Augustana alum competing for CNN Hero of the Year

Nelly Cheboi
Nelly Cheboi, an Augustana College graduate, is one of the 2022 Top 10 CNN Heroes. CREDIT CNN TOP 10 HEROES

When this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes are featured on the network Sunday, Dec. 11, Augustana College’s Nelly Cheboi will be one of the superheroes honored – for her work to help change the world.

Ms. Cheboi, 29, who grew up poor in rural Kenya and went to Augustana on scholarship, is being recognized for the TechLit program she created to improve computer literacy and help break the intergenerational cycle of poverty in that east Africa nation.

CNN will share the stories of all 10 winners during this year’s edition of the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning campaign that honors individuals making extraordinary contributions to improve the lives of others.

The Hero of the Year winner will be announced live at 8 p.m. by Anderson Cooper and co-host Kelly Ripa during “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.” The Hero of the Year will be selected via a daily vote at CNNHeroes.com. To vote, click on the vote here tab

Viewers can cast 10 votes a day, every day through Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 11:59 p.m. All 10 daily votes can be cast for one hero or split among favorites. Once again, viewers can also double their votes by rallying friends on social media.

Ms. Cheboi is not the first person with Quad Cities ties to be featured among the Top 10 CNN heroes. In 2013, East Moline native Chad Pregracke was named CNN Hero of the Year for his work to clean up the Mississippi River and other U.S. waterways. He was inspired to create what became his Living Lands & Waters organization to deal with the tons of trash he saw in the river near his Quad Cities home.

Ms. Cheboi, a software engineer, was inspired by her hard-working single mother who never finished fifth grade and worked tirelessly so her three daughters could attend school. “She was working really hard, and I was still going to bed hungry,” Ms. Cheboi’s CNN contest profile said. 

She added: “Looking at the poverty in the household, looking at the community and suffering, it just became so clear that I needed to do something.”

In 2012, Cheboi received a full scholarship to Rock Island’s Augustana and began her studies with almost no computer experience. She handwrote papers then painstakingly transferred them to a laptop. Then she took a JAVA class and found her passion.

 “When I discovered computer science, I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I knew that this is something that I wanted to do as my career, and also bring it to my community.” 

To date, she’s helped give 4,000 Kenyan kids the chance for a brighter future through her nonprofit, TechLit Africa. The organization, whose name is short for Technologically Literate Africa, uses recycled computers to create technology labs in schools in rural Kenya.

“I know the pain of poverty, and that’s why I feel so passionate about it,” said Ms. Cheboi. “I never forgot what it was like with my stomach churning because of hunger at night.”

In addition to Ms. Cheboi the other top CNN Heroes are:

  • Carie Broecker, Peace of Mind Dog Rescue – Pacific Grove, California: When aging dog owners struggle to care for pets, Ms. Broecker provides volunteer services that allow them to stay together or finds the beloved family members new forever homes.
  • Richard Casper, CreatiVets – Nashville, Tennessee: Haunted by his experiences in Iraq, the Marine veteran discovered the therapeutic power of creating art and music. Now, his immersive visual art and songwriting programs help fellow combat veterans heal by sharing their stories and working through their pain.
  • Nora El-Khouri Spencer, Hope Renovations – Carrboro, North Carolina: Ms. Spencer trains women in North Carolina for well-paying careers in construction while also providing free modifications that enable seniors to age safely in their homes.
  • Tyrique Glasgow, Young Chances Foundation – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: After spending five years in prison on drug charges, Mr. Glasgow returned to his South Philadelphia neighborhood and became a force for good. Now, he provides safety and opportunity for his entire community.
  • Teresa Gray, Mobile Medics International – Anchorage, Alaska: A paramedic and nurse, Ms. Gray leads teams of volunteer medics into natural and humanitarian disasters, delivering vital care and support to those in need.
  • Meymuna Hussein-Cattan, The Tiyya Foundation – Santa Ana, California: She provides critical resources and support that helps refugees and immigrants successfully transition to life in the United States, while her restaurant shares their culture with the Los Angeles area.
  • Aidan Reilly, The Farmlink Project – Santa Ana, California: Mr. Reilly brought together a nationwide network of young volunteers to tackle food waste and insecurity – rescuing tons of excess produce from farms and distributing it to people in need across the United States.
  • Debra Vines, The Answer Inc. – Maywood, Illinois: Ms. Vines struggled to find support and resources when her son Jason was diagnosed with autism. Now, she provides African American families in underserved Chicago-area communities with the services, community and education they need to thrive.
  • Bobby Wilson, Metro Atlanta Urban Farm – Atlanta, Georgia: He’s feeding and healing his urban community by teaching thousands of people how to plant, grow, and prepare their own healthy food.

 Each Top 10 CNN Hero will be awarded $10,000 and the CNN Hero of the Year will receive an additional $100,000.

This year, to provide additional programmatic and funding support, CNN Heroes is collaborating with The Elevate Prize Foundation. The CNN Hero of the Year will be named an Elevate Prize Winner and be awarded with a significant unrestricted grant and supportive services. 

CNN has partnered with GoFundMe to enable donations to this year’s honorees and learn more about their stories. Supporters also can make online donations to the Top 10 CNN Heroes’ nonprofit organizations directly from CNNHeroes.com.

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