Sometimes the world can seem like a pretty dire place, especially when you think about what might be waiting for the next generation. If you’ve ever been tempted to give up, though, remember that children and teens aren’t just inheriting what we leave them: many of them are playing an active role in shaping the world around them with inspiring activism. They’re protesting education cuts, getting involved in climate change activism, fighting to protect animals and so much more. Today, we’re taking a look at some teen activists who are giving us hope for the future.
This group of high school students didn’t want a trash incinerator built almost on top of their campus in Baltimore, so they started fighting back. They organized a campaign that included sending representatives to official meetings, targeting the governor and raising public awareness about the incinerator issue.
This internationally-famous teen is fighting for the rights of women and girls at home in Pakistan and abroad. She risked her life to advocate for the right to go to school, and she hasn’t stopped advocating for the right to independence, self-determination and autonomy even after being shot by Taliban gunmen.
Maryam is another internationally-known teen. She’s turned to social media, particularly Twitter, to fight for human rights in her native Bahrain, at personal risk to herself. Like Malala, she’s especially concerned with the rights of women and girls, and has dedicated extensive advocacy work to creating a free, fair and just world.
He’s not a teenager, but he goes on this list anyway, because this 9-year-old played a key role in preventing the closure of a Chicago elementary school. Working with other teens and kids, he lobbied to save Marcus Garvey Elementary School, and has been part of the larger movement to resist school closures in the troubled city.
In the midst of controversial education reform, the Portland School Board found itself faced by a formidable enemy: the students it was trying to deprive of a sound education. These teen activists were so-well organized in support of their schools and teachers that they brought school board meetings to a grinding halt as the adults struggled to deal with their demands.
6. Paige Rawl
Living with HIV can be tough, especially for teens and young adults. Paige was teased, profiled and mocked for her HIV+ status in school, and now she’s using it for good as she tours the country doing outreach to fight stigma and promote education about what it’s really like to live with this chronic condition.
These teens weren’t happy with immigration reform, so they took their beef to House Speaker John Boehner while he thought he was incognito in a diner. The sneak attack obviously rattled the speaker, even if he didn’t support comprehensive immigration reform in the end.
Displeased by Abercrombie & Fitch’s limited range of body types and sizes in its advertising, compounded by offensive comments from the company’s CEO, Linstrom started a protest that went national — and ended in a meeting with A&F officers. They pledged to improve their depiction of young women and girls, and to be more sensitive about eating disorders in the future.
Summer jobs aren’t just a great way to get experience, earn some pocket money and explore possible careers. For some teens, they’re a lifeline — which is why teens took to the streets in Boston to demand access to summer jobs.
10. Rene Silva
With the World Cup coming up, all eyes are on Rio, but Silva has been informing the world about life in the city’s favelas for years. He’s fighting stigma, but also live-tweeting police raids, publishing stories on the people of the favela, and challenging social attitudes in Brazil and abroad.
These teens are using technology, their voices and so much more to make a difference in the world. Whether they’re flooding school board meetings in Portland, tweeting from impoverished neighborhoods in Brazil, or touring the world to advocate for women and girls, they’re a reminder that the kids are going to be all right.
Photo credit: martinak15.