July 14, 2024

Who says teens are self-absorbed? These six activists, all under 20 years old, already are making a tremendous positive impact on the world. Keep an eye on them as they continue to inspire and lead.
Mychal-Bella Bowman is an actress, model and philanthropist.
Actually, Mychal-Bella Bowman is not quite even a teenager. Yet already the 12-year-old has earned acclaim for her role as Grace in the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning limited series The Underground Railroad, which was based on the novel by Colson Whitehead. The actress started modeling at age two and quickly became the face for major brand billboards including Nike, Gap, American Girl, and Barbie/Mattel. She has since appeared in numerous commercials for McDonald’s, Hertz, Disney, Target, and others. Currently, she appears in several shows and movies. But all this success has not dimmed her dedication to her life purpose, which is giving back.
Bowman’s passion for philanthropy began at age 4, when she donated two big tubs of gently used toys to other kids. These days, she collaborates with nonprofit organizations to further their missions, from anti-bullying and mental health awareness to education and homelessness. Recently, she was honored as the National Black Arts Festival Celebrity Youth Chair for the third time and as a humanitarian with a performance at the ESPN ESPYS 50th Anniversary of the passing of Title IX ceremony.
“I feel as if I discovered my life purpose in acting. To be able to bring a character like Grace to life at age nine was magical!” Bowman says. “But my purpose is also to give hope to the hopeless. I want to be a world changer as an actress and philanthropist. If a little girl from North Carolina can convince her mother to close her business of 25 years and move to LA to pursue her dreams, so can you. Do what you love and love what you do. That is key.”
Armita Hosseini wrote a book and teaches courses on financial literary for youth.
Armita Hosseini, a frosh at Stanford University originally from Toronto, is an advocate for financial and economic education for youth, as well as an entrepreneur, writer, and public speaker. In 2020, at age 16, she published her first book, Roadmap to Financial Literacy: An Introduction to Personal Finance For Teenagers. She partnered with the nonprofit operationEconomics International to donate 300 copies of the book to underserved schools in San Marcos, California.
As the founder of EmpowerEcon, Hosseini has hosted three virtual three-day financial literacy camps and one entrepreneurship camp for over 300 teens from 36 countries across 5 continents. In late 2021, they published a book titled Economics From a Youth’s Perspective, and are working to make it available to schools across North America. Hosseini regularly speaks at workshops and on podcasts about topics such as financial literacy, leadership, and youth entrepreneurship.
“Many of society’s economic disparities can be addressed through increasing access to financial education,” Hosseini says. “At the same time, through my work, I want to inspire other youth to use their passions to make a difference in their communities.” She advises aspiring entrepreneurs to take the first step, stay focused on your mission, view setbacks as inevitable, and cherish the process.
Meera Ramakrishnan is the cofounder of Avaagat.
Meeraa Ramakrishnan, 17, is a high school student in India. In 2019, she founded the nonprofit Avaagat to help children and families who cannot afford access to clean water and hygiene solutions. For its positive impact on the UN sustainable development goals, the organization was recognized with The Diana Award at the United Nations 1M1B (One Million for One Billion) Activate Impact summit.
In three years, Avaagat has raised in excess of $11,000 to conduct educational programs for students, install water filters for over 2,100 people, provide Covid safety kits to 1,500 people, and expand their program into six other countries across the globe. Ramakrishnan, who already has published research articles in scientific journals, plans to pursue studies in biological sciences and business at university.
“Working with Avaagat and other passionate teens has helped me grow from a student to a learner,” says Ramakrishnan. “My ultimate goal in life is to create and encourage positive social change that is tangible and sustainable, and Avaagat gives me a platform to do just that. I hope other young changemakers collaborate and work together to make a lasting impact because community is all you need to make a small difference.”
Rania Zuri is the founder of The LiTEAraray Society.
Rania Zuri is a high school junior in West Virginia who founded The LiTEArary Society, an entirely youth-led charitable book club with the mission of promoting the love of books among emergent readers from disadvantaged families. In March 2022, Zuri helped her organization donate 7,000 brand new books to children across her state. She travelled to every county to personally deliver the books, meeting Head Start directors and children at each one.
