Zofia Kierner

California, USA

Zofia  Kierner

Born in Poland, Zofia is the creator of the Girls Future Ready Foundation, which helps girls from Central Eastern Europe develop self-confidence, argumentation, English and public speaking skills and a global mindset to prepare them for the international challenges of the future.

The idea of Girls Future Ready Foundation started when Zofia was just eight years old. Moving from Poland to Finland with her family, she saw the engaging way English was taught in Finnish schools and knew she could use it to help her old primary school classmates in Poland, where teaching ideas were more traditional. With a complete belief in her ability to achieve something good, she decided to create a book drive for her old classmates, and persevered with the school principal for eight months until she finally agreed to support it. With 300 books in a suitcase, she returned to her old school in Poland and saw the classroom saturate with wonder. This showed her that making a positive impact on other people’s lives was possible. She has since then moved to the US and lived in Seattle, Boston, and most recently San Francisco where she studies Data Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Due to these changes of location, she saw how much more can be fixed in CEE so she created an organization to help.

Ten years on, this small book drive has turned into one of the most recognized nonprofits in Central Eastern Europe called Girls Future Ready. It now comprises a range of five international programs that impact 50,000+ young women, with around 1000 volunteers annually contributing 6,500+ hours. Her book program, Girls English Ready has already donated over 40,000 English books to kindergartens, schools, children's hospitals and orphanages, while Girls Global Ready pairs 100 girls from Central Eastern Europe and the United States as 'global buddies'. Similarly, #togetherforteachers connects 200 mentors and students from the US and Canada with English classes in Poland: two editions of this program have so far impacted over 10,000 students. Their mentorship program HerStory Project has given dozens of girls one-on-one hands-on opportunities to investigate career fields that they are interested in for the future. GFR has also hosted HerStory Masterclasses where successful women are invited to teach girls about crucial skills and mindsets for future careers. Zofia has also worked with government officials to push for change in educational systems, and advocate for women and young people.

For fighting against stereotypical thinking about girls, and influencing systematic changes in the Polish educational system, Zofia was named one of the most influential activists by Vogue, and received the Ambassador of Polish Innovation Award. She spoke at TEDxWarsaw about the rights of Young People, has appeared on several television programs and has been interviewed by a vast range of publications, including Cogito and Glamour. She has also spoken at Poland’s National Teachers Conference and the Project Ascendance Summit at the University of Washington.

If Zofia wins the Global Student Prize, she will donate the funds to the Girls Future Ready Foundation. Some will be used to organize the first Girls Future Ready conference. This will appear under the name Speak up, Girl! in 2022, and will be an opportunity for girls under 24 years old to step on stage and talk about their goals, missions, and ideas for the first time and showcase their power and creativity. Second, she would fund a GFR ‘Girls Take Over’ podcast of 10 episodes, each including a conversation with a powerful woman.