Effecting change in the world takes time and these kids didn't waste any of it. While their peers thought about Play-Doh, puberty and prom, these special young people focused on causes bigger than themselves, putting them on early paths to world leadership. Read ahead to see how such large ideas came from these minors' minds.
When she was just 15 years old, Malala Yousafzai survived a gunshot to the head. The Taliban had targeted her because even as a child she was known for being an advocate for girls' education, something the extremists banned in her Pakistani hometown. Malala not only survived the gunshot wound but also changed the world by becoming the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17.
On a mission for justice and armed with a hand-drawn note, 5-year-old Sophie Cruz changed the world in 2015 when she ran out to the visiting Pope Francis's motorcade in Washington, D.C, literally stopping him in his tracks. The tiny messenger was born in America but lived in fear that her undocumented immigrant parents would be deported. Because of her, the pope spoke to Congress the next day about fairer immigration policies. In 2017, Sophie continued her path of leadership by being the youngest featured speaker at the Women's March on Washington.
When he was 3 years old, Ryan Hickman took his first haul of cans and bottles to a local recycling plant in California. Inspired by how recycling kept waste from the ocean, Ryan started his own one-man company by collecting bottles and cans from his neighbors. In 2016, Ellen DeGeneres met the $11,000 he'd already earned, giving the world-changing, eco-entrepreneur enough money to pay for college when he was 7 years old! No surprise, he'd rather buy a truck and become a garbage man.
Using her great-grandmother's flaxseed lemonade recipe, 4-year-old Mikaila Ulmer came up with the idea to help save honeybees by using honey instead of sugar to sweeten her drink. After being stung twice, then finding out how valuable bees were to the ecosystem, Mikaila founded "Me & The Bees Lemonade," a startup that secured funding from Daymond John of "Shark Tank" and a collection of NFL players. Now, with her products in stores nationwide, Mikaila donates a portion of her profits to organizations that help save the bees and encourage entrepreneurship in kids.
Go on, try not to smile while watching Robby Novak (better known as Kid President) deliver inspiring pep talks on YouTube. It would be hard to tell from his constant upbeat and cheery personality (he has loads of charisma), but Robby suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bones disease, and has had more than 70 breaks so far. Despite that, he dreams to unite the world through kindness and laugher, MLK-style.
Self-taught child filmmaker Zuriel Oduwole is a powerful voice for the education of young girls in Africa. By the age of 12, she'd already made four documentaries, interviewed 14 heads of state and become the youngest person to ever be profiled by Forbes. Her most well-known film, "A Promising Africa," was screened in more than five countries. Zuriel continues to tour countries, educating others about global literacy and adding to the list of world leaders she's met.
Indigenous activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez may only be a teenager, but he has moved mountains. Better yet, he's tried to preserve mountains and all things natural by being the spokesperson for a lawsuit against the federal government. Speaking around the country and appearing on shows like HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," Xiuhtezcatl believes more could be done to act on climate change, and he educates others on what they can do.
Maya Penn was born to create. By 4 years old, she'd taken apart her first computer. She followed that up by animating short films and writing code for her own website. At age 8, Maya began sewing eco-friendly clothes and eventually founded the company Maya's Ideas to sell her creations. Not only is she helping save the environment while proving her business savvy, she also donates at least 10 percent of her earnings to charity.
Born male but identifying as female since she could speak, Jazz Jennings has always been sure of who she was. In 2007, when she was 7 years old, Jazz was interviewed by Barbara Walters on "20/20," making her one of the first transgender children to come out publicly. Since then, she's become a spokesmodel for transgender kids and a TV personality, starring in a TLC reality show about her life as a trans teen, "I Am Jazz."
When his glasses broke during his freshman year of high school, Yash Gupta's life changed. Having worn glasses since he was a toddler, he didn't appreciate them until he realized that his education was affected due to his blurred vision. His glasses were fixed in a week, but that experience inspired him to found the organization Sight Learning, a charity that collects discarded eyeglasses and donates them to children in need around the world. Talk about a change in perspective!
Donating sneakers since 2010 through his Gotta Have Sole foundation, Nicholas Lowinger has changed the world by helping homeless youth get new pairs of shoes. As a tween, he was first inspired by a homeless girl and boy who had to take turns going to school every other day because they had one pair of shoes to share. Nicholas gave the boy a new pair of basketball sneakers. Since then, he has donated more than 76,000 shoes to homeless youth across America.
When she was in the sixth grade, young activist Marley Dias realized she rarely came across leading characters that looked like her in the stories she loved reading. Wanting to experience more diversity in literature, she began a book drive using the hashtag #1000BlackGirlBooks to collect stories of black girl protagonists. To date, she's collected and cataloged more than 9,000 books and written her own, "Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!"
When a close friend was diagnosed with cancer, 8-year-old Teagan Stedman began the Shred Kids' Cancer organization to help kids support their peers while they go through cancer treatments. As time went on and he began to understand how children's bodies were affected by chemotherapy, he began studying biology and nanotechnology, eventually coming up with an improved way to treat tumors and winning the 2017 Youth Award presented by World of Children.
As a differently abled person, Jaylen Arnold had a hard time transitioning from his small school to a bigger, more traditional elementary in the second grade. Jaylen had been diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, Asperger's and OCD by this time, and suffered anxiety due to teasing from other kids, causing his symptoms to worsen. He started the Jaylen Challenge Foundation, teaching more than 100,000 kids about differences in others to prevent bullying through understanding—changing the world one young mind at a time.
Even when her mother tried to prepare her for life with the use of only one arm, 10-year-old Isabella Nicola Cabrera refused to accept limitations. She decided she wanted to play the violin and inspired three local graduate students to create Vio Arm, a customizable prosthetic arm that allows her to play on her own. Now, because of Isabella's drive to achieve her goals, others will be able to chase their musical dreams without being hindered by physical differences.
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