Why I Do What I Do: Alan Rambam, SHiNE Founder
Keeping teens in focus

The majority of teenagers aren't star athletes or National Merit Scholars. They aren't gang members either. Instead, they're "the forgotten 80 percent," according to Alan Rambam, founder of SHiNE (Seeking Harmony in Neighborhoods Everyday). "These regular kids," says Rambam, "are very much at risk" for becoming disengaged at best or violent at worst.

In an effort to reach the teens who can easily slip off the radar screen, Rambam started SHiNE, a New York City­based national nonprofit organization that promotes nonviolence through a variety of programs, including in-school clubs, community events, and partnerships with teen celebrities. "I wanted it to be educational and on the pulse of what teens want," explains 33-year-old Rambam, who founded the organization, in part, to honor his late mother, a teacher. She, too, had a knack for engaging and helping teens. "She brought us up to work really hard and always take care of others," says Rambam. "Whatever it was I got involved with, it had to work."

Today, 12 million young adults participate monthly in SHiNE, including the 300,000 visitors to the interactive Web site (www.shine.com). In 2001, SHiNE and MTV created the innovative Fight for Your Rights campaign, which called on teens to take a stand against discrimination and hate crimes and provided online resources for signing petitions, finding local volunteer opportunities, and joining discussion groups.

Rambam funded the nonprofit with his own money for the first ten months and has never taken a salary. "In my office I have an old hand-painted poster of the Spanish Revolution that has been passed down through generations of my dad's family," says Rambam. "This whole idea of fighting for the poor or underdog was always a part of my upbringing."

—Tami Anderson