Sofia Ongele develops tools to bring digital civic engagement to the forefront, tackling issues from the climate crisis to inclusive education.

Why you should listen

Sofia Ongele is a developer, student, creator and activist. Both independently and as director of digital strategy at Gen-Z for Change — a youth-led nonprofit that leverages the power of social media to drive progressive change — she develops tools to advance digital civic engagement and leverages her social media following of over 300,000 to share these tools with her generation. Her most notable example is CRTmail, a tool developed to push back against Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's tip line against critical race theory. Used more than 500,000 times across all 50 states and 110 countries, CRTmail inundated the tip line with song lyrics and lines from Bee Movie. This website, as well as the many others Ongele has coded, show the capacity for Gen-Z to organize digitally, breaking free of the obsolete barriers of geographic separation.

A soon-to-be graduate of Columbia University in New York City, Ongele has spent her academic career teaching more than 100 of her peers how to code; speaking to students in virtual and in-person classrooms about the importance of using their skills to create change; and sharing her ideas with larger audiences at conferences such as Aspen Ideas Festival and SXSW. Her work has been featured in the Disney+ docuseries Growing Up; lauded in publications such as Teen Vogue, CNN and Bloomberg; embedded in computer science curricula taught in classrooms nationwide; and has earned her accolades such as the California Endowment Voices for Change Award and being named a CES Young Innovator to Watch.

Sofia Ongele’s TED talk