Gavin Parnes is a seventh grader at Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Rafael, California, who is determined to change the world—by saving coral reefs. After his teacher decided to hold a Tzedakah (in Hebrew, “doing a good deed”) and parents created a fund to benefit nonprofit organizations, the 30 students in Gavin’s grade researched a variety of potential beneficiaries, then gave presentations about them. The students gave each of the nonprofits a donation, but chose three favorites to receive the largest awards. Gavin’s choice, CORAL, came in third, and on January 23, he presented CORAL’s Executive Director, Dr. Michael Webster, with a check for $725.
Gavin says he “thought CORAL looked the best” of the coral reef conservation organizations he researched. In his five-page essay assignment, he writes, “People are not doing much about the dying coral reefs, but the Coral Reef Alliance is working to end this… Do you want your children, or your children’s children to see the beautiful coral reefs, or do you want it to be a story, something you wouldn’t be able to go and see? You and I might not be able to witness a change in our lives, but if we act strongly and carefully, there might be a future for the coral reefs.”
Gavin says he is motivated by his love for all animals-from his two cats to the tiny fish and other creatures that live on coral reefs. He was taught since pre-kindergarten that “everything counts” and needs to be treated with respect. After seeing a documentary at the California Academy of Sciences about coral reefs, he realized that “we have only a certain amount of time to save them. I learned that lots of animals’ lives depend on the reef … The future of coral reefs around the world is in our own hands.”