Fifteen-year-old Jessica created her own non-profit, now called IMPUHWE, which gives Rwandan children, especially girls, the opportunity to go to school. Visiting Rwanda regularly, Jessica sees life in a third-world country first-hand. Honored for her extensive charitable work, Jessica was recently featured on the cover of Parade Magazine, going to a ceremony at the White House (with Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, in attendance) as a part of the All-American Service League.
How do you create a popular product? It’s a question companies have been asking for centuries. In entrepreneur Jason O’Neill’s case, it started with a craft fair and some styrafoam. The then nine-year-old Jason wanted to make something he could sell at a craft fair, and came up with “Pencil Bugs.” Originally just for fun, his idea of selling colorful pencil toppers has turned into a full-fledged business. Now fourteen, Jason has written a book about business and life, called Bitten By the Business Bug: Common Sense Tips for Business and Life from a Teen Entrepreneur.
After losing their friend Sydney to a rare form of cancer at the age of 11, Maddy Berkman, Sierra Alef, and Kelsey Josund founded “The Pink Polka Dots Guild” to raise money for pediatric brain tumor research at Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Over the past four years, they’ve raised over $250,000 for the cause.
Though Jordan Romero burst into the national spotlight only recently–after becoming the youngest person ever to climb Mt. Everest–he is, at fourteen, a veritable veteran of mountaineering. Climbing mountains since elementary school as part of his “7 Summits” project–the goal of climbing the tallest summit of each continent. At an age where many of his peers might be playing video games or watching TV for fun, a ten-year-old Jordan climbed Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro and Australia’s Mt. Kosciuszko. His impressive list of mountains climbed–Kilimanjaro, Kosciuszko, Elbrus, Aconcagua, McKinley/Denali, Carstenz, and now, Everest–only goes to show that practice truly does make perfect.
An accomplished writer and poet, twelve-year-old Maya Ganesan already has a published book (Apologies to an Apple) under her belt. Active in reading and writing long before she released her poetry collection, Maya was reading chapter books at two years old, writing poems at four, and participating in the the Redmond Spokenword competition at age eight. Today, Maya continues her writing on the blog Allegro.
After watching Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, twelve-year-old Alec Loorz founded Kids vs. Global Warming, an organization dedicated to encouraging other kids to speak up about climate change. In October of 2008, Al Gore formally invited him to be trained with The Climate Project. Now in high school, Alec continues to create presentations especially for youth; he has given over one hundred and fifty speeches, presentations, and keynote addresses. He serves on advisory boards for Inconvenient Youth, Alliance for Climate Education, the United Steelworkers Union, and many other organizations.
In contrast to those who consider themselves “right-brained” or “left-brained,” “better at math” or “better at languages,” Priya Ganesan is well-rounded in every sense of the word. The varsity tennis team member and nine-year piano player is not only skilled in mathematics (she’s received awards at statewide and regional math competitions), but is also a prolific blogger and writer whose insightful book reviews, commentary, and poetry on the widely read blog, “Book Crumbs,” both entertain and inform her readers.
Eleven years old and willing to help was how Olivia Bouler described herself to the Audubon Society when she contacted them about the tragedy in the Gulf. The aspiring ornithologist, artist, and saxophone player wept–like many of us–when she heard about the oil spill in the news. But uniquely, Olivia was moved to help. Knowing birds were going to suffer, she had to take action. Inspired by her hero, James Audubon, Olivia wrote to the Audubon Society about her fundraising idea–using her talent as an artist to give bird drawings to those who donated to wildlife recovery efforts. To date, she has drawn at least 100 different species of birds, in 400 original drawings. Olivia was recently featured as an AOL Artist, and the company donated $25,000 to the Audubon Society in her name.
When most people think “film critic,” they probably think of Roger Ebert and star ratings, Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic. Movie reviewer Perry Chen is giving them something new to think about. With a creative “starfish” rating system and insights on movies’ believability and moral, this ten-year-old entertainment personality is attracting a wide following on his website, radio show, and frequent newspaper columns. Currently, Perry is animating an educational short film about a young Jewish girl’s survival during the Holocaust, “Beyond the Forest,” in partnership with Oscar-nominee Bill Plympton.
Something too many students go through, where yet few speak up, bullying is an issue which continues to challenge. In eighth grade, Brigitte Berman decided to do something. After writing Dorie Witt’s Guide to Surviving Bullies, she spent a year touring to speak about bullying. Though Brigitte has been featured in media nationally and internationally (CNN Headline News, Good Morning America, ABC Radio Australia, and Voice of America, to name a few), Brigitte’s campaign against bullying extends beyond TV screens; she testified at the Massachusetts State House in support of bullying legislation. In 2009, Brigitte designed the shuttle mission patch for NASA’s External Reentry MAC STS-125. In 2010, Brigitte imaged the re-entry of the Japanese space probe, Hayabusa, in a NASA airborne observation. In doing so, Brigitte became the youngest person ever to participate in a NASA Mission.
While most other teens his age are just getting their learner’s permits, fifteen-year-old Andretti Autosport racecar driver Zach Veach is (no pun intended) a little ahead of the curve. With work that extends beyond the racetrack, Zach campaigns to prevent phone use while driving–he’s teamed up with Oprah Winfrey’s No Phone Zone; appeared in PSAs for advocacy group FocusDriven; and developed a smartphone application, urTXT, to help consumers avoid texting while driving. Zach will be publishing a book, 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Turning 16, part of the 99 Series. And, surprisingly, as one might think that racing at high speeds is “driver’s education” enough, Zach Veach is taking driver’s education classes…just like any other fifteen-year-old.
School fundraising…helping to select a new principal…winning awards…these would be impressive accomplishments standing alone, but at age ten, Encinita Elementary fifth grader Madison Razo has done it all. Much of it is due to a love for writing–Madison has won several essay contests, including a recent award (sponsored by Panda Express) for her essay written on the Seven Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey. Madison’s passion and enthusiasm for learning landed her in the Gifted and Talented Education program (G.A.T.E). She was the first student in the Rosemead Unified School District to be invited to help interview and select the new principal for Encinita Elementary school. Madison has starred in numerous productions throughout her elementary school years, and is active in all fundraising events to increase school funding.
Cayle considers himself an old soul in a modern world. Identified as a highly capable student at the age of 8, in a rural school district with few opportunities to pursue his interests, learning more about his Native American heritage, language, and history became his passion. He works with the Colville Tribal Language Program to interpret existing books, like Dick & Jane, into the native language for the youth. Cayle has taken on important topics, ranging from the importance of Salmon to the native people (for the Natural Resource Conservation District) to reclamations programs for tribal artifacts–with the Coville Tribal History and Archeology program, he identifies these artifacts, logging and documenting history for future generations. He introduced to the Colville Business Council the idea of providing a memorial hall as a place of solitude to honor fallen veterans.