They say that the child is the father of man, and these kids establish this saying holds out to be true. Inspired by this notion, we have compiled a list of young teen activists and entrepreneurs whose views have impacted this world.
The issues of interest range from the environment, representation, and access for those with disabilities to immigration and civil rights. They have used their extraordinary talent to change lives for the better. So, if you are looking for some inspiration to make a difference in the world, have a look at these 40 children and their featured accomplishments –
1. Melati and Isabel Wijsen
Sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen were 10 and 12 respectively when they started a protest against plastic. Inspired Rwanda’s 2008 ban on polyethylene bags, they started to do the same in Bali. Their efforts paid off. After several beach cleanups and government petitions, Bali is officially plastic bag free. Looking at this, Indonesia also pledged to be plastic bag free by 2021.
2. Kelvin Doe
Just five years after the country’s volatile civil war ended, Kelvin Doe had turned innovator and scientist. By the age of 13, he powered up his neighborhood with batteries made out of simple ingredients like acid, soda, and metal in a tin cup. He also built a community radio station out of recycled parts powered with his homemade batteries.
3. Marley Dias
Marley is an activist for black people. She is the brain behind the #1000BlackGirlBooks twitter phenomenon. She was frustrated that she couldn’t find any stories where the main characters were black. As a result of the book drive, more than 11,000 books with black people as central characters got cataloged. She also penned down the book Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You.
4. Greta Thunberg
She is one of the most popular persons on the list. You must have probably heard of this young environmental activist after her flaming speech at the UN Climate Summit. This 16-year-old student has been spreading activism for environmental sustainability for years now. Greta began her protest at the Swedish parliament to prevent climate change.
5. Emma González
Gonzalez survived a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. She has even formed a group of teen activists formed to fight for an end of gun violence. Emma González was one of those students, in addition to David Hogg, Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin, Cameron Kasky, and many others. She co-founded Never Again MSD, a group for gun control. She even gave a moving speech at the March for Lives Rally.
6. Nicholas Lowinger
Life changed for Nicholas Lowinger when he met a homeless brother and sister. The brother-sister duo took turns going to school because they shared a pair of shoes. Nicholas gave the boy a pair of basketball sneakers and gave the sister a pair of simple sneakers. He started an organization known as Gotta Have Sole. Through the medium of this organization, footwear has been donated to over 99,000 homeless children.
7. Jaylen Arnold
Arnold has been diagnosed with multiple diseases viz. Tourette’s Syndrome, Asperger’s and OCD. Unluckily for Jaylen, he was bullied by peers for being different. He also found that the bullying worsened the symptoms of his disabilities because of the anxiety it caused him. Jaylen found the Jaylen Challenge Foundation, which has educated more than 100,000 kids on recognizing bullying behavior and comprehending each other’s differences.
8. Jahkil Jackson
9-year-old Jahkil helped his aunt distribute food at a local homeless shelter in Chicago, his hometown. Jahkil wanted to do more to help his community. This is how Project Am I was founded. “Blessing Bags” full of snacks, toiletries, a towel, and socks to homeless people. Over 3,000 Blessing Bags have been given out in Chicago communities by the organization.
9. Malala Yousafzai
Another famous personality on this list, Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate at 17. She was awarded for her humanitarian efforts. She captured global attention after being shot by the Taliban in Pakistan. She was on her way to school when this incident happened. She was shot because she was an advocate for women pursuing education in the Swat Valley. Nowadays, she is doing her charity work through her organization, The Malala Fund.
10. Ryan Hickman
3-year-old Ryan Hickman visited rePlanet recycling center in California. Inspired by it, Ryan started Ryan’s Recycling when he was 7. He started by collecting cans and bottles from his neighbors. Quickly enough, he began recycling over 200,000 bottles and cans and had 50 customers within a span of a few months.
11. Zuriel Oduwole
Nigerian Creole Zuriel Oduwole is an education advocate. She works ardently for girls in Africa. She is also a self-taught filmmaker who has interviewed 30 heads of state, created 7 documentaries, and continues to advocate for young women. She is just 17-years old.
12. Sophie Cruz
Sophie Cruz came into the spotlight when she was five years old. She visited Washington D.C. with her family as representatives of an L.A.-based immigration advocacy group. They delivered a letter to Pope Francis urging him to speak out on behalf of undocumented workers and support the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans Act. Needless to say, the Pope discussed the issue in a meeting with Congress the following day.
13. Samantha Smith
Samantha Smith was only 10 when she eased Cold War tensions between the United States and Russia. With a single letter, she brought a sea change. She wrote a note to CPSU General Secretary, Yuri Andropov, suggesting that both countries end the cold war. Her letter was also published in a Soviet newspaper. Andropov responded with an invitation for Smith and her family to visit his country. She was awarded the title of “America’s Youngest Ambassador.
