January 21, 2019

Don’t just sit there — do something

Monday, Aug. 4, marks the 10th year of the Teen Choice Awards, a ceremony that has put the limelight on every branch of entertainment imaginable — from Choice Movie Villain to Choice TV Game Show to Choice Music: Love Song. And this year includes one more category: the Do Something Award, which will go to one of nine finalists, age 25 and younger, who have ignited impressive change in the world.

Among the candidates for the $100,000 prize is Adam Sterling, a UCLA graduate raised in Oak Park who is now director of the Sudan Divestment Task Force (SDTF).

“It’s awesome, it really kind of validates my work,” Sterling, 25, said in a phone interview.

Already, 26 states have agreed to divest from companies tied to Sudan (Michigan recently became the 26th). The group pinpoints companies that the Sudanese government relies on to turn oil fields into profit.

And that’s the kind of project that catches the eye of Do Something, the parent organization of the award that bears its name. Do Something seeks out young teens who have the drive to help and volunteer, but not the means. Their Web site includes a list of causes, a search engine that finds volunteering opportunities based on location and a forum where teens can blog with one another about what they feel is important and what they’ve done. The site also encourages young humanitarians to apply for the Plum Grant: $500 given weekly to a different deserving youth who has headed a successful project. The Do Something Award is a notable amplification of the Plum Grant.

It’s like “grants on steroids,” explains Do Something marketing associate Jonathan Schilit.

The Do Something Award didn’t originate with Teen Choice. It used to be called the BR!CK Award, and the winner was given a brick — a non-flashy building block — during an hour-long special on the CW last year. And though the ceremony, conducted since 1996 during annual dinners, has included celebrities like country singer LeAnn Rimes, “it didn’t garner as much exposure as we thought it really deserved,” Schilit said. So this year’s nominee with the most votes will receive the traditional Teen Choice surfboard, with the Do Something logo splashed across it, during the broadcast on FOX.

Sterling’s up against teens saving sea turtles, establishing micro-clinics in the Middle East and leading anti-tobacco movements, to name a few. If he wins, he said he will give the $100,000 to SDTF’s parent organization, the Genocide Intervention Network.

When Sterling first learned about the atrocities in Darfur, he quickly found that because so few people knew about the genocide, he and his four other partners in the Darfur Action Committee of UCLA had to become their own experts. They now have staff in both Washington, D.C., and London.

“Our international coordinator coordinates work in the 18 countries that have initiated targeted Sudan divestment campaigns,” Sterling said, including Denmark, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.

Of course, this award, along with events like Live 8 and the fervent response to Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” bring to light the ever-growing partnership between Hollywood and humanity. With celebrity leaders like Don Cheadle and George Clooney visiting Sudan and advocating for an end to genocide, Darfur has almost become a tabloid mitzvah.

“First, I think it’s real great that the ‘Teen Choice Awards’ and Do Something have taken the lead on recognizing humanitarian work through Hollywood,” Sterling said. “I absolutely think other awards shows should follow suit. We cover the bad things celebrities do, why can’t we shed some more light on the good things many of them do?”

Sterling was featured alongside Cheadle in the Hollywood documentary, “Darfur Now,” chronicling the lives of six individuals and their relationship to the genocide. However, he will leave behind the big screen to attend Berkeley Law School next year. But, maybe Teen Choice Movie Breakout Male isn’t too far off for this Southern California native.

“I’m going to be in ‘Ocean’s 14,'” Sterling joked.

Well, who isn’t?