Some people are sticking with the old fashioned idea that you have to have a lifetime of knowledge and experience to change the world, or even to try – but these 5 teenagers don’t have any time to listen to that kind of crap because they’re too busy actually changing the world.
From gun rights to climate change to terrorism, there’s no problem too daunting…and honestly maybe their lack of experience gives them just the right amount of idealism needed to actually get sh*t done.
I just wish – I truly wish – that their passion and activism hadn’t so often been sparked by personal trauma.
But if you have to go through something terrible, using your experience and pain to stop other people from going through the same thing seems like the healthiest way to deal.
5. Emma Gonzalez
It was February, 2018 when a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and gunned down 17 people in cold blood.
Many of the teens who survived that day have gone on to support a campaign against gun violence, but 18-year-old Emma Gonzalez emerged a leader from the beginning. She co-founded the gun-control advocacy group Never Again MSD and, shortly after her classmates were buried, gave a powerful speech at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington D.C.
Since then, her work and others’ have encouraged lawmakers in Florida to pass a Public Safety Act, which raised the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21 and instituted a three-day waiting period for most weapons. She is still working to prevent gun violence, and Never Again is going strong.
4. Jack Andraka
When he was only 15, Jack Andraka invented what appeared to be a new, cheap way to detect pancreatic cancer. He won $75k at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for the test, which he created after reading free science papers on the internet.
3. Malala Yousafzai
At the tender age of 11, Malala Yousafzai wrote and published a diary about her life under Taliban rule in Pakistan. Though the diary was anonymous, she began to speak publicly at home about her passion for girls’ education.
Three years later, when she was 14, a Taliban gunman shot her in the face on a bus to put a stop to her activism.
Amazingly, Malala survived the attack, and though she can never return home, she works tirelessly on behalf of underprivileged girls around the world.
In 2014, she became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and her passionate acceptance speech is one for the ages.
“This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change. I am here to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice. It is not time to pity them.”
2. Amika George
Amika read an article about girls in the U.K. who couldn’t afford menstrual products and was astounded that there were so many in her home country living in such poverty.
When she was 17 she founded #FreePeriods, organized a protest of over 2,000, and demanded the government take appropriate action.
In response, the U.K. government announced in March of 2019 they would be funding free sanitary products in all English schools and universities.
1. Greta Thunberg
This 16-year-old Swedish girl has dedicated her young life to being an activist for climate change activism across the world.
In 2018 she began striking – alone – on the steps of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm in an attempt to get them to take meaningful, immediate action.
Since her solitary striking began, more than 1 million teens have joined her by walking out of their classrooms around the world.
“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago. We have to understand what the older generation has dealt to us, what mess they have created that we have to clean up and live with. We have to make our voices heard.”
She recently spoke at the UN, and it’s really worth watching:
These teens are an inspiration, for sure – they make 18-year-old me look like a lazy loafing loser.
Do you believe young people can make a real difference? How can you not?!