14. Iqbal Masih
Masih was a Pakistani boy who escaped child slavery at 10 years old. Child labor is a rampant evil in Pakistan. He became a leader of sorts in the movement to put an end to child slavery. He helped rescue over 3,000 children. Masih was assassinated when he was 12 and around 800 people approximately attended his funeral service.
15. Claudette Colvin
Claudette Colvin was 15 when she became a major player in the Civil Rights Movement. She refused to give up her bus seat to a caucasian passenger. This happened nine months before Rosa Parks was arrested for the same thing. She was one of the four plaintiffs involved in the Supreme Court case that ultimately outlawed segregation on Alabama buses. Great work, isn’t it?
16. Jazz Jennings
When Jennings was five years old, she made headlines as one of the youngest people to identify as transgender. She discussed all this on her YouTube channel and also used her platform to advocate for LGBTQIA issues, specifically regarding trans rights. With her parents’ help, she founded the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation to help transgender youth. She also appeared in various TV shows.
17. Bana al-Abed
One look at Abed’s Twitter page will change your mind towards children and their capabilities. The seven years old girl has documented her life in war-torn Syria. This has enabled global activists to see the atrocities happening there. With her mother’s help, Abed has called upon world leaders to take action.
18. Anoyara Khatun
12-year-old Khatun was a victim of child trafficking. She was rescued by an NGO called Save the Children. She returned to her home in West Bengal and has committed her life in this direction. She has helped in putting an end to the exploitation and trafficking of children. Anoyara has rescued hundreds of children through and has prevented many others from being forced into underage marriage
19. Nkosi Johnson
Nkosi Johnson was an official face to the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. In the 1990s, his face was on every leading magazine. Wonder why? He was born HIV-positive. He became famous when he was refused admittance to a public school in Johannesburg because of the disease. He was the key speaker at the 13th International AIDS Conference in 2000. He was just 12 years old when he passed away.
20. Thandiwe Chama
Thandiwe Chama received the 2007 International Children’s Peace Prize. She was only 16 when she received her award. She was felicitated for her work as an educational rights activist in Zambia. She has also been a global activist for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.
21. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an environmental activist who spoke at the U.N. three times. By the age of 15, he was urging leaders to take action against climate change. He and 21 other people around his age are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the federal government. They are arguing with the government that ignoring climate change means they are denying the constitutional right to life, liberty, and property.
22. Mari Copeny
Mari Copeny, a.k.a. Little Miss Flint, captured President Obama’s attention in 2016. She wrote him a letter urging him to meet with her and her community members who were traveling to Washington D.C.. They were going for the congressional meetings on the Flint water crisis. She continues to fight for the people of her hometown. She actively participated in many crowdfunding campaigns for donations to buy backpacks for students in Flint.
23. Anne Frank
Who does not know about Anne Frank and her diary? She is a part of the present-day literature also. She died in 1945. Her words in her notebook have proven to be timeless. She wrote all this while her family was in hiding during World War II. Her diary is a literary proof of the horrors of war and hate through the perspective of a young girl. Her diary has been translated into more than 60 languages.
24. Alex Scott
Alex Scott was less than a year old when she was diagnosed with cancer. After receiving a stem cell transplant around her fourth birthday, she vowed to start a lemonade stand to raise money for other children going through the same thing. With her brother’s help, the first stand raised $2,000. Alex raised over $1 million before passing away in 2004. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and has raised over $150 million to date in the hopes of finding a cure.
25. Mikaila Ulmer
Mikaila Ulmer is another example of how a little lemonade can change the world. She started a family lemonade recipe sweetened with locally-made honey. A portion of the sales going to organizations fighting to save the honeybee population. She sells lemonade at public events and has partnered with Whole Foods to save bees.
26. Ann Makosinski
Ann Makosinski was 15 when she invented a flashlight powered by body heat. Wow! This was for the Google Science Fair in 2013. She found a way to reduce the waste consisting of single-use batteries getting dumped in landfills. These batteries were recycled to provide light to people who can’t afford electricity in their homes. She also invented the eDrink, which cools your hot beverage by turning the excess heat into electricity that can charge your devices. She is cool to say the least.
27. Katie Stagliano
Stagliano, a third-grader back then, came up with a plan to help feed the homeless. After growing a 40-pound cabbage in her yard, she used it to feed 275 people at her local soup kitchen. She started a non-profit called Katie’s Krops. Her non-profit build vegetable gardens for the sole purpose of donating the food to the homeless. Now, there are more than 100 gardens in over 30 states. Great! They are being operated by young people like Katie.
