Naperville native Trisha Prabhu part of nationwide cohort for young innovators

Trisha Prabhu
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Earlier this month, the leader of a Naperville-based nonprofit focused on tackling online harassment and cyberbullying participated in the first event of a selective program for young innovators.

Naperville native Trisha Prabhu, founder and president of ReThink Citizens, was chosen to take part in the inaugural Young Futures Academy (YFA) Innovators Cohort. Prabhu was one of 10 innovators selected from nearly 200 applicants nationwide for the six-month program.

Along with a spot in the cohort, Prabhu received a $100,000 grant for ReThink Citizens.

Naperville native learns with top young innovators

The YFA cohort kicked off with an in-person retreat in Washington, D.C. from June 10-12. Prabhu and the nine other innovators presented their organizations and solutions to funders and potential partners.

“Being in that room with (the other innovators) was a really humbling moment,” said Prabhu. “I’m just so excited, it’s like the journey is just starting.”

When the Naperville native was chosen for the cohort in early June, she said it was “an affirmation of the vision that we have at ReThink.”

“(As) an innovator, we’re always trying to learn, get better at the work that we do, and so to have a community of incredible peers from whom to learn and be able to lean on, that was something that really appealed to me,” said Prabhu. “They wanted people who had lived the experience, working with young people, or were young people themselves (who) had seen those challenges out in the real world.”

The program continues in September with a virtual showcase.

ReThink Citizens receives $100K grant

Each innovator selected for the cohort received $100,000 from The Lonely Hearts Club Funding Challenge $1 million commitment to early-stage organizations.

With the new funds, Prabhu plans to create short-form videos to make “anti-hate concepts go viral,” and will launch the ReThink Citizen’s Youth Coalition.

“This new initiative is going to offer a group of young investors the opportunity to join a community where they will get access to resources, mentors, (and) tools with which they can take an idea for how to make the internet a better place, and put it into action,” Prabhu said.

The $100,000 will also go toward partnerships with what Prabhu calls “high-reach organizations.”

“The best way to make an impact is to work with groups or organizations that are already serving tons of students,” said Prabhu.

ReThink technology grows into the nonprofit world

Prabhu first gained recognition when she created the ReThink technology, a product she started developing at the age of 13 back in 2013. She decided to take action after reading the story of a Florida girl who died by suicide after being cyberbullied.

Her technology works by pausing the sending of a potentially harmful message, giving the user a chance to review. If offensive language is detected, the technology will ask the sender if it’s truly the message they want to send, giving them a chance to pause and “rethink” it.

According to the ReThink website, when teens are prompted to do so, their willingness to post offensive messages is reduced from 71% to 4%. Since its inception, it has grown beyond just technology, into an anti-cyberbullying movement.

ReThink Citizens, the nonprofit branch of her organization, launched in 2023, with the aim of bringing the anti-cyberbullying technology to kids who may not already have access to it.

“I’ve always had a vision and a mission to help those youth that are under-empowered, whose communities and education institutions often can’t access what I believe are really fundamental resources,” said Prabhu. “To be good digital citizens, to learn key skills, to be up-standers to hate, and to have access to tools that help eradicate cyberbullying, and build a more positive online culture.”

Prabhu currently lives in England, where she is studying public policy and internet studies at the University of Oxford as a U.S. Rhodes Scholar.

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