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6 Influential Young Leaders Changing the World



Malala Yousafzai giving her acceptance speech for the 2014 Noble Peace Prize.

Even as violence and injustice rise in the world, as they never fail to, several young leaders emerge from the chaos as beacons who guide us through those troubling times. These days, it seems like we are always in need of strong leaders, though the face of these leaders has changed.

Not too long ago, the image of a powerful leader was that of a wealthy white man, likely Christian and heterosexual.

Now, that image has changed into one more representative of the world and the capabilities of those who inhabit it.

Young leaders have emerged as some of the more prominent voices in the world today. From climate activists to young inventors, modern youth have taken advantage of their elevated platforms on social media to inspire people all over the globe, both young and old. We have kids changing the world.

With their raised voices, these teen activist leaders have become a source of education and influence on modern social issues, a source that will hopefully bring about change to help better society. Here are six young leaders of the world who are making waves in the fight against global injustice.

1. Malala Yousafzai

By now, Malala Yousafzai has become a household name. As one of the youngest recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala has been a near-lifelong advocate for gender equality. She garnered attention particularly following an assassination attempt on her life in 2012.

Since then, she has recovered and carried on her mission to gain equality for women, not only in her home country, Pakistan, but worldwide. Now at the age of 23, Malala has been an inspiration to young women and other young leaders everywhere.

Malala Yousafzai wearing a purple headscarf in front of a microphone.

Her continuous activism has made her an example for people of all ages, but for international youth, seeing someone have such an impact from such a young age is nothing short of empowering, and, fortunately, Malala is only one of many kids changing the world.

2. Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg made a splash in global headlines over the last two years, earning the attention of not just social media users, but world leaders as well. Since then, she has emerged as one of the most active voices in support of combating climate change.

Though her stony demeanor was at first criticized by journalists and Twitter users, Thunberg takes her role as an “environmental influencer” very seriously, having put her education and personal life on hold to travel globally as a young leader in the world.

Greta Thunberg sitting at a table.

Thunberg has crossed oceans (by the more environmentally friendly boat, rather than by plane) to lead climate strikes in numerous countries. At just 17 years old, Thunberg has left an impression on the leaders of the United Nations, and she has become a familiar face for social media users.

Looking to the future, Thunberg will certainly continue to leave an impact, proving there are kids changing the world and creating a model of what leaders everywhere should aspire to be.

3. Emma González

In the United States, mass shootings have become a tragedy that occurs all too often.

Emma González, a survivor of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the deadliest school shooting in the history of the United States, recognized the horror of that fact and sought to change the future with the help of other survivors.

González has become an outspoken gun-reform young leader in the world since the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas, having directly spoken to U.S. politicians about reform. She even spoke at the March for Our Lives rally in 2018 to mass audiences on the subject of school shootings.

González has taken the trauma of her experiences and used it to shed new light on issues related to gun violence in the United States.

A black and white photo of Emma González wearing a black tank top.

With a recent outcry for gun reform in the United States, especially in response to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Emma González paves the way for other young leaders like herself.

She makes her efforts to better the world, using her own experiences as motivation and a lesson to the world in why history cannot be allowed to repeat itself.

4. Gitanjali Rao

Gitanjali Rao, a young scientist with the mind of an adult expert, is an example of kids changing the world in the STEM field, the areas of study that are known for technological and medicinal advancement to better mankind.

Rao has contributed greatly to this field, having created multiple inventions with quite practical uses. After learning about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Rao invented a device that could measure the amount of lead in water, with the hope of cleaning the contaminated water in Flint and other areas like it.

In addition to this, she has performed commendable work with Bluetooth devices, a technology that only increases in relevance as we find it in our phones, computers, and even our cars.

Gitanjali Rao wearing a black shirt smiling at the camera.

Rao is a leading figure for youth in STEM, especially for young girls. It’s no secret that the STEM field has not been welcoming to women through the course of its ever-advancing history.

At such a young age, Rao has already made strides to open the field up to researchers and inventors of all ages and genders, breaking down the barriers that have kept so many marginalized people from studying the sciences.

With her inventions serving as an idea of what people are capable of, Rao is leading the STEM field into an era that is inclusive of all people.

5. Sophie Cruz

Among other pressing issues in the United States is the status of undocumented immigrants, and the human rights violations committed by the U.S. government against immigrant families.

10-year-old Sophie Cruz is all too familiar with these experiences, which are shared by thousands of families, and decided to become one of the kids changing the world from them. To combat these injustices, she has taken up activism to fight against the system that oppresses families like her own.

After reaching out to Pope Francis in 2015, Cruz influenced him to speak up regarding the treatment of undocumented immigrants and their families in the United States. After reading young Cruz’s concerns for her parents, especially as they faced deportation from the U.S., Pope Francis discussed the topic with Congress.