28. Cassandra Lin
Cassandra Lin’s plan to save the world materialized when she was a fifth-grader. After learning that cooking oil could be turned into biofuel, she started convincing local restaurants in her community to donate their cooking oil waste, so that it could be recycled. She began her Project TGIF Turn Grease Into Fuel gained momentum. She has won several environmental awards for her groundbreaking work.
29. Easton LaChappelle
14-year-old LaChappelle built a prototype for a robotic hand out of Legos and fishing wire in 2011. This earned him third place at the Colorado State Science Fair. After that, he met a seven-year-old girl at the science fair who had a prosthetic arm that cost $80,000. He decided to build a more affordable alternative. Now he runs a startup that uses 3D printing to build prosthetic arms and hands, bringing the price down to just $350.
30. Asia Newson
Asia Newson is a self-proclaimed Super Business Girl. Newson has a successful candle business to her name. She also encourages kids in her Detroit community to become entrepreneurial. She has several young employees and hopes to bring in mentees that can help the youngsters to hone their business skills.
31. Boyan Slat
When he was 16, Boyan Slat went on a fishing trip in Greece. He went on to discover hordes of plastic in the water. After two years, the Dutch inventor launched his non-profit, Ocean Cleanup. This startup has conducted researches using circulating currents to curb the pollution The group has raised over $31.5 million in donations also.
32. Gitanjali Rao
Gitanjali Rao was awarded $25,000 at 11 years old. What for? She was responsible for inventing a device that detects lead in drinking water. She built her prototype called Tethys for $20. This invention earned her the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”
33. Ryan Hreljac
Ryan Hreljac has been slogging to make clean water accessible to people in poor areas. When he was all of six years, he first learned about this issue. He started earning money for sending it to organizations building wells in poor countries. He even started Ryan’s Well Foundation when he was 10. The charity has been responsible for sending potable water to over 800,000 people in 16 countries.
34. Yash Gupta
Yash Gupta began collecting eyeglasses for needy children when he was all of 14 years old. He came across some statistics reporting that 12 million children around the world are living without glasses. To see clearly, he started Sight Learning organization collecting used glasses and delivers them to children who need them. Their eyewear chain has spread in far-flung places like Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, and India.
35. Jack Andraka
When Andraka was a high school student, he made a major contribution to the health community by inventing a type of sensor that could detect early signs of pancreatic cancer. The sensor could also detect other forms of cancer as well. This cancer-detecting prototype won him a $75,000 prize in Intel’s science fair. He has also been called “The Teen Prodigy Of Pancreatic Cancer” by the Smithsonian. That’s quite an accomplishment.
36. Mary Grace Henry
Mary Grace Henry turned her love of sewing into a humanitarian cause. When she was only 12 years old, she was focused on raising money to fund the education of one underprivileged girl. So that she could help a larger cause, she came up with a plan to use headbands to raise money. She started making and selling reversible headbands, donating every cent to her cause. She has developed a charity line and has sold over 11,000 hair accessories to help more than 100 young girls in third world countries like Kenya, Uganda, Paraguay, and Haiti.
37. Maya Penn
Maya Penn is a young entrepreneur who has achieved what adults have failed to have. She is one of the few new-day innovators who is creating jobs and saving the environment. She was only eight years old when she launched her eco-friendly fashion house, Maya’s Ideas. Her dedication prompted her to start her non-profit called Maya’s Ideas 4 The Planet. She has also given several TEDTalks that have gone viral. Isn’t she talented, folks?
38. Louis Braille
Who does not know Louis Braille? He was only 12 when he learned of a communication system used by the French army. This laid the foundation for his own system of reading and writing. Later on, it was used by the blind. He completed his alphabet system by the time he was 15. The raised dot system was first adopted by France’s Royal Institute for Blind Youth. It is still in use.
39. Phil Farnsworth
Most of the great ideas come to the youngest of minds. One of the men credited with inventing television was only 14. When he came up with the idea of the TV, he had an epiphany of sorts while plowing his family’s farm in Idaho. After that, he sought advice from one of his teachers on how best to transform his dreams into a reality. His teacher gave him the best advice because he transmitted his first image in 1927.
40. Julia Bluhm
Julia Bluhm is on a quest to stop body-shaming entirely. She is taking on one magazine cover at a time. At 14, she successfully convinced the editor-in-chief of Seventeen to feature images of real girls and healthy models without Photoshopping. This girl has a natural zeal in the right direction. As a pastime, apart from her school, she continues to address feminist issues as a blogger for TheLaLa.com and for Spark Movement.