Elizabeth Villasenor, 15
“We want world leaders to hold polluters accountable,” Alexandria Villaseñor told the audience at the 10th annual Social Good Summit on Sept. 22, speaking on behalf of her fellow members of the Youth Climate Strike.
At 14 years old, Villaseñor is one of the youngest members of the global climate strike. She is the co-founder of US Youth Climate Strike and founder of Earth Uprising, a youth-led climate organization.
On Friday, Villaseñor attended the climate strike in New York City, but it wasn’t her first time. “I’ve been on climate strike every Friday for the past 41 weeks in front of the UN headquarters,” Villaseñor said on the Summit stage.
Villaseñor has been a climate activist ever since she was impacted by the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California. “I saw the connection between California’s wildfires and climate change,” she said, speaking alongside Elizabeth Yeampierre, co-chair of Climate Justice Alliance and environmental activist, and Nandita Raghuram, Social Good editor at Mashable.
After the Camp Fire, Villaseñor was inspired by fellow youth activist Greta Thunberg to join the fight and demand action on climate change.
Villaseñor’s biggest goal is to see meaningful climate action taken by world leaders. For her, this means pollution reduction and consequences for the people who are actively polluting the planet.
As the youth climate movement gains speed, Villaseñor knows that students don’t have to bear the brunt of the fight. “Adults are able to amplify students’ messages,” she said, speaking about older generations. “What I would like to see from them is their help and their advocating for us.”
Villaseñor recognizes that the climate movement needs to be intersectional. “I do think that people of color need to be the ones leading this movement because they’re experiencing the effects,” said Villaseñor. Frontline communities are disproportionately made up of people of color, and Villaseñor wants to make sure that they’re not only educated on climate change but understand what they can do to combat it and welcomed to do so.
As more and more people around the world get involved in combating climate change, Villaseñor feels more optimistic about the future. “When OPEC call the [Fridays for Future] movement the number one threat to the oil industry, you really can see how the movement has created a difference,” she said.
As a student, participating in the fight against climate change allows Villaseñor to make a real difference. “I’m only 14, I can’t vote for four years,” she said. Until then, she plans to enact change in other ways.
Hannah Watters, 15
A viral photo showing students in a Georgia high school crowded in hallways and with few visible masks resulted in the sophomore who posted it being suspended, she said.
Hannah Watters, a student at North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia, saw a photo of packed halls on the first day of school go viral. And when she saw that little had changed after that, she told CNN’s Laura Coates on Thursday, she felt she had to share what it looked like inside the school. So, she took a photo of the scene and posted it to social media.
“I was concerned for the safety of everyone in that building and everyone in the county because precautions that the CDC and guidelines that the CDC has been telling us for months now, weren’t being followed,” Watters said.
Hannah was then suspended for 5 days by the school’s principal. When the story went viral, the school district’s superintendent withdrew the suspension and apologized. Hannah quoted John Lewis, noting that “I’d like to say this is some good and necessary trouble.”
Eddy Binford-Ross, 17
On Eddy Binford-Ross’s second night reporting on the protests in Portland, Ore., federal officers let off enough tear gas to fill the street in front of the federal courthouse and an entire city park across the street. The smokelike plumes sent her scattering along with the protesters.
“I couldn’t see because my eyes were burning,” she told The Washington Post. “I couldn’t breathe because my throat was burning. I almost threw up because I was coughing so hard.”
Like many journalists covering the tense demonstrations, Eddy has faced serious threats: She has been tear-gassed every night, had three stun grenades lobbed in her direction, been shoved against a wall by police and had a federal officer repeatedly point a gun at her.
But Eddy may be the only front-line reporter regularly risking her safety to write for a high school newspaper.
Despite the danger and a few bruises, the 17-year-old has returned to downtown Portland every night to cover the standoff between local protesters and federal law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service. The photos, videos and scenes she has tweeted and published online have earnedher high praise from professional reporters and activists.
Alia Al Mansoori
In 2017, Alia’s research on heat shock proteins won her the Genes in Space Award. She discovered that these could potentially be used as a shield for the human body for conditions such as microgravity and radiation that are typically encountered in outer space. “Astronauts can’t keep wearing suits to protect us forever,” she claims. “I wanted to find a way to keep us safe from the inside out.”
First there was a flash of light, followed by a wall of sound, as the Falcon 9 rocket lifted into clear Florida skies, carrying the dreams of Emirati teenager Alia Al Mansoori into space. Loaded on the Dragon capsule on top of the Space X rocket was her winning experiment in the UAE Genes in Space competition, sponsored by The National, the UAE Space Agency and Boeing.
Watching the Falcon 9 climb into the sky, Alia said: “I literally can’t believe that my experiment is now in space. All the months of effort was worthwhile. The feeling I got when it launched was just so inspiring.” The experiment has a number of applications, including researching diseases and also seeing if it is possible to test human genomes in space – something which has never been done before. If successful they will help humans better prepare for the radiation experienced in deep space flight to destinations like Mars – one of Alia’s ambitions.
Rohan Suri, 17
Rohan Suri is the founder of Averia Health Solutions, “The World’s Most Inexpensive and Accurate Concussion Test.” The method uses nothing more than the practitioner’s smartphone and a headset to perform the diagnosis via eye tracking tests. Rohan was motivated to develop Averia after his brother was misdiagnosed with a concussion. At the time, the success of eye tracking tests was being held back by the costly equipment necessary to perform the tests. Since then, Rohan’s invention has gained a considerable amount of traction after successfully diagnosing hundreds of patients.
