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Lessons in Heroism From Tenacious Teens

Local young change-makers inspire us in the present — and give us hope for the future

Patty Lindley

Published on: March 31, 2022

Lessons in Heroism From Tenacious Teens

Avi Schiffmann

1. Avi Schiffmann: Never underestimate the power of the individual.

“I definitely would say the biggest thing is that I’ve learned there’s so much an individual can do. You doomscroll through social media and just see all these things that are so terrible, and it feels like there’s really nothing you can do about it. But working on these websites really has given me the naive confidence that I actually can do a lot of things as an individual to solve the problems we face.”

When Mercer Island teenager Avi Schiffmann was honored as the 2020 Webby Awards Person of the Year for creating, an interactive dashboard website that updates in real time to provide accurate global data on coronavirus cases, deaths, testing and vaccinations, he shared a five-word acceptance speech that is the matter-of-fact motto of his life: “You can learn anything online.”

When Dr. Anthony Fauci presented Schiffman with the award, he called the wunderkind developer’s scrappy achievement “an invaluable resource that sounded the alarm on the virus and its spread, notably calling attention to its severity long before it was broadly recognized.”

Schiffmann, who is now studying at Harvard, popped back into the headlines last month when he responded to the latest humanitarian crisis — the war in Ukraine — with a new website he developed with a classmate. Ukraine Take Shelter helps match Ukrainian refugees with potential housing and hosts in neighboring countries.

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