“You’re never too young to change the world.”
There was a time when children were taught to be “seen and not heard,” and yet today, many of the world’s most powerful leaders and harbingers for change are under the age of 20. Here are five inspiring young people who are trailblazing for a new generation of activists and innovators.
- Greta Thunberg: Climate change activist
Greta Thunberg started out as a lone protestor advocating for climate change policy and was eventually named Time Magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year. Since photos of her holding a sign outside the Swedish Parliament went viral, she has become the leader in a mass youth movement for climate change activism. In September 2019, 4 million people joined her in the global climate strike, many of them being school-aged youth who walked out of classrooms and schools. She has become a symbol of youth activism and continues to meet with some of the world’s most influential leaders, speaking at climate rallies, forums and parliaments.
- The Parkland School Students: Gun control activists
Ages: 19, 20
Since the devasting school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, many surviving students such as Emma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Corin, and David Hogg have become the leaders of a large youth movement for stricter gun control laws. The students founded Never Again MSD, a coalition of the larger Never Again organization, and led the powerful march and demonstration “March for Our Lives” in Washington, D.C. They continue to lead and inspire youth activists who are advocating for gun control policies.
- Thandiwe Abdullah: Co-founder of the Black Lives Matter LA Youth Vanguard
Abdullah is the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter LA Youth Vanguard and in 2018 was named one of TIME’s most influential teens. In the wake of movements like Never Again, she called for the youth gun control movement to become more intersectional, particularly when it comes to children of color. The LA Youth Vanguard organizes students and adult allies in the over-policing of Los Angeles’ public schools. The group also works closely with the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) labor union to campaign against the criminalization of black youth.
- Jack Cable: Computer programmer, “white hat” hacker, and business owner
Many of us think of hackers as masterminds who use their tech brilliance to promote widespread havoc, sometimes for personal gain and sometimes for the sake of a joke. Jack Cable is a “white hat hacker,” a tech mastermind who finds and reports bugs rather than taking advantage of them. Cable is a student at Stanford University and the winner of the HackIT Cup in Kyiv, Ukraine, where the one-and-only Steve Wozniak presented his award. He also founded Lightning Security, a firm that helps cryptocurrency companies protect themselves against traditional hackers.
- Sheku Kanneh-Mason: Cellist
Kanneh-Mason, the first BBC Young Musician to achieve “top 40” status with a debut record, began playing the cello as a six-year-old and had won a scholarship to the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music by age nine. He participated on Britain’s Got Talent in 2015, and he was featured in a BBC documentary entitled Young, Gifted and Classical: The Making of a Maestro the next year. He has since received myriad awards, including the Male Artist of the Year and Critics’ Choice Awards at the Classic Brit Awards, the 2019 PPL Classical Award, and the South Bank Sky Arts Breakthrough Award, an honor bestowed on the “most promising young artist across all genres.” In May of 2018, Kanneh-Mason achieved widespread notoriety when he played his cello at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The same year, he was appointed the global ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He donated a chunk of his 2018 earnings to his former school, enabling ten students to continue their cello lessons. Kanneh-Mason currently studies at the Royal Academy of Music, and his latest album, Elgar, was released in January of 2020.