9 Teens Changing The World In 2015
Millennials are constantly battling the perception that we're lazy. Clearly, those folks haven’t met Hunter Gandee, who carried his brother 57 miles to raise awareness for cerebral palsy, or the Michigan students at Marshall High, who protested transgender bias at their school. (That’s, like, the exact opposite of lazy, haters.)
Of the many incredible teens doing their part to change the world, we picked nine that really stand out. Let's take a look at these young stars changing the game right now, this minute, as we speak:
1. The Teen Who Went From TSA Watch List To Obama Dinner Guest
As a child, Ziad Ahmed, a Muslim Bangladeshi-American, was placed on the TSA watch list for merely sharing the same name as someone who was actually on it. Now, the 16-year-old serves as the founder of Redefy, an organization committed to fighting bias and stereotypes.
"I started Redefy to initiate a positive change in the world and to fight the ignorance which I have been victim to," he told MTV News in March, "And more importantly, to fight the ignorance which people will fall victim to who may not have the opportunity to properly defend themselves or understand that there are people who accept them and love them for exactly who they are."
His great work isn't going unnoticed: Last month, he attended the Iftar Dinner at The White House and chatted with President Obama. "[The President and I] talked about … counterterrorism and Palestine and Israel. And we talked about education; girls’ education," Ziad told us. "It was just the most enlightening and intellectual and informative conversation I could ever be part of. It reminded me of what I’d said before: Teens don’t realize we need to be in this conversation, injustice is our fight too."
2. The Brave Teen Who Fought Police Brutality And Racism With His Camera Phone
Fifteen-year-old Brandon Brooks bravely captured a video in McKinney, Texas where an armed police officer aggressively handled a group of teens near a pool party. His video, which has been seen over 12 million times, made national news, particularly because Officer Eric Casebolt forced Brooks' friend, 15-year-old Dajerria Becton, to the ground.
Since the video was posted, Officer Casebolt has resigned, and there has been a more intense dialogue about racism and police brutality in America.
3. The Teen Who Wrote An Anthem For Introverts
In less than a year, 18-year-old Alessia Cara, a Canadian singer-songwriter has established herself as one of the most unique new voices in pop music. With a command of language and wisdom beyond her years, Alessia articulates the teenage experience in her music in a way that's raw, relatable and real. Her hit single, "Here," is an anthem for everyone who's ever felt out of place at a party, or social setting. Here's Alessia
performing slaying "Here" and "Scars" at the TEDxTeen conference in New York City this past May:
And here's her cover of "Bad Blood," which Taylor Swift totally stanned over.
4. The Teens Of The Marshall High School Gay-Straight Alliance
In April 2015, the GSA at Marshall High School in Michigan created a bulletin for International Transgender Day Of Visibility. When the GSA found out its educational display was removed by a school staffer, the kids decided to peacefully -- and positively -- fight back.
Kate Samra, the president of the Marshall GSA, told MTV News about how the group decided to paint the school rock the colors of the transgender flag.
"Some friends of mine, Emily Winkler and Garret Sander, had this idea of painting the school rock,” she said. "The school rock is kind of a tradition -- usually for football games or sports events -- but it’s kind of a platform to get messages across. We thought we would all get together to paint the rock for International Transgender Day of Visibility."
A few days later, Marshall Public Schools superintendent Dr. Randy Davis issued a statement, in which he said that he “deeply regret how poorly these events were handled" and that "[the] students in the Gay-Straight Alliance did nothing wrong."
Lesson learned: All you need is love. And sometimes a rock. And maybe some paint.
5. The Teens Who Made A Groundbreaking Invention
Musaz Nawaz, Daanyaal Ali and Chirag Shah, three students from London’s Isaac Newton Academy, won this year's TeenTech Awards in the health category for their groundbreaking invention -- a condom that changes colors if it detects an STD.
"The main reason we wanted to do this was to help people because we got some [U.K.] statistics," Musaz told MTV News, "[There were] 450,000 diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections in 2013 alone, and 139,000 of [the diagnoses] were detected between people age 15 to 24."
6. The Teen Who Created His Own School Of Rock, Er, Bach
Sixteen-year-old Washington native David Zhao wanted to make sure others were exposed and got the chance to love music as much as he does. So he founded Instruments For Change, a not-for-profit organization that, according to their Facebook page, the group "promot[es] classical music to the greater public and giving back to the musical community (especially other youth) by means of providing concerts to the greater public."
According to The Seattle Times, "Zhao said it’s important that kids have access to music education and the benefits that come with it, including an improvement in reasoning skills."
7. The Teen Whose Lives Up To The Phrase 'Brotherly Love'
In June, 15-year-old Hunter Gandee made national headlines for carrying his brother, who suffers from cerebral palsy, for 57 miles. He called the initiative, which spanned the course of three days, "The Cerebral Palsy Swagger."
Hunter used the walk as a way to educate people on the disease, which effects muscle movement. "I’ve seen what my brother has to do and struggle with in everyday life," he told Fox 8 News, "Walking is his biggest struggle, and we wanted to show people that."
"I think it’s up to my generation to change things and make the world more accessible," he added.
8. The Teen Who Shreds On And Offstage
Fifteen-year-old guitar goddess Tina S is shredding solos on her Vigier guitar and also sexist stereotypes about being a female rocker. She's become an Internet sensation (for good reason) -- her "Eruption" cover alone has over 12 million views at press time.
"Where some people have highlighted that I am a girl and [question] my real skills and the strength in my hands. ... But I do not really care," she told MTV News. "These old prejudices will eventually disappear if we keep persevering and never surrendering. To be a woman is by no means a weakness nor a shame but a strength."
Slay, girl. Slay.
9. The Teenage 'Dream'
A 17-year-old student at El Camino High School in San Francisco, Patricia Manubay was honored this year by the Jefferson Awards Foundation for her public service project, "Dream Boxes."
"The purpose of Dream Boxes is not only to get children and students the supplies and resources that they need to be successful in school," Patricia told MTV News, "but also [to give them] the empowerment and support they need to make their dreams happen."