inspiring teachers. The winning entries this year presented inventions, scientific research, mobile apps, community service projects, documentaries, websites, public service videos, and children's books. The 100 Finalists are posted for public voting on The Project Paradigm Twitter and Facebook pages available through the the foundation’s website:

"The students' determination and commitment to find creative solutions to real-world problems are evident in each and every idea," noted Richardson. The competition, in its fourth year, has been recognized nationally for its contribution to youth innovation learning. Project Paradigm’s free student-led lessons help students break down problem-solving into easy, manageable steps to get from problem to solution.

The new Paradigm Challenge has already begun. This year, biodiversity has been added to the list of Challenge Projects. Students with ideas that address biodiversity, home fires, waste, personal health, or food security are encouraged to submit an entry on any one of these projects today. Eligible participants can become Finalists at any time during the Challenge and receive cash prizes prior to the May 1, 2021 deadline.