Since then, Cruz has been an advocate for undocumented immigrants, having spoken with former president Barack Obama, as well as protesting against the inauguration of Donald Trump, who has become well known for his negative attitudes regarding the entry of immigrants like Sophie and her family into the United States.

Sophie Cruz wearing a purple dress, smiling and holding a microphone.

While Sophie Cruz’s struggle is deeply personal, it is one shared by hundreds of thousands of people, both in the United States and worldwide.

By speaking up and reaching out, Cruz has caught the ear of powerful leaders, educating them on the mistreatment and dangers of immigration in places where immigrants are not often welcome.

By recognizing that her story is not a singular occurrence, Cruz’s teen activist efforts will hopefully guide global governments into a more peaceful, welcoming mindset regarding the acceptance of immigrants within their borders.

6. Desmond Napoles

Desmond Napoles, better known by their stage name Desmond is Amazing, is a youth drag performer based in New York City. An LGBTQ+ activist, Desmond’s approach to youth leadership is slightly different than one would imagine.

Rather than confronting world leaders or marching on the front lines of protests, Desmond’s practice is a little more atypical, though somewhat traditional. Simply put, Desmond leads by being themself.

At only 13 years old, Desmond has made a name for themself in the NYC child drag community. Most would not usually think of drag as child-friendly, but Desmond has opened the doors for LGBTQ+ children to be involved in the fierce, fabulous world of drag.

As a result, Desmond has only cultivated an environment that is more accepting of queer youth, a part of the LGBTQ+ community that has particularly struggled to gain acceptance both within and outside itself.

Desmond Napoles posing with their hands in the air, wearing a green and yellow dress.

By flaunting their personality so publicly, Desmond is much like other young leaders. They do not compromise on their beliefs, and they speak out on the issues that they know are important and have a passion for.

With years ahead of them to grow and continue their work, Desmond and other young leaders in the world show only the brightest path for the Earth’s future.

Countries and communities are moving forward, and these mere kids changing the world provide a leading backdrop of innovation, advocacy, and acceptance for years to come.

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Meet Scott Hughes: The Entrepreneur Who Built One of the Largest Online Book Communities

Are you a book junkie? Find out how Scott Hughes built OnlineBookClub, a free online community for book lovers with over 2 million members.




Scott Hughes

Are you a book lover?

If you are, then you need to check out OnlineBookClub.org, a free online site for book lovers around the world.

The online site features book reviews, book & reading forums, and useful tools that enable you to store, track and list books you have read or want to read.

Scott was only 19 when he launched OnlineBookClub.

The idea of creating OnlineBookClub originated after Scott, a book fanatic, realized that there were too many restrictions for in-person book clubs such as tight deadlines on book reading, a limited selection of books, and little freedom to pick books to read. 

Scott wanted to leverage the power of online discussions and create a flexible space where people all over the world could easily find people to chat about any book at any time. That is how OnlineBookClub came to life. 

Building the online platform was a rewarding experience for Scott, but it was far from easy.

For 7 years, Scott ran the business and paid himself nothing from it. During those years, he worked odd jobs to pay his living expenses and put food on the table for his two kids. 

“I remember one month I had to go to the coinstar machine at the bank with my spare change on the 10th of month just so I could cover the rent, but I did it.”

The hardest part of creating the platform for Scott was finding time to run the business while juggling his day job and raising two kids. It was difficult for him to find a work-life balance but he made it work despite the hardships. 

At the end of 2014, Scott finally took a leap of faith, gave up his side jobs, and went full-time at OnlineBookClub. He knew that to make it work, he had to devote himself completely to the online site.

And his efforts paid off. 

The platform is thriving with over 2.7 million registered users as of November of 2021.

Scott’s team recently released an e-reading app meant to compete with Amazon Kindle, called OBC Reader, which is available on both the Google Play Store and the Apple Store.

The revenue of the platform primarily comes from paid online advertising and professional services to authors and publishers, such as editorial reviews and manuscript editing.

Scott is proud of the work he has accomplished so far, especially of the community he has built.

“OnlineBookClub has always been filled with kind people who have a strong sense of togetherness and community. It’s like a second family for us.” 

Scott’s journey has been full of ups and downs, but through it all, he is grateful for all the experiences-good ones and bad ones.  

When asked to advise young entrepreneurs just starting, he has the following to say:

“The journey never really ends. If you make a million dollars, then you might chase a billion. Even if you reach all your financial goals and lose interest in that side of things, your mind will create new different goals. So it’s never about reaching some destination. When you look back on it, in many ways the most challenging times are also seen most fondly.”

