Education and entertainment. Science and sports. Fashion and fundraising. These are just a few of the fields in which young people are changing the world. TIME wrote about 30 influential young people. Here, TFK introduces 10 of them.
Muzoon Almellehan, 19
AN ADVOCATE FOR EDUCATION
Millions of children live in refugee camps. For them, the future may not be so bright. That is because only half are enrolled in elementary or middle school. Less than a quarter go to high school. This limits their chances to succeed in life. “They don’t have many options,” says Almellehan. She experienced these conditions firsthand after she fled Syria for Jordan in 2013. (Her family has since resettled in England.) Now she’s fighting to change that. In June, Almellehan became UNICEF’s youngest-ever goodwill ambassador . As part of her duties, she travels the world to tell others about the importance of education, especially in places where children have been forced out of school. Ultimately, though, Almellehan plans to return to Syria. “Our country needs a strong generation,” she says.
Auli’i Cravalho, 17
A VOICE OF HER GENERATION
Even if you don’t immediately recognize her face, chances are you’ve heard Auli’i sing.
The Hawaii native voiced the hero in Disney’s hit movie Moana. Now Auli’i is taking on a new role. She’ll star on NBC’s Rise, which premieres in March. It’s a drama about a high school theater department that lifts the spirits of a struggling steel town in Pennsylvania. The show is based on a true story. Auli’i says it has reinforced her belief that young people can effect real change.
Auli’i knows this from experience. On Rise, she plays a character who, like her, is of Polynesian and Puerto Rican descent. That heritage isn’t often portrayed onscreen. Auli’i is grateful that she gets to “share my culture with the world.” She’s also determined to help open people’s eyes to different experiences. “I’m proud to be involved in projects that reflect the modern melting pot that is America.”
Moziah Bridges, 16
BUDDING FASHION MOGUL
At age 9, Moziah launched his own handmade bow-tie business from his grandmother’s kitchen table. Now Mo’s Bows is worth about $1.5 million. That is thanks, in part, to his 2015 appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank. More recently, Moziah signed a licensing deal with the NBA that lets him sell bow ties featuring team logos. But the Memphis, Tennessee, native has even grander ambitions . He plans to expand globally. He’s also added regular neckties to his inventory. And he’s done all of this while working toward graduating from high school and getting his driver’s license. “My all-time goal is to be a fashion mogul and a good person overall,” says Moziah. He credits his success to his natural sense of style. (He says he used to “go to the playground in a suit and tie.”) At home, though, his mom is still the boss. Moziah wanted a Range Rover for his birthday. But she has made it clear that he’s “going to get the 2007 Jetta [that’s] in the garage.”
Christian Pulisic, 19
A SOCCER STAR
This Pennsylvania soccer prodigy plays for the U.S. national team and in the German professional league. Now he is about to become America’s first top-flight international star. Why? Pulisic has broken multiple goal-scoring records. He was also a rare bright spot in the recent U.S. attempt to qualify for the World Cup.
Mikaila Ulmer, 13
THE BEES’ KEEPER
Mikaila used to hate bees. “I absolutely despised anything that buzzed,” she says. It didn’t help that she was stung, twice. But shortly after that happened, Mikaila, who is from Texas, developed a fascination with them. That’s when she learned that honeybees are critical to the ecosystem and are also going extinct. Mikaila decided to help. She would do it with lemonade. Using her great-grandmother’s recipe, Mikaila made a blend, sweetened with local honey. She sold it at community business fairs, donating 10% of her profits to honeybee-advocate groups. Now her Me & the Bees Lemonade is stocked at more than 300 Whole Foods stores as well as at Wegmans and other grocery stores. Mikaila also runs a nonprofit group called the Healthy Hive Foundation. Its goal is to raise awareness about the plight of the honeybee. And Mikaila plans to expand her company. She says, “I just hired my dad.”
Shawn Mendes, 19
A POP-MUSIC PHENOMENON
Mendes may have risen to fame on social media. But he has since become one of pop music’s biggest stars. In the past three years, Mendes has released two blockbuster albums and several hit singles, including “Stitches” and “Mercy.” The Canadian singer has no plans to slow down. “I’m just honing and getting better at my craft,” he says of writing songs for his third album. “So I hope what comes out will be the best album yet by a landslide.” In the meantime, he remains focused on entertaining his many young fans. He hopes to encourage them to pursue their passions. “I always want people to feel like they can do anything,” he says.
Sydney McLaughlin, 18
AN OUTSTANDING ATHLETE
The Olympic hurdler and sprinter from New Jersey was the youngest American on the track-and-field team at the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, in 2016. Now a college student at the University of Kentucky, she’s poised to make big moves in the 2020 Games.
Krtin Nithiyanandam, 17
AN AMBITIOUS SCIENTIST
The young research scientist has made headlines for his work improving early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The disease causes memory loss. Krtin is also trying to cure hard-to-treat forms of cancer. He nabbed prizes at the Google Science Fair. In the United Kingdom, he won honors at the Young Scientists and Engineers Competition.
Salvador Gomez Colon, 15
PUERTO RICO'S SAVVY FUNDRAISER
Everything went dark when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, including Salvador’s neighborhood. It is one of many that could be without power for at least a year. At first, Salvador says, he felt scared and overwhelmed. “Then I asked myself, ‘How could I give people hope?’” he says. The answer: Light and Hope for Puerto Rico. It’s a fundraising campaign he started to raise money for solar lamps, hand-operated washing machines, and other supplies for his neighbors in need. In four days, he raised $36,000. As of December 15, the total stood at nearly $100,000. But Salvador knows it’s only a start. He wants the world to remember Puerto Rico still needs help. “One day should not go by that we don’t remind ourselves of how we can make other people’s lives better,” he says.
Rayouf Alhumedhi, 16
A VOICE FOR CHANGE
The Muslim teenager led the charge to bring a “woman with head scarf” emoji to Apple smartphone keyboards everywhere. Her goal is to make sure there is better representation of girls and women like her. “It’s something important to my identity,” she says. The emoji will soon be available as a standard character on all smartphone keyboards.
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