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6 Influential Young Leaders Changing the World

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

Meet Dr. Cheryl Robinson: The Entrepreneur-Turned-Model Helping Women Embrace The Pivot

Wondering how to pivot to a new career? Check out the story of Dr. Cheryl Robinson, the entrepreneur-turned-model helping women embrace the pivot.

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Dr. Cheryl Robinson

Dr. Cheryl Robinson is an international speaker, the founder of Ready 2 Roar, a leadership coach, and a regular contributor to ForbesWomen, where she writes about businesswomen who have successfully pivoted through their careers.

She is a clear example of a woman who does not give up when facing any inconvenience because, as she says

“When you get knocked down, you get yourself back up, dust off, and keep going.”

After imagining herself in various job positions when she was younger and trying out a few, she realized her interest in sports was even greater.

So, she went back to the East and worked in sports for 15 years, from the collegiate to the professional level.

That’s when she decided to open her own business. Moreover, Dr. Robinson decided to get a doctorate degree, making her a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership, to give her validity and credibility for the books she writes and the workshops she hosts.

After going through all of these different paths and accomplishing various goals, she set out to become a commercial print model.

 

Cheryl Robinson Modeling

“I set out to become a model, which is something I’ve always wanted to be, and that’s what I’m currently working on.”

 

So, now, at the age of 40, she signed with a modeling agency.

Dr. Cheryl has been writing for local newspapers and journals since the age of 14-15 and continued writing in college and even after graduating.

“Still, to this day, my goal is to be a New York Times best-selling author, and to do that, you have to write.”

 

After starting her own company, she committed to herself that 80% of her time would be spent on her writing and the other 20% on her business.

“Three months after I made that commitment to myself, I was attending an event, and I saw a woman speaking on a panel, saying she was a contributor at Forbes. I sat there thinking, ‘if she can do it, I can do it,’ so after the panel, I went right up to her and asked her how she got there.

 

Then, I spoke to her about my background and who I am. And what I didn’t know was that the former editor was in the room with her.

I introduced myself to the editor, who told me to send her my portfolio; three days later, she invited me for a mini-interview process, then a week later,

she called me and said ‘welcome aboard.’ ”

Based on Dr. Robinson’s experience, the best ways of changing and adapting to a new career are the relationships you make, so that it becomes easier for you to make any move in the future.

 

Dr. Cheryl Robinson holding a cup and smiling

“It’s all about the quality of the relationships you foster. Ask people in the company out for a coffee. Get to know your colleagues and what they’re working on; develop that relationship, so when you are ready to make a move, you have allies to help you in your pivot.”

 

There are many ways to pivot in a career, but there are also mistakes that should be avoided in doing so, and according to Dr. Cheryl, “not doing enough research is one of them.”

There are a lot of industries or companies that sound sexy to work for, but the reality may be the opposite or the learning curve might be more intense than you had thought.

Being ill-prepared can hinder your development and progress.

Take the time to research what you want to get into and meet the people who’ve done it before you. Learn from their mistakes before jumping with two feet in; know what you’re getting yourself into. Dr. Robinson believes that there are some ways to know when it’s time to pivot in a career.

“If you’re not growing or being challenged in your current role, or there is an idea that you just can’t stop thinking about, take the risk and step out of your comfort zone.”

 

Dr. Robinson always dreamt of becoming a commercial print model, and after interviewing over 500 individuals for her column, she realized

“it does not matter how old you are. you can always pivot.”

As we grow up, society tells us that we have to reach certain milestones by a certain age. However, it’s just not realistic sometimes.

So, you have to permit yourself to be okay with not hitting certain milestones as quickly as you imagined.

Dr. Robinson has always wanted to see her face on a billboard somewhere, and as she got older, she gained more self-confidence so, at the age of 40, she said “it is now or never.”

Through networking, she met a model agent with whom she talked, did her photos, and her potential got noticed to the point where she got signed with that modeling agency; and has now booked her first gig.

With all of what Dr. Robinson has already accomplished, she still has her head on plans for the near future. Her new leadership book is coming out at the end of this year.

In the new book, she wants readers to understand that pivoting or transitioning in a career doesn’t have to be scary.

“People might get fired, get laid off, move, and then be obligated to find something else, which can seem scary, but if they see it as a positive experience, it is not. Instead, it is an opportunity to develop a strategy to get to where they want to be.”

Want to connect with Dr. Cheryl? You can find her on IG and LinkedIn.

 

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Spotlight

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.

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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

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(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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