He also believes that entrepreneurs need to be driven by something other than money. 

“I’ve found in my anecdotal experience and just from watching the world around me that those who desperately chase money are the least likely to find it. In contrast, when you work hard on yourself and your real dreams, money chases you. Money–and even health and physical fitness–are only really ever a means, not an end in themselves. Without some kind of vision or passion to be the real end, the real goal, the real dream, it’s like driving a car with no gas.”

Scott’s story is a great reminder that anything can be achieved with perseverance, passion, and hard work.

So, if you are just starting, make sure to stay tuned for his upcoming book, “In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All,” which will be released soon.

You can connect with Scott on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for more information about OnlineBookClub and get updates about his latest projects. 


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‘Halloween Kills’ Cast & Crew Explain the Slasher




(from left) Karen (Judy Greer), Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Allyson (Andi Matichak) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green.

Article by Riley Farrell

The cast and crew of Halloween Kills told Blendtw why the latest slasher’s gore is anything but gratuitous in a year like 2021. 

Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Anthony Michael Hall, Kyle Richards, Malek Akkad, David Gordon Green and Jason Blum tell horror fans to expect carnage. After all, Halloween Kills must live up to its title.

Chainsaws buzzing and bats swinging, Halloween Kills is a current-day cathartic catastrophe – and no character is safe – according to producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions.

Halloween Kills is the 12th movie in Michael Myers’ macrocosm, with the 13th, and allegedly final, movie coming out in 2022. When seriously injured Laurie Strode thought she killed Michael Myers after 42 years of trailing him, his annual bloodbath recommences. Sick of living at the mercy of “pure evil,” the town’s vigilantes revolt against the boogieman. 


“Subtlety is not this film,” said director David Gordon Green, on fitting in as much bloodshed as possible in 105 minutes.


The cast filmed Halloween Kills two years ago and shelved it due to the pandemic, until now.

Picking up where Halloween (2018) left off, the film explores the aftermath of collective trauma, said Green. Given everything that’s ensued in the last two years, viewers do not have to live in Haddonfield to understand suffering, and inversely, resilience. 


“We’ve taken a slasher movie and it’s landed in a time of cultural relevance because of our public consciousness,” said Green. “Though [the movie is] grotesque, there are moments when we feel the humanity underneath the surface of this movie monster.”


Halloween Kills brought back two characters from the 1978 Halloween in Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards), the two children who Laurie babysat during Michael’s initial attack. Hall and Richards did not require much persuasion to hop on the franchise, said Green.


Halloween kills

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green

The callbacks of all-grown-up characters, of course, evokes nostalgia. But the twist on the trope is that, instead of running from Michael, the kids now face him head-on, said Richards. Hall, who described Halloween Kills as a “thrill ride” and “freight train,” said the slasher hinges on human resilience.


“We summoned something deep in themselves and decided to fight back, we’re not just survivors but fighters,” said Hall.


Resilience as a motif snugly fits within the cultural zeitgeist, even earning a title as Forbes’ 2021 word of the year. Though coincidental, the visceral and violent images in Halloween Kills harken to audiences’ nihilistic experiences of the past 18-months. Producer Malek Akkad said the slasher film can paradoxically be pertinent yet escapist for viewers who’ve experienced the horror genre by simply reading the news.


“It’s tough for everybody right now and this movie’s just a fun release,” said Akkad. “There’s nothing more cathartic for people watching than to see a final girl like Laurie.”


For reference, the final girl trope, pioneered by the character of Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween, represents the heroine left standing at the end of a horror movie who is charged with defeating the antagonist. Film theorist Carol J. Clover coined the term in her 1992 book, ‘Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film.’ The final girl has been observed in many films, including The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Alien, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream.

 Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis said she was unaware of the meaning and dialogue surrounding the final girl until recently. She argued, even though the trope has immense cultural significance, the original idea of the final girl is uncomplicated.


“The term is just about the tenacity of women to survive because, the truth is, women have survived through a lot,” said Curtis.


No characters know survival better than the Strode women. Andi Matichak, who plays Laurie’s granddaughter, and Curtis agreed that their favorite behind-the-scenes moment centered on feminine resilience in spite of harsh conditions.


Halloween Kills

Michael Myers (aka The Shape) in Halloween Kills, directed by David Gordon Green.

It was a frigid 4 a.m. shoot, and the three generations of Strode ladies were alone in a truck, coated in fake blood, with only each other and a camera rig for warmth, Matichak described. This moment was the last time Laurie, Karen and Allyson were on screen together.


“It was a powerful moment to lean on each other and feel the weight of the project,” Matichak said.


Cutting through the sweet moments is the slasher at the heart of the story, said Curtis on the “high octave, frenzied” plot of Halloween Kills. For audiences who’ve lived through the chaos of the past two years, Halloween Kills should match their fast pace of existence.


