8 Young People Who Are Changing the World
From lemonade stand fundraisers to ideas that grow into global movements, young people in communities across the country are discovering and owning their ability to take action that changes the world. Here’s a short list of young people who inspire us, and prove every day that you are never too young to make your mark on the world!
With Bright Blue Socks, Brothers Team Up to Help Save the Blue-Footed Booby
Two years ago, Will Gladstone studied the endangered blue-footed booby in his fifth-grade science class. He learned its population had declined by 50 percent in the past 60 years, and scientists didn’t know why. Most kids would have closed their book and forgotten about the endangered bird, living far away in the Galápagos Islands. But not Will.
Will, now 13, and his younger brother Matty, 10, started The Blue Feet Foundation, selling their signature bright blue socks to raise money to support the preservation of this endangered species. At first, no one took the two kids seriously, and it was three months before they sold any socks. However, they have now sold more than 3,000 pairs of socks, with orders coming in from all 50 states and across 30 countries. Will and Matty have already raised more than $40,000 for their cause. And, in 2017, they helped the Galapagos Conservancy fund an expedition for Dr. David J. Anderson, a professor at Wake Forest University and a world-renowned expert in blue-footed boobies, to study the population decline.
Youth-Led LemonAID Warriors Helps Kids Make Social Activism Part of Their Social Life
Lulu Cerone, 18, believes that integrating social activism, kindness and generosity into the lives of young children fosters positive habits that continue into adulthood. Inspired at the age of 9 to take action in support of those affected by a devastating earthquake in Haiti, Lulu organized a boys vs. girls lemonade fundraiser in her class – bringing in $4,000 to support disaster relief efforts. The experience led her to create LemonAID Warriors, a youth activism organization that connects children to worthy causes and provides unique action plans to create tangible social good.
Since its inception, the LemonAID Warriors campaigns have reached millions of children around the globe and raised more than $120,000 to support projects benefitting vulnerable children. The organization’s unique PhilanthroParty action plans give children the tools they need to become effective and independent social activists. They also work with corporations to inspire young people to make social good a part of their social lives.
Best Friends Hand-Craft Charm Bracelets to Fund Cleft Surgeries for Children Across the Globe
Nandini Arakoni, 16, was born with a cleft lip and had several surgeries to repair the birth defect at a very young age. After visiting family in India, Nandini realized how fortunate she’d been to have a procedure to resolve the issue, as many children globally do not have the resources to undergo repair procedures, and thus suffer long-lasting health issues.
Uniting with her best friend, Sanjana Gangadharan, Nandini launched Side by Side Smiles in January 2017, an organization dedicated to helping sponsor cleft surgeries for the thousands of children globally who cannot afford them. The teens work together to make and sell handmade charm bracelets, using the profits to put towards sponsorship for surgery – which costs about $250 per child. To date, the Nandini and Sanjana have sold more than 600 bracelets and raised more than $24,000.
With the Validation Project, Teen Empowers Youth to Speak Up, Take Action
Five years ago, 14-year-old Valerie Weisler’s life was in ruins. Traumatized by her parents’ divorce and painfully shy, she was taunted mercilessly by a crowd of mean girls – which left her feeling as though she was drowning in darkness. Then one day, Valerie saw another student being bullied about his weight, and something clicked for her. She approached him and told him not to listen to the bullies, that he mattered and that he was important.
“Later, he told me he was going to kill himself that evening – it was all planned out. But because I validated him, he didn’t,” Valerie said. “I didn’t even know what validation was – I had to Google it. That’s when I got an idea. What if there was a global space where kids from all over the world could share their struggles and work together to solve problems?”
That idea became the Validation Project. What started as a blog funded with her babysitting money rapidly grew into an international program that matches at-risk teens with mentors from nonprofits and corporations like Google and the NFL. Run by youth for youth, the project is operated primarily by high school and college students who understand the issues their peers struggle with, including the feeling of not being heard.
First-Grader Finds His Passion in Giving Back, Making the World a Better Place
Mikhail Laila is not your ordinary first-grader. At his young age, he has already discovered the magic of volunteering – spending his free time volunteering at a local animal center, working alongside his mother to sort baby clothes for families in need, and collecting items for a nonprofit that supports refugees. But his favorite project so far was a read-a-thon, which not only elevated his love for books but also gave him the opportunity to make a big difference – he raised more than $1,000 to sponsor the education of eight girls in India.
Mikhail believes that volunteering is important because it helps people learn to empathize. "If enough people learn to volunteer and help others, this will create a chain of helping hands across the world and make it a better world for all of us,” he said.
Legally Blind Girl Raises Awareness, Funds to Provide Resources for Visually Impaired Children
While most children are likely unaware of what lobbying is, legally blind Florida teen Paloma Rambana has been doing it since she was just 10 years old. Paloma, now 12, realized there was an unfair imbalance in the resources available for visually impaired kids from ages 6 to 13, compared to their counterparts in other age groups. A part of this underserved group herself, Paloma knew she had to do something to help her peers receive equal services. Since, then she has worked tirelessly to advocate for children living with vision impairment. Due to Paloma’s hard work, the Florida legislature approved a $1.25 million program with $500,000 going annually to help kids ages 6-13 years old at the Division of Blind Services. This money is going to help 340 children with services such as vision classes, mobility training, in-home vision instruction and braille instruction.
Paloma’s exemplary efforts to create change for a cause she is passionate about have become a model for youth engagement. generationOn, the youth division of Points of Light, now showcases her method as a way to encourage more young people to advocate for change.
Ready to make your mark on the world? Visit generationOn for project guides, tools and resources to help you get started.