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THE JEFFERSON AWARDS: Our April winner helps young people find their passion

Every month FOX47 features someone in our community who is making a difference and we honor them with a Jefferson Award. 

Our April winner makes a difference throughout Rochester in several ways: volunteering with students, fundraising for nonprofits, and inspiring others to give back too. 

It might come as a surprise that Ben Tilson even has time for a quick oil change at his auto repair shop in Rochester.

That’s because he’s devoted most of his life to making a difference.

"I firmly believe you can never do enough," Tilson said. 

He’s the brains behind "Donate to Drink," an event where people can donate to area nonprofits and receive a free drink from a bar or cafe. 

"I wanted to make a tangible impact, I wanted to create something unique, different that no one else does."

He also started Mentorship Rochester, a network of dozens of young professionals who speak to high school students about career readiness. 

One of those professionals in the mentorship group, Kyle Schoh, nominated Tilson for the Jefferson Award. 

"Ben is very well spoken, he’s respectful," Schoh said. "It seems like he’s able to connect very well with the students and he is more than willing to take that time to meet with the schools and set up all the meetings that he does, and also collaborate with the local community."

Tilson is almost always on the go, and while he might make it look easy, he has his own battles dealing with dyslexia. 

"It took me along time to accept dyslexia in my life. It really has," Tilson said. 

But while in college, a mentor took him under her wing, and he found his strengths. 

"I just dedicated my time to it and I got really involved with clubs and organizations," he explained. "I was the president of the business club, HR club, and long story short, in a year and a half period of time I went from a 2.2 to a 2.7, got an internship that I never thought I’d get."

And now, he’s paying it forward and has no plans to stop anytime soon. 

"If you find inspiration in a book, you’re passionate about it, read a book. I can’t sit down and read a book and comprehend a book very well, I know that’s my struggle I’m working to improve that. "But I find so much more inspiration working with nonprofits, networking, going into classrooms, talking to students, relating to people and that’s where my passions lie."

Tilson says he has even more projects up his sleeve to make a difference in the community. 

And if you know someone who’s also making a difference, you can nominate them for a Jefferson Award here


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