“The past is irrelevant, you’re so in the present moment,” said Curtis.





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Waving Through A Big Screen: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Cast Talks Film Adaptation

With Ben Platt reprising his Tony-winning role as the show’s titular character, a whole new Hollywood cast takes on Broadway.




A boy and girl laughing

Content warning: mentions of anxiety, depression and suicide.

Article by Riley Farrell

All that it takes is a bit of reinvention for Dear Evan Hansen to move from the theatre to theaters, hitting eardrums on Sept. 24 this year.

With Ben Platt reprising his Tony-winning role as the show’s titular character, a whole new Hollywood cast takes on Broadway. Platt, Julianne Moore, Amandla Stenberg, Amy Adams, Danny Pino, Kaitlyn Dever, Stephen Chbosky and Steven Levenson explained the movie’s newfound reach and relevance in an interview with BLENDtw, among other publications.

The Plot Thickens

A boy between two trees in a forest

Dear Evan Hansen

Begrudgingly in therapy for anxiety, high schooler Evan Hansen is tasked with writing daily letters to himself, hence the movie title. After Evan’s peer Connor Murphy kills himself with Evan’s letter in his backpack, Evan’s page is mistakenly thought to be a suicide note from Connor. 

Evan tells a well-meaning white lie that soon darkens with self-interest to get closer to the Murphy family, which includes Connor’s sister Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever), and Connor’s mom and dad (Amy Adams and Danny Pino, respectively). Via fake emails and a fundraiser, what once began as a misunderstanding spirals into an operatic betrayal about teens and their screens. 

Oh, How Times Have Changed (Or Not)

A boy and woman sitting on a couch

Dear Evan Hansen

To address the obvious, it has been a long time since DEH initially premiered in 2015 – but the cast said the musical remains relevant. Things have changed: a pandemic rocked our worldviews and Ben Platt, shockingly, aged.

Platt, 27, played Evan in the original musical version. After the movie trailer dropped in 2021, Platt faced online backlash over playing a character a decade younger, even though he lost 15 pounds and changed his styling routine to appear youthful.

“As a parent, I saw a teenager in Ben’s demeanor,” Julianne Moore, who plays Evan’s mom, said in Platt’s defense.

Speaking of something that’s aged us all, COVID-19, the ideas explored about mental health in DEH six years ago seem timely today, said Dever.

“This film is about feeling isolated, after the pandemic, we’re looking to feel heard,” said the Booksmart actress.

A 2021 study from the National Institute of Health found that anxiety symptoms increased during the COVID shutdowns, making ordering delivery and asking peers to sign your cast daunting. This film was a refreshing counter-narrative on what anxiety looks like, demographically and behaviorally, said Stenberg, who shared an on-set story about the stakes of DEH.

Chbosky, the author of Perks of Being Wallflower, showed a letter to Stenberg that a teenager had written to him after reading the novel. The reader expressed how his suicidal ideation disappeared after reading Chbosky’s book. That book saved him, said Stenberg. After that experience, Stenberg said she felt the movie served as an opportunity for mental health representation, not tokenism.

 “I was excited to be playing a Black girl who is on medication,” Stenberg said of her high-achieving teen character, Alana Beck.

There’s no one face or behavior associated with anxiety, Stenberg said. Stenberg said she’s been prescribed medication as a teenager but has only recently come to terms with the shame she felt about mental health.


Movie Magic

A boy alone on a stage wearing a tie

Dear Evan Hansen

The year isn’t the only context that’s changed. The medium by which this sensitive story is delivered has transformed from the live stage to the screen. Freedoms of editing and re-filming takes helped storytelling, said Chbosky, who felt ‘obsessed’ with the spotlighting of each character.

Via camerawork, Chbosky and Levenson said they more innovatively explored symbolism and imagery. The film’s juxtaposition between social media and nature – contrasting screens with sunlight as motifs – is about duplicity in the dark and authenticity in the light, said Chbosky.

 “You can’t have truth without the lie,” said Chbosky.

The filmmaking medium aided in communicating the perils of presenting a fake self online, said Levenson. 

 “We wanted to play with the idea of how fast lies can spread online,” said Levenson. “How untrue things make you feel great and the complicated nature of that.”

Expanded audiences can enjoy the story now that it has transcended the Broadway medium. Though fans of the original musical will encounter changes to the original stage material, Platt said he thinks Evan’s move from the stage to the screen is a step towards accessibility. The message of DEH is magnified when more audience members are added to the conversation, said the Pitch Perfect actor.

 “No matter what, it’s important for me to communicate that there’s nothing that makes you unlovable,” said Platt.



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