10 Kids Who Changed The World Before They Turned 20
Amazing things can happen when children put their minds to it. Unfettered by history or tradition, kids can sometimes think their way around a project that would never occur to an adult. Because of that, more and more we are finding remarkable young people who are making their mark on history right before our eyes. Here are 10 amazing kids who changed the world before they turned 20.
This 8-year-old girl who is the face of Flint’s water crisis, aka “Little Miss Flint,” came into prominence when she met President Barack Obama in 2016 while in Washington D.C. meeting with congressional members. Now 11, she still works toward the goal of clean drinking water for her city. She has also held numerous donation drives, including a crowdfunded program to get all the students in Flint backpacks for school. As a youth ambassador for both the Climate March and the Women’s March, she shows no signs of slowing down her activism anytime in the near future.
In 2015, At the age of 15, this British science prodigy developed a test to detect Alzheimer’s Disease long before any symptoms appear, by detecting the presence of certain proteins on the brain and making them visible to scans. With further development to his work, it’s possible that this detection method can lead to a way to halt, or perhaps even reverse, the damage these proteins cause.
Born in 2000, this outspoken activist was only seven years old when she came out as transgender. In the years since, she has been the face of trans rights and gender dysmorphia. She has documented her journey on her TLC reality series I Am Jazz, undergoing sex reassignment surgery in 2018, and has already written her memoirs. She co-founded the non-profit organization TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation along with her family and hopes she can continue to inspire other trans kids with her experiences.
While on a trip to Greece, Dutch teenager Boyan Slat was disturbed at the sheer amount of plastic waste in the beautiful Aegean waters. In 2013, at the age 18, he started a non-profit organization, The Ocean Cleanup, to study and solve the problem of plastic pollution in the world’s waterways. In the years since, he has raised millions for the cleanup and has given his own TEDx talk.
In 2008, at age 9, Katie Stagliano participated in a class project to grow vegetables from seeds. Her vegetable, a cabbage, ended up being almost 40 pounds. But her awesomeness didn’t stop there. She ended up donating the massive cabbage to a local soup kitchen, which fed more than 250 people. From this beginning came Katie’s Krops, a gardening collective that raises crops to feed the homeless. There are now over 100 gardens across the U.S. devoted to this project.
A winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, this 14-year-old boy developed a way to target pancreatic cancer more efficiently. If this sounds amazing, it is — the pancreas is a difficult target for radiation therapy. But Jain wrote a software program to make targeting the pancreas much easier, and therefore make the therapy much more effective. While his process still hasn’t undergone clinical trials, he is seeking out a research lab to partner with to make the algorithm more than just theoretical.
Born in 2000, this teen from Colorado has already made a name for himself both as a hip hop artist and a climate change activist. Working with the organization his mother founded in 1992, Earth Guardians, he has given speeches all around the world since age 6 — including several speeches before the U.N. General Assembly. He has also given TEDx talks on the subject and is one of 21 kids suing the U.S. government for failing to do anything to halt or lessen climate damage.
At the age of 17, Amika George became a health activist after discovering that some schoolgirls could not afford feminine hygiene products and so were missing school. She created an organization called #FreePeriods in 2017, petitioning the U.K. government to provide free menstrual products to school children, especially those who are also qualified for school meals. She hopes to take away the stigma of shame associated with this perfectly natural function.
At age 11, this enterprising young scientist built a device that detects lead in drinking water. After hearing how Flint, Michigan’s water was contaminated, she came up with a device that cost less than $20 to make. Her device, called Tethys after the Greek goddess of the seas, is also more accurate than more expensive alternatives. She won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge in 2017 for her invention, which came with a $25,000 prize. She has also given her own TEDx talk.
An 11-year-old debt slave in Pakistan in 1994, Iqbal Masih bravely shared his story and worked to free his fellow captives. He is credited with helping rescue over 3,000 child slaves. Like Malala Yousafzai, he was targeted by people angry with his activism. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1995 at the age of 12. Today, he has a congressional award named after him given in recognition of his efforts to end child slavery.