Tip/Thought of the Day

Amazing Young People

How many times have we used the excuse one person can’t possibly make a difference to soothe our souls when we walk away from an issue? We’ve all been taught, “You can’t fight city hall”. It was a saying that became popular in the 1800’s when a political organizer in New York, Tommy Hall, became so powerful it seemed impossible to fight him. But at its heart it’s a cynical view of how much we actually can impact other people, governmental policies and lifestyle decisions. That these institutions, politicians, or companies have their own agenda and can’t be budged isn’t written in stone.

It may feel like David fighting Goliath, but enough have changed the world, or at least their own little area of the world, to prove the little guy can win. When you look at those who, against all odds, decided to step up anyway it’s shocking to see how many were just everyday citizens, living their life until they saw something that needed their voice. 

Sometimes we don’t know how it may affect others. We just know we have to make the effort regardless of the outcome. 

Here are a few brave souls whose youth didn’t sway them from speaking out. As a result, their words and actions affected countless others.

Yash Gupta. 

At fourteen he broke his glasses and needed to wait an agonizing two weeks for a replacement. For those of us vision challenged, we can relate. After hearing over 12 million children around the world can’t get the glasses they need, which impacts learning abilities by 20%, he set up an organization. Sight Learning collects used glasses and distributes them to needy kids. So far he’s given more than 2 million dollars worth of glasses to Mexico, Haiti, India and Honduras.

Katie Stagliano.

In third grade she grew a forty pound cabbage in her backyard. It ended up feeding 275 people at a local soup kitchen. That’s when she realized how much she could give back to her community with her backyard garden and her non- profit, Katie’s Krops, was born. Inspiring other young people, there are now more than 100 gardens in over 30 states that grow food for the sole purpose of feeding the homeless.

Ryan Hreljac.

At the impressionable age of six Ryan first learned how many people in the world can’t access clean drinking water through his pen pal in Uganda. By doing chores and encouraging others to donate he raised $2,000 in 12 months. The actual cost to build a well, according to WaterCan, a non profit agency that provides clean water to poor countries. In 1999 that money built the first well drilled in northern Uganda alongside the public school his friend attended. Ryan’s well foundation has brought drinkable water to over 800,000 people in 16 countries.

Boyan Slat.

On a fishing trip to Greece at age 16 Boyan saw massive amounts of plastic waste in the waters. Two years later he launched his non-profit Ocean Cleanup, that uses ocean current patterns to trap the debris until it can be towed away. The average person uses 9 pounds of single use plastic each month. Too often it is left to rot in our oceans, rivers and coast lines. Ocean Cleanup has raised over 31 million dollars and removed almost 31 million pounds of plastic since 2017.

Julia Bluhm.

Upset and impacted by photos that showed skinny girls in magazines she decided to do something about it. At 14 she took her petition with 84,000 signatures and successfully convinced the editor in chief of Seventeen magazine to feature real life, healthy teenage models without photoshopping their images. Her quest to promote positive body image led to Seventeen promising in 2012, to “never change girls’ body and face shapes”, “always feature real girls who are healthy”, and “celebrate every kind of beauty”. Although they did not promise to remove photo-manipulation completely from their magazine, they showed an example edit in the spread and promised to post all pre-edited photos on their Tumblr, “Behind the Scenes at Seventeen!“. You can read her blogs for TheLaLa.command for Spark Movement.

Nicholas Lowinger.

As a teenager he started donating his shoes and clothes to local shelters. When he had to come up with a service project for his Bar Mitvah, he decided to start a nonprofit organization to donate footwear to homeless children, Gotta Have Sole. The foundation has over 13,000 volunteers nationwide and has donated almost 110,000 shoes to every state in the country. 

Malala Yousafzai. 

All she wanted was to attend school where her father taught- one of the few in Pakistan that allowed girls. But it defied authority and she was shot by a Taliban gunman. She survived to not only speak out for women’s rights to be educated but won a Nobel Peace Prize at 17 for her efforts. July 12th is Malala day in commemoration of when she spoke at the UN and presented education as an international human right. She continues her efforts through The Malala Fund.

Jaylen Arnold.

He was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, as well as obsessive compulsive and Asperger’s syndromes as a child. When he moved to a public school, he was bullied for being different. Eventually it created so much physical and emotional anguish he returned to the private school that had cared and protected him. Not wanting others to suffer the same horrors, at the tender age of 8, he created Jaylen’s Challenge Foundation, a nonprofit that educates children across the country on how to stop bullying. 

Orion Jean. 

After winning a National Kindness Speech contest age the age of 12, Orion took the $500 prize money and created the Race to Kindness Foundation in 2020 as a way to put his money where his words had been. He made it his mission to make the world a kinder place. His first project was a toy drive to benefit the hospital in his neighborhood. The next year it held a Race to 100K meals that provided over 100,000 free meals to families across the US. Another was a Race to 500K Books Event that hosts free book fairs and donation drives that give kids free books to take home.

Abigail Lupi.

At 10 years of age she saw the devastating loneliness many of our older nursing home residents face when she visited her grandmother. That’s why she founded the CareGirlz  organization. It matched young volunteers in New Jersey with patients who otherwise would have been alone. 

Marley Dias.

It’s hard to read a child’s book when all you see looking back at you are white, blue eyed, blond faces. So frustrated she launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks Twitter campaign at 11 years of age to collect and donate books to help Black girls feel seen. After more than 9,000 books were donated, she spoke at the United State of Women Summit alongside Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.

It doesn’t require money, a PhD or a wide following. It just takes compassion, time, energy and a desire to help when we see an injustice, concern or issue that needs our attention. 







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