Kids who changed the world! Extraordinary young people—past & present.

girl sitting at computer desk using wacom tablet

Kids may feel that they’re too young to make a difference, but these inspiring stories of today's youth prove otherwise—A true testament to the fact that it’s possible for anyone to create real change.

From a range of causes and decades; with technology and without, each example here achieved extraordinary things.

Why point them out? Because it’s only natural for kids to wonder—how do I become extraordinary? How can one person, especially a young person, start a movement?

The truth is, one step at a time.

The key in each case lies in finding a cause one is passionate about. These kids come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have faced different obstacles in achieving their goals, but they each have a core cause driving the real ways they made a positive impact, often on a global scale. 

And that’s something every kid has, right? Something they’re passionate about? Of course, sometimes it takes the right mentor to help find that passion, backed by intentional goal-setting to see it through... 

14 Kids and Teens Who Changed the World

So, you never know what a little inspiration can help get started. Share this list (that is numbered in no particular order) with your student, or perhaps have a look to see if a particular person would be of interest to them. 

1. Greta Thunberg

Time's 2019 Person of the Year, Greta Thunberg has become a household name thanks to her environmental activism. She started a movement to fight climate change with a protest that inspired millions of students, and since then has gone on to speak at the UN and converse with world leaders. 

2. Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin is an unsung heroine of the Civil Rights movement who protested bus segregation before Rosa Parks did. At just 15, she refused to give up her seat on the bus and was one of many activists who fought for racial equality. 

3. Joshua Williams

As a child, Joshua was determined to help people living in poverty. He founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to “Stomp Out World Hunger” and “Break the Cycle of Poverty.” To date, Joshua’s organization has donated 2.2 million pounds of food and helped thousands of families in need. 

4. Gitanjali Rao

This amazing teen is the first ever Time Kid of the Year. She’s taken on issues like the opioid crisis, cyberbullying, and access to clean drinking water. What’s more, she has excellent advice for young people looking to make a difference: focus on an issue that they find compelling and, “If I can do it, anybody can do it.” 

5. Avi Schiffman 

Former iD camper and successful website developer Avi Schiffman created a widely praised COVID-19 tracking website at the outset of the pandemic last year. Since then, he’s added a vaccine tracker and helped thousands of individuals get up-to-the-minute data and vital information.

6. Robby Novak

Robby is better known as Kid President from his popular YouTube channel, and his motivational videos have reached millions of people. Kids especially love the content he produces, and he is undoubtedly a star among many kids and teens who build an audience through YouTube.

7. Malala Yousafzai 

She’s become a worldwide legend and Nobel Peace Prize winner, and it’s important to remember that her courageous activism for education and women’s rights began when she was very young. Her memoir makes for powerful reading for kids and teens, and to this day she is continuing her advocacy for the 130 million girls not currently in school around the world. 

8. Jazz Jennings

Jazz is an author, LGBTQ activist, and trailblazer. She was among the first - and youngest- people to speak vocally about her experience as a trans individual. Named as one of 2014’s most influential people, Jazz bravely told the world her story, and she continues to advocate for LGBTQ rights and embolden others.

9. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

As a teenager, Xiuhtezcatl gave numerous TED Talks, served as youth director of the environmental nonprofit Earth Guardians, and even spoke at the UN. He has rallied thousands of youth to fight for sustainability, the rights of indigenous communities, and raise global awareness about conservation and climate change. 

10. Louis Braille

Braille as we know it today was devised by this brilliant teenager. Louis Braille was just 16 when he devised the system that would empower the blind for centuries to come. 

11. Emma Gonzalez 

As a survivor of the tragic Parkland school shooting, Emma Gonzalez is outspoken about gun control and is known for helping organize the 2018 “March for Our Lives” protest. Her advocacy helped ensure the passing of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act in Florida, which took significant steps towards improving gun control in the state. 

12. Param Jaggi

As an inventor and environmental activist, Param is out to tell kids and teens that yes, they can make a real difference through tech. His TED Talk about the game-changing technology he created has gained hundreds of thousands of views, and hopefully has helped inspire others. He holds multiple patents, including EcoTube, a device that reduces carbon emissions, and is CEO of the tech company he founded, Hatch Apps.

13. Marley Dias

Committed to increasing the representation of Black girls and women in literature, Marley Dias started the #1000BlackGirlBooks movement. The movement has gathered over 12,000 books and has been honored by the White House. Marley’s work highlights the power and importance of stories and is making great strides in literary equity. 

14. Easton LaChappelle

Easton LaChappelle harnessed the incredible power of 3D printing to create cutting-edge prosthetic technology. While today he is CEO of a multi-million dollar tech company, he got his start tinkering with a 3D printer as a teenager. He was moved to act when he learned how expensive prosthetic limbs can be, and has made a huge impact in improving access to this essential technology. 

This list is ready for new names

We live in a changing world that’s more connected than ever. Especially with technology and social media, it’s more possible than ever for your student to make a difference in an area they’re passionate about. 

Who knows? 

Your child could follow in the footsteps of these young people or use their experience as inspiration to do something completely new. 

A photo of Virginia

Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains. 

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