Yoni Kalin

On how to engage kids and teens in a collaborative, community-based recycling project to put 10,000 crayons in the hands of kids in need.

Title: Founder

Project: The Color My World Project

Age: 17

Hometown: Washington, DC


I founded The Color My World Project (CMW) which is a youth-run organization that raises awareness about the importance of recycling by engaging children and teenagers in a collaborative and community-based recycling project that also provides art supplies for young children. CMW recycles and repurposes used crayons that are discarded from national chain restaurants. Teenage members of the CMW team then donate those crayons to shelters, preschools, and elementary schools. CMW has donated more than 10,000 crayons and has worked with 32 restaurants in nine states across the country (and counting...).

I was also the 2011 BE BIG in Your Community Contest First Prize Winner and a 2011 PARADE All-America High School Service Team Finalist.

Special training or skills needed:

  • I needed a team and committed youth that were willing to inspire and pave the way for our project.
  • I needed passion.

Quote: I always had the passion.

It's a euphoria that you don't really

get from anything else other

than community service. -Yoni Kalin

How to overcome self-doubt:

The most difficult obstacle I faced was my own self-doubt. From the start, I thought that people would think repurposing and recycling crayons was silly and unnecessary. I doubted the credibility of my idea and its effectiveness, but to my surprise, I found that I was my strongest critic. Try not to be your biggest obstacle. Trust me, there are plenty of other things that can fill that role.

Helpful companies or agencies

I was a part of an organization called LearnServe International, which trains youth and gives them the tools that they need to start an organization or social project in their respective community. LearnServe trained me and helped me find the confidence that I needed to start my venture. LearnServe, partnered with Ashoka's Youth Venture, also provided seed funding to help Color My World launch from an idea to an organization. I have also received support from organizations such Scholastic's BE BIG team and generationOn. These organizations have helped provide financial support, ideas, media attention, and have helped us network.

How to reach out to other orgs:

Youth Venture helped Color My World reach out to Staples, and Staples helped print 200 coloring books for our initiative. After speaking at a few TEDx talks and conferences, organizations have reached out to us, allowing us to

connect and branch out into partnerships that we would have never imagined.

Tip: Be big and organizations

will reach out to you!





Helpful stuff:

I used my computer countless times to email and reach out to partners

I used wix.com and wordpress.com to create my websites as well as Twitter, Facebook, and BlogSpot for social media.

I used DoSomething.org to find scholarships that would fund the Color My World Project.

I read and watched numerous videos and articles from ted.com and the creativitypost.com to gain insight on leadership, motivational skills, and confidence.

Word to the wise:

Don't let your fears overcome your ability to succeed and pursue what you think is right. As cliche as that sounds, I would have never been able to start Color My World if I had continued to judge and discredit my ideas. Let yourself go and try new things. One has nothing to lose, so go for it!

The art of perception teaches us to not look at things only for what they are but to look at things for what they can be. See beyond the obvious and give your imagination a chance. Don't conform...perform.

How to jump on the movement:

Watch our TEDx Talks:

TEDx Redmond


Check out our website colormyworldproject.org. You can contact us to join us and we have a toolkit that we can provide you to help you get started. The Color My World Project, becomes yours when you choose to join us. We provide the financial support needed to get the project started and we will help train you on how to give a good pitch and how to manage and lead your Color My World branch in your respective area. Color My World provides you with the chance to make a real difference and see that difference with the work that you choose to put in. Join us today, or contact us for advice on starting a new project.

A few ideas to start projects:

  • Collect pens and pads of paper from hotels that throw out thousands every day
  • Collect shampoo, conditioner, and/or lotion from hotels, which can be used in countless areas.

Read on!

Check out my Service Story about the Color My World project.