Michael Ioffe is responsible for a speaker series that has a presence in 174 cities and 31 countries — and he's just 18 years old.
Ioffe, a resident of the Cedar Mill neighborhood, started TILE, a non-profit that organizes lecture series for low-income students, when he was 15. Now, he's being recognized with a $36,000 award from the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which recognizes 15 Jewish teens in the United States for exceptional leadership projects each year.
The recent Lincoln High School graduate was no stranger to ambitious projects before starting TILE, which stands for Talks about Innovation, Leadership and Entrepreneurship. He compiled and published two books as a middle schooler to raise money for his school, ACCESS Academy in Portland.
Ioffe said that he wanted to launch TILE, "after realizing that educational resources for students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship were expensive, hard to come by or extremely selective."
"I wanted to create a formal space where students could talk with the individuals they look up to the most, and learn from them but also share their own experiences with them," Ioffe added.
For TILE's first event in 2015, Portland Center Stage donated a venue, and local business and innovation leaders donated their time to speak. This donation-based model allowed TILE to spread quickly across the country and around the globe, as students do not need funding to launch their own chapter. Today, the nonprofit has a presence ranging from Manhattan to Karachi, Pakistan.
High school or college students run each chapter of TILE. When interested students sign up through TILE's website, Ioffe sends them two 14-page documents outlining polices and how to get started. He also makes himself available to each event organizer.
"Anytime a student operating an event in Yemen, for example, has a question, they can email us and we'll respond within 24 hours, and help them out with whatever they're facing," Ioffe said. "Those three things together would really allow any student in the world to start a conversation series of their own."
Ioffe recently made local headlines for another reason: he was a leading student voice in the September 2016 Lincoln High student walkout, which was organized in response to Portland Public School's decision to push back a vote on a $750 million bond measure. The measure ended up passing in the May election.
"I led the walkout when the district wasn't willing to listen to students," said Ioffe, who was a student representative on the bond committee.
Now, the dynamic 18-year-old will head to Wellesley, Mass., to attend Babson College, a prestigious entrepreneurship college. He was accepted to the college as a Weissman Scholar, meaning he will receive a full-tuition scholarship.
Ioffe plans to use some of the funds from his Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards to help with additional college expenses, and will put some of it toward fueling TILE's mission.
"The funding will go a long way towards helping me attend college, and also go towards opportunities for students in high-poverty regions," he said. "That's one of our big focus areas for TILE."