CARMEL VALLEY — A passion for filmmaking, surfing and helping those less fortunate earned a recent Canyon Crest Academy graduate the 2017 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, given annually to Jewish youth leaders who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, community service and action.
Carmel Valley resident Nathaniel Goodman, one of 15 students chosen nationwide, received $36,000 for Filmmaking for Good, which he created to help nonprofit organizations share their message through promotional videos.
He said his initiative has “one very simple goal — to promote as many nonprofit organizations and youth groups as possible to raise awareness and funds, from which more people can be served and inspired to serve.”
“It all started in high school when I saw there was a disparity between organizations doing good work effectively and those doing it ineffectively,” Goodman said. “I noticed that the missing piece of the puzzle was media outreach, so I thought of no better way to bridge the resource gap than to bring my skills to struggling nonprofits.”
Perhaps his greatest success to date is raising $100,000 in less than 24 hours for ReSurf, which helps underprivileged children worldwide through surfing by equipping community leaders with the necessary tools to reach and inspire their youth.
Goodman said he connected with ReSurf the summer before his sophomore year of high school.
“Rabbi Zevi New, a youth director, brought me along to film them collecting boards for donation drives,” he said. “Before the first shoot date, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”
Goodman went along, mostly because of the surfing aspect. After his first experience he said he was hooked and wanted to be more than the filmmaker.
“I wanted to be an integral part of ReSurf’s development and growth,” he said. “The idea that I could merge all my interests and benefit others was perfect.”
Since then he’s started a ReSurf Club at Canyon Crest and helped refurbish surfboards, organize surfboard-painting projects, teach kids “how to catch waves and be safe in the water” and create programs in South Africa, Mexico and Hawaii.
Goodman said during the latter trip — to the low-income side of West Oahu where many at-risk youth live — a local explained his experience with ReSurf.
“He said, ‘It’s like turtles when they’re born and run for the water. Kids are getting picked up by the birds … and end up being homeless. ReSurf makes West Oahu a better place.’”
That story is in Goodman’s video that raised $100,000 for the organization.
Additionally, he said, “We were lucky to have partnered with some generous donors who quadrupled every dollar donated to the organization and … we made it our objective to disseminate ReSurf’s message on different social media platforms with my videos.”
Goodman’s interest in filmmaking began when he was young, watching his father, an eye surgeon, create short videos of family events.
He said his parents encouraged him “to find a mode of expression that’s dear to me so I could march to my own drum.”
“I picked up my first camera when I was 5, unwitting of the potential that lay within the little black box,” he said.
About five years later he was in a car accident that nearly killed his parents. Goodman said it confirmed his desire to pursue storytelling because it helped him “capture emotions and maintain memories, many of which make up the life that was almost swept away before my eyes.”
“I’ve found filmmaking to be instrumental to my development,” he added. “It’s able to convey certain emotions and realities in ways literature, photography and music cannot.”
Goodman said he was inspired by the dedication and service of other Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award winners but never thought he had a chance of being selected. During his senior year in high school, his parents encouraged him to apply.
“It is such an honor to be selected and I’m so grateful to the Helen Diller Family Foundation for giving me this opportunity to further my vision for helping others,” he said. “It’s also a validation of the importance and potential of our work … and it allows me to carry on the Jewish tradition of ‘tikkun olam.’”
The phrase means “repair the world.”
Goodman said he will use the money to help pay his tuition at Brown University, where he is a freshman planning to study behavioral decision sciences.
He is considering medical school, working in technology or nonprofit spheres abroad or domestically to find creative solutions to complex world problems and perhaps “pursue an MBA and work in finance for a little while in the midst of everything else.”
Visit http://www.dillerteenawards.org/ for information about the award.