2011 American Express NGen Award Finalists

Charles Best, founder and CEO, DonorsChoose.org

Charles Best leads DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit organization which provides a simple, personal, and accountable way for anyone to address educational inequity.  

Recognition of DonorsChoose.org includes the Amazon.com Nonprofit Innovation Award and election by the TechCrunch community as the website “most likely to make the world a better place.” In 2010, Oprah Winfrey announced DonorsChoose.org as one of her “Ultimate Favorite Things.”  In 2011, Fast Company listed DonorsChoose.org as one of the “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World,” the first time a charity has received this recognition.

Charles launched DonorsChoose.org at a Bronx public high school where he taught history for five years.  He is an Ashoka Fellow whom Fortune Magazine lists as one of “40 under 40 hottest rising stars business.” 


Eric Dawson is Co-Founder and President of Peace First, a national leader in youth violence prevention education.  Peace First teaches children how to act peacefully, inspires and enables teachers to teach peacemaking skills, and encourages all of us to see and celebrate the role that young peacemakers can have in changing their own lives, their communities, and the world at large.

Under Eric’s leadership, Peace First has grown from a fledging organization, run by students of Harvard University in 1992, to a national leader in violence prevention education; and, has provided peacemaker skills training to more than 40,000 elementary and middle school students in Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. 

Eric earned a B.A., M.Ed. and a M. Div. from Harvard.  He has authored dozens of violence prevention curricula, teaching guides, and program evaluation reports that have received national recognition.  Eric has also received the Youth Service America Fund Award for Social Entrepreneurs and was a recipient of the Pforzheimer and Echoing Green Public Service Fellowships, as well as the Ashoka Fellowship for leading social entrepreneurs.  In 2008, Eric was selected as a Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow.


Kim Pattillo Brownson leads the Education team at Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy and policy organization dedicated to closing the opportunity gap.  Kim is a civil rights lawyer with advocacy and litigation experience in education policy and constitutional law.  Fueled by a deep passion to level the playing field for at-risk children, Kim leads her team to focus on expanding opportunities for early education, building school facilities and reducing overcrowding, and reforming school finance.  

Kim is also a co-founder of the Water Cooler, a coalition of approximately 40 organizations – from the government, non-profit, business, labor, education and philanthropy sectors – supporting increased opportunities for quality early education.

Prior to joining the Advancement Project, Kim was an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, where she worked to ensure that the State of California provided children with a decent public education. She also worked as a litigation associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group.  

Kim holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College.


Ai-jen has been organizing immigrant women workers in New York since 1996. In 2000 she helped start Domestic Workers United, an organization of nannies, housekeepers and elderly caregivers in New York organizing for power, respect, fair labor standards and to help build the social justice movement.  In April 2010, she became Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.  

She was the 2000 recipient of an Open Society Institute New York City Community Fellowship, the recipient of the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award, the Ernest de Maio Award from Labor Research Association, the Woman of Vision Award from Ms. Foundation for Women and in 2009 was named as one of Crain's "40 Under 40" and New York Moves Magazine "Power Women" Awards. More recently, she is a recipient of the Alston Bannerman Fellowship for Organizers of Color, the Twink Frey Visiting Scholar Fellowship at University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women, and the Prime Movers Fellowship. In 2010, Feminist Press recognized her in their "40 Under 40" awards. In honor of the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day, Ai-jen was recognized by Women Deliver as one of 100 women internationally who are "delivering" for other women. 

Ai-jen also serves on the Board of Social Justice Leadership, the Seasons Fund for Social Transformation, the Labor Advisory Board at Cornell ILR School, Momsrising.org and the New Labor Forum Editorial Board.


Angelica Salas is the Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). Ms. Salas played an integral role in convening a coalition of organizations in Southern California which successfully mobilized millions of immigrants to demand comprehensive immigration reform including legalization with a path to citizenship, family reunification, and the protection of civil and labor rights. 

In 2011, Senator Gilbert Cedillo and the California State Assembly recognized her as a “Woman of the Year,” and the YWCA of Pasadena named her a “Woman of Excellence.” She was named in 2010 “Latina Leader of the Year” by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard, and received the award from the Imagen Foundation and the Dolores Huerta Foundation. In 2009, she was honored by the Tides Foundation with the JBL Award for her work for immigration reform, and was selected to be a Member of the International Advisory Council for the Third Annual Global Forum on Migration and Development.

Ms. Salas sits on the Executive Committee of the Fair Immigrant Rights Movement (FIRM) and the Management Team of the national Campaign to Reform Immigration for America.  She is also a Board Member of America’s Voice and the National Immigration Forum, and of organizations including United LA, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), and the CHIRLA Action Fund.   

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