This past spring, Zuri wrote an op-ed for Teen Vogue on her experience and gave a TEDx talk on how to end the book desert one book at a time, which has garnered over 20,000 views. Her work was featured on Good Morning America, NBC Today, NBC Nightly News and Fox News. The press enabled her to continue her work over the summer of 2022. Zuri donated more than 2,000 new books to migrant children in Head Start programs across several southern states, in rural India, and to an orphanage in Jerusalem.
In April 2022, Zuri met with U.S. Senator Shelley Capito in Washington, D.C. to discuss her impact on early childhood literacy. This led to Zuri coauthoring a Senate resolution for a special national day called the National One Book at a Time Day. The purpose of this day is to bring attention and awareness to the prevalence of book deserts, their effects on disadvantaged preschoolers, and how we collectively can help end this issue by donating just one book to a young child in need.
“We are looking to make this a national youth movement and bring more awareness to the vast book deserts that exist,” says Zuri. “Most of the Head Start children in rural West Virginia that I met do not even have one book at home.”
Vivian Nguyen is the founder of Dyenosaur Apparel and The Formula Project.
At age 14, Vivian Nguyen started a tie-dye clothing company called Dyenosaur Apparel to celebrate youth creativity, garner funding for community endeavors, and promote female entrepreneurship. The business was chosen to manufacture shirts for the National Agenda For Youth Initiative, with 50% of proceeds donated to the charity. Recently, Nguyen was recognized as a National Riley’s Way Foundation Call For Kindness Fellow and awarded a multi-thousand dollar grant to spread kindness and make change in her community.
But that achievement wasn’t enough for Nguyen. She also started The Formula Project, a mentorship program for low-income, minority 8th grade through high school girls designed to help them develop interpersonal and career skills. “The transition from high school to the real world can be challenging due to a multitude of issues as girls struggle with mental health, the constant need to be accepted by their peers, and the growing pressures of society in male-dominated STEM fields,” says Nguyen. “The Formula Project cultivates a diverse and friendly environment for middle school students to grow alongside their high school and college mentors.”
Thanks to her work with both organizations, Nguyen had the opportunity to be the youngest panelist at GenZ Girl Con, an international conference promoting women’s empowerment, and also has appeared on television. “My mission is to uplift minority female youth,” she says. “As a first-generation Vietnamese-American woman, I have witnessed a stark disparity in the representation of female people of color in the authority figures around me. Thus, I stepped up to fill that void. I speak for the silenced. I speak for the underprivileged.”
To aspiring activists and founders, Nguyen says, “Don’t underestimate yourself. You are bound to come across many challenges. Do not back down when you are trivialized purely because of your age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. As a member of Gen Z, you hold the capabilities to pioneer tomorrow’s destiny. Unleash the strength of your inner changemaker! Trust me, you are a force to be reckoned with!”
Frane Marusic is the founder of Go-Getters.
Frane Marusic is a high school student from Croatia who recently finished a year abroad in the U.S. on an ASSIST Scholarship. His nonprofit Go-Getters recruits “ambassadors,” young people who assist teen entrepreneurs within their communities to become leaders and achieve success. So far, the organization has impacted 26 teenagers in 14 different countries, helping them to crowdfund an educational program in India, build a bracelet business in Sweden, and so on.
“I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit within me,” says Marusic. “At 10, I would dive for seashells off the coast of Croatia and then sell them in front of my house. Last summer I started developing an app to track bus movements in my community since they often are late. My project is currently one of the top 10 finalists for the Social Impact Awards in Croatia.”
While studying at an elite private US high school on a full ASSIST scholarship last year, Marusic saw the many opportunities available to students there, especially in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation. He wanted to bring these opportunities to his community and other parts of the world, and so he created Go-Getters.
To aspiring changemakers, Marusic says, “You have a unique purpose in this life. Believe in your abilities and embrace the worthiness of all you have to offer. Advocate for yourself — your voice matters. In today’s world, we have so much power to make a change not only in our communities, but beyond.”


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