If your faith in leadership is at an all time low, you might be heartened to learn about some of the youngest among us who are stepping up and taking action. These young leaders had a dream and let nothing stand in their way to make a positive impact. Their inspiring stories remind us that lack of experience, age, and money are not permanent barriers, but temporary challenges.
Purpose-Driven Enterprise: Braigo Labs, Inc.
Positive Impact: Banerjee turned his 7th grade science fair project into a business that offers low-cost Braille printers to help the visually impaired. The latest model uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to automatically print text from a website and translate it into Braille.
2. Haile Thomas
Purpose-Driven Enterprise: The HAPPY (Healthy, Active, Positive, Purposeful Youth) Organization
Positive Impact: HAPPY works to improve the health and wellness of underserved children by implementing programs that teach the importance of nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
Purpose-Driven Enterprise: Mo’s Bows Memphis
Positive Impact: Mo’s handcrafted bow tie business started at the age of 9 at his grandmother’s kitchen table in South Memphis that has become an internationally recognized brand. Its foundation provides youth leadership skills through entrepreneurship.
4 and 5. Katherine and Isabelle Adams
Ages: 11 and 14
Purpose-Driven Enterprise: Paper for Water
Positive Impact: In 2011, sisters Katherine and Isabelle Adams learned that millions of people don’t have access to clean drinking water, and that girls their age have to haul water instead of going to school. They decided to raise $500 selling handmade origami ornaments and use that money to help fund a well in Ethiopia. Today, Paper For Water has raised more than $1 million for 150 water projects in 14 countries.
6. Mari Copeny
Purpose-Driven Enterprise: Dear Flint Kids Project
Positive Impact: Copeny is an advocate for her hometown of Flint, Michigan, which has been fighting a life-threatening water crisis since 2014. When she was 8 years old, she wrote a powerful letter to President Obama on behalf of Flint and its children. Obama replied to Copeny, visited Flint, and eventually signed off on $100 million in funding to help repair the city’s poisoned water system. Copeny has since founded the Dear Flint Kids Project and raised more than $10,000 for students in her community.
Purpose-Driven Enterprise: Not Before Tea
Positive Impact: Not Before Tea is a British children’s lifestyle brand, based on the Adventures of Sherb and Pip, a story written by Patterson when he was 10 years old. The book sold thousands of copies when it was first published in 2014. Not Before Tea, launched in the same year, is the fastest growing children’s lifestyle brand in the UK. The environmentally-friendly collection uses organic fabrics, FCS accredited paper from sustainable sources, and avoids plastics where possible.
Purpose-Driven Enterprise: Project I Am
Positive Impact: Project I Am was founded by Jakhil Jackson at the age of 8 after helping his aunt distribute goods to the homeless population in Chicago. Since then, volunteers have distributed approximately 15,000 “Blessing Bags” filled with wipes, socks, deodorant, hand sanitizer, granola bars, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bottled water, and more, in cities throughout the U.S. and around the world.
Purpose-Driven Enterprise: Paloma’s Dream
Positive Impact: Rambana was born visually impaired and underwent two surgeries to create pupils when she was less than a year old. But when she entered the first grade in Tallahassee, Florida, she realized that not everyone with sight issues had her advantages. After talking to her parents about her concerns, she learned about a gap in Florida state funding for kids her age. She lobbied the state government and launched Paloma’s Dream which helped secure $1.25 million for programs to cover the gap. Today, she’s advocating for more state money and has asked Congress to set aside at least $1 billion for special education programs for visually impaired, deaf, and blind children across the country.
10. Liam Hannon
Purpose-Driven Enterprise: Liam’s Lunches of Love
Positive Impact: Liam makes and distributes homemade lunches with the help of family and friends to his homeless neighbors in Cambridge, Massachusetts. What started as a way to stay busy during summer break when he was 10 has turned into Liam’s Lunches of Love through which over 2,000 hand packed lunches have been distributed in brown paper bags decorated with inspiring messages.
We can complain about the state of leadership today, or, like the young people featured here, do something about making the world a better place. In Liam’s words during his interview as a CNN Young Wonder, “Start small, get help from friends, and do something that you love.”
Question: If these kids can trade a few play dates and video games to make a positive impact, where can some of your free time be spent to make a positive impact on others?
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