Young Women Organize and Lead Protest in Nashville
On Thursday, local teenagers— Nya Collins, Zee Thomas, Jade Fuller and Emma Rose Smith—organized and led a massive march through the streets of Nashville to protest police brutality, making their way through Bicentennial Park to Broadway to the state Capitol. The protest started at 4 p.m., and according to some estimates, the march drew at least 10,000 people.
The event was organized by Teens for Equality, which began the protest with a series of emotional speeches from its members.
Teen organizer Zee Thomas gives a speech at the start of Thursday’s youth-led protest against police brutality. “As teens, we are tired of waking up and seeing another innocent person being slain in broad daylight,” said Zee Thomas, one of the six teenage girls who organized the mass protest. “As teens, we are desensitized to death because we see videos of black people being killed in broad daylight circulating on social media platforms. As teens, we feel like we cannot make a difference in this world, but we must.”
The protesters gathered behind a large banner reading “black lives matter” and headed toward downtown, stopping to chant, kneel and rally throughout the march. The thousands of demonstrators filled a roughly one-mile stretch of Rosa Parks Boulevard as they left Bicentennial Park and made their way downtown. When the protesters arrived at Broadway, they were stopped by police just before they reached the row of neon-signed honky-tonks. The marchers dropped to their knees as some protesters read out the names of those killed by police, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Maanasa Mendu, 15
This brilliant 13-year-old figured out how to make clean energy using a device that costs $5
On Tuesday, Maanasa Mendu, a 13-year-old from Ohio, won the grand prize in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her work in creating a cost-effective “solar leaves” design to create energy. In addition to winning the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist,” she gets $25,000 for her achievement.
The leaves, designed to help developing areas in need of cheaper power sources, cost roughly $5 to make.
Over the past three months, Mendu and nine other finalists worked on their projects alongside a mentor provided by 3M. Mendu was inspired to come up with a cheaper way to produce energy after visiting India, where she saw many people who lacked access to affordable clean water and electricity. Originally, her intent was to harness only wind energy.
But along the way, Mendu, with the help of her 3M mentor Margauz Mitera, shifted to a different kind of energy collection. Drawing inspiration from how plants function, she decided to focus on creating her “solar leaves” that harnessed vibrational energy.
Here’s how it works: her “leaves” can pick up energy from precipitation, wind, and even the sun using a solar cell and piezoelectric material (the part of the leaf that picks up on the vibrations). These are then transformed into usable energy.
Now that the competition is over, Mendu said she wants to develop the prototype further and conduct more tests so that one day she can make it available commercially.
Peyton Robertson began inventing at only eight years old. He was brought up by his parents to find solutions to problems rather than complain about them. By the time he turned twelve, he had won first place in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for inventing the “Sandless Operational Sandbag” (SOS). His invention is much lighter than conventional sandbags, more intuitively-designed to avoid seawater and floodwater from seeping in, and 100% reusable. Once dried after use, the SOS can then be stored for future flood emergencies.
When he first discovered his love for math and science, Peyton was encouraged by his parents to think differently. Instead of seeing problems only as just causes of trouble, he was made to search for solutions; it sure helped that Peyton was a genius from birth.
After seeing how poorly the sandbags performed as flood deterrents, he set out to revolutionize their design and components. The first thing to go was the sand; instead of heavy sandbag content, he replaced it with light polymers, which expand when wet and absorb the liquid. He then added salt to make the contents denser than the saltwater it needed to keep out. To optimize blocking efficiency, he also fashioned his sandbags with plaster to keep them interlocked and ensure no salt water would find its way into the gaps.
Peyton explains, ““Failure is progress and a normal part of the process. Whether it’s science or life, you have to start, fail and just keep pushing. In a football game, time runs out, and a golf match ends after the last hole. But when you are working on something and it doesn’t work, you just extend the game – and give your experiment or your prototype another go.”
Hannah Herbst has a passion for learning, solving problems, and helping others. She graduated from Florida Atlantic University High School in 2019, and is finishing her bachelor’s degree at Florida Atlantic University in 2020.
Hannah created an ocean energy probe prototype that seeks to offer a stable power source to developing countries using untapped energy from ocean currents. This innovation was inspired by Hannah’s desire to help her nine-year-old penpal living in Sub-Saharan Africa, where many people live in energy poverty with sporadic or no access to electricity. In addition, Hannah has explored early identification methods for hazardous airborne chemicals in collaboration with I-SENSE at Florida Atlantic University, and is currently studying the properties of shark skin for medical applications at the Florida Atlantic Biomechanics Lab.
Hannah won the 2015 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. She has received 6 research grants from Florida Atlantic University, and has delivered keynote addresses at the United Nations, USA Science and Engineering Festival, Social Innovation Summit, National Science Olympiad Competition, and World Science Festival.
When Marley Dias was age 11, she complained to her mother that all of her mandatory readings were books about white boys and dogs. She said, “There wasn’t really any freedom for me to read what I wanted.” After talking to her mother, Dias decided to start a book drive, #1000BlackGirlBooks, bringing more attention to literature featuring black female protagonists.
Marley Dias’ book drive focused specifically on books in which black girls are the main characters, not minor or background characters. She launched a campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks in 2015, with the goal to collect 1,000 books to donate for black girls. In just a few months, more than 9,000 books were collected. Many of these books have been sent to a children’s book drive in Jamaica. The campaign also called public attention to the lack of diversity in children’s literature.
Dias, whose project has been popular all over the world, wrote and published her own book, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!. Marley wanted to show the children all over the world that their wishes or dreams can come true. Scholastic Corporation, a global children’s publishing company, released the book in the spring of 2018. Marley said, “I think writing gives me creative freedom. I love just being able to do whatever I want. When I create a story, I can make it however funny, sad, or happy I want it to be.”