Top 8 Teens Change Makers Who Changed the World

Starting a change does not mean we have to have a powerful position in our job always, or be highly Educated or own a degree, or be someone extraordinary. Even ordinary people, from all backgrounds and ages, can do something that makes a difference.

There is an inspirational quote from Nelson Mandela “Children are our greatest treasure. They are our future.”. Children are the future of any civilization. This quote attests to the fact that if we hold our children dear, we hold the future. 

Starting a change at such a relatively young age means that teens will have to go out of their comfort zone. It can be viewed as ‘rebellious’ by some. But on the contrary, their courage needs to be appreciated. They are standing up for causes that they believe in. In their innocence and simplicity, they keep great sensitivity in their hearts for others.

In this article, we will  8 teenagers who are known as change-makers and have inspired us with their great work.

Who are they? Let’s take a look together!

1. Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani young activist who fights for the right to education, especially for women. Malala was also the receiver of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. At that time, she was only 17 years old.

Malala became known when in 2012 she escaped being shot by a terrorist group when she was traveling home from school. This moment opened more opportunities for Malala to be more courageous and braver, to speak up about the importance of education for every child around the world.

She is now focusing more on her advocacy through Malala Fund. Together with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, she develops a network in Malala Fund to champion every girl’s right to 12 years of free, safe, and quality education.

2. Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist who is currently 18 years old. Thunberg had become very trending when she started the “School Strike for Climate” movement in 2018. Thunberg asked permission to skip school only to stand in front of the Stockholm parliament building holding a banner “Stronger Action for Climate.”

That popular strike led her to speak at the United Nations COP24 in 2018, at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019, also being invited by President Barack Obama, to bring more awareness, especially to the world’s leaders to prioritize environmental sustainability.

For her bravery and persistence in speaking up about climate change, Thunberg was awarded Time’s People of The Year 2019. She is continually being active in addressing environmental and climate issues in world forums now.

3. Sophie Cruz

Sophie Cruz went viral when she breached the crowds and protocol on the National Mall, US, to deliver a letter to Pope Francis. This happened in 2015 when she was only 5 years old. In her letter, Sophie asked Pope Francis to prevent his parents from being deported to their home country.

She is an American activist whose parents are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Sophie’s activism is to fight for the continuance of the DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) program, which would allow her parents to stay in the United S\tates legally.

Her courage succeeded in moving the heart of Pope Francis who then addressed the issue to the United States Congress. The issue of immigrant families later became the highlight of President Barack Obama’s concern as well that made Sophie invited to the White House for celebration Cinco de Mayo (an annual celebration that commemorates the anniversary of Mexico’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla).

Her activism continues until now. She urges people to vote, to educate about immigration, and to bring about the unity of immigrant families in the US.

4. Jahkil Jackson

When Jahkil Jackson was 5 years old, he helped his aunt distribute food packages to the homeless. This moment made Jahkil want to do something more. At the age of 8 (around 2015), Jahkil started a project called “Project I Am” as a part of his concern for the homeless and underprivileged society.

He does giveaways with “Blessing Bags”, which are filled with wipes, socks, deodorant, 

hand sanitizer, granola bars, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bottled water, and more. Together with his friends and family, Jahkil has reached underprivileged people in Chicago, Los Angeles, Oklahoma, Maryland, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Virginia, and Idaho.

During Covid-19 pandemic, Jahkil didn’t stop. With “Project I Am”, Jahkil engaged over 200 youth from over 70 cities to make and distribute 7,500 blessing bags to those in need.

5. Nkosi Johnson

Growing up with HIV did not make Nkosi Johnson give up and lose hope. In 1997, Nkosi was just eight years old when a local primary school near his house refused to take him as a student due to his illness. It caused a great stir in South Africa at that time, which later led to an urgency to create an anti-discrimination regulation. This policy prevented schools from rejecting students judging from their health.

He got full support from his family to initiate Nkosi’s Haven, an NGO to support mothers and children whose lives have been impacted by HIV and Aids. As a result of his activism, Nkosi got an opportunity to speak up at International Aids Conference 2000 when he was just 11.

Nkosi is no longer with us, but his legacy and passion have brought about a change in the world’s perspective on seeing children with HIV and Aids.

6. Joshua Williams

After watching a commercial that showed children who were starving, Joshua Williams was moved. 

He is a Jamaican-American boy who started a foundation called Joshua’s Heart Foundation (JHF) in 2005 at a very young age. At that time, he was only 4-5 years old with the big compassion to fight against hunger and poverty.

He began the initiative with a mere $20 from his grandma and his family helped him to provide food for those who need it. JHF develops into a well-run NGO which empowers underprivileged people to improve their quality of life by providing necessities like groceries and personal items. They also engage and educate young people to fight hunger and poverty on a global basis. Since 2005, they have distributed over 500,000 meals to families, donated over 100,000 books, toys, and clothes, and reached families in more than 20 areas in the USA and other countries.

7. Ryan Hreljac

Ryan Hreljac is a Canadian activist. In 1998, when he was in elementary school grade 1, he was touched by what his teacher said about people out there who have to walk for hours just to get clean water.

Since then, Ryan has been collecting money from his parents and doing various jobs. From the money he collected and donations from his friends, Ryan managed to build a well in Uganda with the help of an NGO. However, Ryan was aware that the problem of clean water is much more complex.

Ryan then started an initiative called Ryan’s Well Foundation. This NGO provides access to clean water and sanitation projects and hygiene education in the poorest regions of developing countries. Until now, his charity has brought drinkable water to over 800,000 people in 16 countries

8. Marley Dias

Marley Dias is 16 years old American activist and writer. Marley Dias wants to break the stereotype by launching a campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks. This campaign was carried out as a form of her frustration over the lack of black women as protagonists or the main lead in a story.

Marley launched the campaign in November 2015 with the help of social media. The story went viral and was endorsed by bloggers, schools, youth-focused organizations, and millions of individuals who wanted to participate in the project. Marley has collected over 13,000 books to date. Marley later put it all in an accessible database for everyone, also to donate these books to schools and community members who need them.

Because of her activism, Marley got chances to speak in some world’s forums such as in White House’s United State of Women, The Forbes Women’s Summit, United Nation’s Girl Up, Inbound, 

CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, the Social Innovation Summit, and several others. These eight teenage change-makers seem to give us the message that age is not an obstacle in bringing a change for good. Changes can be made by those who have strong hope and will, regardless of our ages, identities, academic backgrounds, or status.

In the UPDEED app, you’ll find even more stories about people who did good deeds within their own conditions and limitations. For anyone who wants to step up for change, now is the time to stand for humanity, look around, and do your bit.

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