Mahwah teen 1 of 25 nationally to be named ‘Emerging Visionary’ by Prudential

Leschinsky, 16, founded ‘Student World Impact Film Festival’ — film competition that elevates voices of young storytellers from underserved communities

Many people want to save the world — or simply impact their community — when they are teenagers. Mark Leschinsky actually is acting on that aim.

Leschinsky, 16, of Mahwah, this week was named a 2023 Prudential Emerging Visionary for his inspiring commitment to improving the lives of others.

Leschinsky was honored for his role as the founder of “Student World Impact Film Festival,” a film competition that elevates the voices of young storytellers from underserved communities.

Leschinsky said he started this project to create a more equitable filmmaking community, tackling barriers young people often encounter when entering the film festival circuit, such as large submission fees and discrimination.

“A story can’t exist without a storyteller,” he said. “And, to pave the way for a more inclusive, culturally accepting and equitable society, we need to hear more of the perspectives and viewpoints of storytellers from historically marginalized communities, especially youth.

The initiative has grown to include more than 8,000 submissions.

Prudential Emerging Visionaries recognizes young people ages 14-18 whose fresh perspectives and innovative solutions address pressing financial and societal challenges in their communities.

As one of 25 Prudential Emerging Visionary winners, Leschinsky will receive a $5,000 award to help take his innovation to the next level. He also is invited to attend an all-expenses-paid trip with his parent or guardian to Prudential Financial‘s Newark headquarters for a three-day summit in April, where he will receive coaching, skills development and networking opportunities with Prudential employees and other young leaders.

Prudential Chair and CEO Charles Lowrey said the program is a highlight for the company.

“The goals of our Emerging Visionaries program reflect Prudential’s overarching purpose: to make lives better by solving the financial challenges of our changing world,” he said. “We applaud all of our honorees for their commitment to improving the lives of others and creating inclusive and thriving communities.”

Emerging Visionaries is a collaboration between Prudential Financial and Ashoka, a leading social impact organization, with support from the Financial Health Network, an authority on financial health and longtime partner of the Prudential Foundation.

During the summit, to be held April 22-25, five winners will also have the opportunity to present their solutions in a pitch-off, where a grand prize winner will be awarded an additional $10,000 in funding. What’s more, Prudential employees will again vote to name an Employees’ Choice Award winner, who will receive an additional $5,000.

The program is an evolution of Prudential’s Spirit of Community Awards, which, over 26 years, honored more than 150,000 outstanding youth volunteers.