Community Member of the Year Says He’s “Just Getting Started”

Community Member of the Year Says He’s “Just Getting Started”

Schiffmann, 19, has developed a pair of vital websites.

The youngster has earned his place in Mercer Island history. And he said there was more to come.

Avi Schiffmann, 19, thought it was cool to attend his portrait at Mercer Island Town Hall alongside the myriad of winners of the city’s prestigious Community Member of the Year award.

“They’re all like older distinguished people and I’m like this young guy with like his laptop in the picture, so it’s kind of funny,” said the Mercer Island High School graduate, who is currently taking a break from his studies at Harvard. University to work on his own projects.

At the September 6 city council meeting, Schiffmann received his award about two and a half years after creating the website, which has become one of the most popular information hubs for tracking cases of COVID-19 around the world. Last March, he collaborated with fellow Harvard student Marco Burstein to launch the Ukraine Take Shelter website, which connects Ukrainian refugees with potential hosts in neighboring countries.

The city has bestowed this honor on outstanding members of the community since 1990, 13 years before Schiffmann was born. He is now one of them.

“It’s certainly a lot for a 19-year-old, but for me it’s not really that yet. I have much bigger projects to work on – bigger things. I’m just getting started,” said Schiffmann, who is designing a “more professional” nonprofit for internet activist projects, including his own. He plans to travel to Lisbon, Portugal, soon to work with more of people in the world of technology.

Schiffmann, who started developing websites early in elementary school and sold video games in middle school, said he thrives on working on huge projects that can have a huge impact on the world. He compares his work to art and wants people to walk around the gallery and check it out. Its goal is to create websites that can be used by hundreds of millions of people.

The islander is determined to succeed, regardless of the year of birth listed on his driver’s license.

“I just like doing my own thing a lot more. I guess I’m only 19, but that doesn’t really stop me from doing anything. A lot of people didn’t even know there was a teenager who ran a lot of these websites, like the COVID one and all,” he said.

Mayor Salim Nice added: “Avi hopes his work inspires other young people and shows that they too can make a difference. Through Avi’s innovation and willingness to solve problems, he has had a positive impact on the global community.

While working on the Ukrainian site, Schiffmann said he received many stories from families who have benefited from the site and he gained motivation to do more.

“I was just thinking, maybe one of these kids will grow up to be Einstein or something. You never know,” Schiffmann said, adding that Mercer Island was a great place to live and take advantage of the opportunities and benefits. locally present resources. It’s like an incubator and accelerator all in one, he says.

At the reunion, Schiffmann made the board members laugh while telling a very non-technical story about what happened during his high school ceramics class. He made a Godzilla figure that found its way into the library, meaning Schiffmann left his mark all over the island.

Left to right: City Councilors Craig Reynolds and Jake Jacobson, Deputy Mayor David Rosenbaum, Mayor Salim Nice, Avi Schiffmann, and City Councilors Ted Weinberg and Wendy Weiker. Photo courtesy of the City of Mercer Island