The New Generation of Teenagers
The teens of today have a bad reputation, but there are no doubt a lot of misconceptions about this generation. Misconceptions like, teens these days are obsessed with technology, that all they do is sit on their phones all day on social media, that they are lazy, entitled, and don’t pay attention to politics or anything that goes on the world; they are more interested in celebrities and selfies. While some of those things might be true, this generation of teens has some qualities that the last generation should be jealous of. For example, they are part of a generation that is drastically more forward thinking in terms of equality of sexes and of sexual orientations. Because of their talent with technology, they can work smarter, not harder, and multi-task. They have access to more information from all over the world, and that means that they can achieve big things. Here are some of the most successful teens around the world that are about this generation.
On the surface Jazz Jennings seems like your average teenage girl; except she was born a boy and is now a trans-woman at the age of 14, although she began to identify as a girl form the age of five. Now, Jazz is a spokesperson for transgender youth and an LGBTQ activist that has appeared on several national television interviews. With the support of her family and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Jazz even battled the United States Soccer Federation on changing their policies to allow trans youth to play on boys and girls teams, and won. In 2013, she wrote a children’s book titled I Am Jazz, and is the founder of a charity called “Purple Rainbow Tails” to help transgender youth, which sells silicone rainbow mermaid tails created by Jazz herself. She is also the co-founder of the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, which also aims to raise awareness and support trans youth. On top of all of that, Jazz has modeled, has a show about her life beginning this year on TLC, and Time Magazine named her as one of the 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014. At such a young age and with so much support, Jazz has been able to raise so much awareness around the issues faced by transgender youth and will no doubt continue to make positive changes in our world.
Erik has said “you’re never too young to do something great.” This is a kid who definitely lives by his motto, having already become a successful entrepreneur at the age of 15. Erik grew up in Idaho, and had enough of the educational system he was experiencing day after day, learning from a teacher lecturing in front of a class rather than experiencing the world, the way he wanted to learn. He took that idea and ran with it when his grandmother gave him $1,000 and he decided to change it into bit coins, a type of digital currency. A year later, he sold his bit coin investment for $100,000 and started Botangle.com, a new way to educate students who want more than just what the classroom can offer. It is an online tutoring service that primarily uses video chat to learn almost any subject with personal one-on-one tutoring from a real person based on your own schedule. So far, Erik has a staff of twenty working for him and he believes his business is going to keep growing in the future.
In Afghanistan, women do not have the same kind of rights as here in Canada. It is a country that has faced years of violence and war, and child marriage is still a really big issue faced by many women and leads to many girls dropping out of school in elementary. Women are forbidden to do basic things we take for granted everyday, such as driving a vehicle. When you consider all those things, it is pretty incredible that a 17-year-old like Salma Kakar has the courage to lead an all-women’s cycling team, The Afghan National Cycling Team. She often has the team train in secret as it is considered improper for women to ride bikes, and she continues to face verbal abuse and harassment as a result of the biking. She hopes that one day their team can even represent their country in the Olympic games, and be a vehicle for social change for women in Afghanistan.
In the past year, the story of Malala Yousafzai has reached all corners of the globe and inspired many people. Malala is now 18, but when she was just 15-years-old, a Taliban gunman shot her in the head on her way home from school. Malala comes from Mingora, Pakistan, where girls lack basic rights. She began speaking out against the Taliban about her right to an education at a young age, and even began blogging for the BBC, leading to her nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize and winning the award for Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize. However, she received a death threat at 14-years-old from the Taliban for her activism and a gunman took action on October 9, 2012 when he boarded a school bus asking which girl was Malala; two other girls on the bus were injured in the attack and Malala was shot on the left side of her head. Malala was eventually flown out to England to receive further treatment for her critical condition, including multiple surgeries to fix the paralyzed left side of her face, however, her brain was luckily left unharmed. Since then, Malala has continued to attend school in England, advocate for women’s rights, published a memoir titled I Am Malala, and became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Fourteen-year-old Mo’ne Davis is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and has grabbed a lot of attention in the baseball world. She is an American Little League baseball pitcher, one of two girls to play in the 2014 Little League World Series, the first girl to earn a win, and the first girl to pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history. On top of all of that, she is the first African-American girl to play in the Little League World Series, and the first Little League player to appear on a Sports Illustrated cover. Mo’ne may be making waves in baseball but is also extremely talented in basketball, the sport she wants to pursue in her future career. She hopes to play college basketball as well as play for the WNBA. Since playing in Little League, Mo’ne has published and released a memoir, Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name, and this year, the Disney Channel is set to work on a movie about Mo’ne Davis and her achievements.
“Boys” and “Girls” seem like simple enough categories, but when put in the same sentence as “Transgender” and “Public Bathroom” they seem to stir up a lot of anxiety and controversy. Nicole Maines, a 16-year-old transgender student from Maine was born male but began identifying as female as young as age two. By fifth grade, Nicole was using her female name and had the support of her to school to use the girls’ bathroom, which she was more comfortable using. That is until a male student began using the girls’ bathroom as well, claiming that if she could use it, then he could too. After that, the school banned Nicole from using both the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms, instead allowing her to use staff bathrooms – making her a total outcast at school. Nicole’s parents then filed a discrimination lawsuit against the state of Maine, which took Nicole and her family five long years to finally win. In 2014, Nicole was named one of Glamour Magazine’s “50 Phenomenal Women of the Year” and made her acting debut in June of 2015 on an American show, “Royal Pains”, playing a transgender teen.
This 18-year-old Hong Kong college student is giving older politicians a run for their money. As a kid, Joshua’s father would take him to see parts of Hong Kong where people were underprivileged, teaching his son from an early age to care for the less fortunate, inspiring his activism. Joshua began participating in protests by 2010, and in 2011 co-founded Scholarism, a student activist group at his college. In 2014, Joshua led Scholarism in a non-violent pro-democracy protest against Beijing and the electoral system. Wong was arrested and upon release, banned from several areas in Hong Kong. He was a key player in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution and was arrested for his involvement in January 2015. He was later banned from Malaysia in fear that his allowance would disrupt relations between Malaysia and China. So far, Joshua has been listed in Fortune Magazine’s World’s Greatest Leaders in 2015, placed on the Asian edition of Time Magazine in 2014, and listed on Time Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Teens 2014.
These are only seven out of many ambitious teens who are working to change our world to make it a better place. There are teens making scientific discoveries, starting businesses, fighting for equality, and making waves in the entertainment and beauty industry. While this might not be the hard working generation of our parents and grandparents, they are definitely a forward-thinking and innovative group that will bring even more change in 2015 and the years to come.
By Adela Czyewska