TP’s 2014 20 Under 20: 20 Amazing Teens Changing the World

A lot of people talk about how kids are “the future” and that the fate of the world will rest in their shoulders in a couple of years. But why should young people have to wait a decade or two to start making things happen? Why not start that cycle now? As promised last month, we have compiled a list of incredible individuals, all 20 years of age or younger, who are changing the world and making the most of their lives, even if they’ve only been on this planet for two decades or less.

What was the criteria for picking out these people, you ask? As we mentioned in our call for nominations last month, there were a few key things:

  • All people mentioned are 20 years old or younger (we also gave a little leeway to people who turned 21 within the last 5-6 months or so).
  • We specifically looked for people who had not yet been rewarded by tons of mainstream media outlets for what they’re doing. Basically, we wanted to find new rising stars!
  • We looked for people who’ve been doing what they’ve been doing for a while. It’s hard to start an enterprise; it’s even harder to keep it going for months and years to come.

So, who are these amazing young people? Keep reading to find out!

Lily Myers, Poet

Lily’s poem, “Shrinking Women”, was originally performance at the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational in 2013, eventually taking home a prize for her masterpiece. What she probably didn’t expect was to become a YouTube sensation, with the video of her poem garnering over 3 million views to date, changing the way that we all think about women and how we treat one another.

Emilio Vicente, Politician

Emilio Vicente is a candidate running for the presidency of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s student government association. He also happens to be the first undocumented student to do so, and he’s also the only candidate to identify as a feminist on the campaign trail, winning the hearts and minds of his fellow students.

Evie Sobczak, Inventor

What did she create, you ask? To put it simply, Evie Sobczak invented a biofuel made out of algae. Even cooler? It actually works (she ran her car on it!). Evie has been a shining star in the science fair community, earning the Best In Show award at the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair two years in a row (one of only a couple students to ever do so). She was also rewarded at the International Science and Engineering Fair, winning her category and receiving “best in category” accolades. Evie’s going to be taking her studies to new heights next year in the Big Apple as a freshman at Columbia University!

Oliver Dumoulin and Miles CasesCo-Founders of N Stuff

Oliver and Miles started off by creating a popular music sharing platform called House N Stuff. After a while, that project turned into something bigger, an entire media and marketing operation called N Stuff dedicated to helping college kids navigate the confusing worlds of life, music, fashion and culture.

Alexandra Shadrow, Founder of UNItiques

Shadrow, currently a junior at Boston University, created UNItiques as a free marketplace between students to make it easier for college kids to buy and sell items on their respective campuses without having to venture out to secondhand stores and get ripped off. The enterprise has since expanded to include thousands upon thousands of students and is constantly expanding!

Kate Avino, Founder of Her Culture

Every girl has a story, and Kate Avino hopes that her organization, Her Culture, can be the medium telling those stories. Kate has created a place for women to bond over their backgrounds and abilities over several platforms, including social media accounts, a blog, and an actual print magazine. Even better: Her Culture just relaunched its website!

Aarav Chavda, Founder of Earthwalkers Charities

Aarav founded Earthwalkers Charities, a 501(c)3 international non-profit dedicated to providing shoes to those who cannot afford them in impoverished parts of India, South Africa, and other countries. He was struck at a young age when he saw people walking barefoot in mud, which he learned would lead to dangerous and unpleasant infections, while traveling with his family. His organization has raised tens of thousands of dollars and has donated thousands of pairs to those in need. Aarav was also part of a team that developed FiberTect, which allows absortion of oil or toxic wastes up to 15 times its own weight, while rejecting water. The technology received a multi-million dollar funding from the US Military.

Natalie Chyi, Photographer

Natalie’s eponymous photography enterprise has been thriving for several years. She has photographed several notable fashion bloggers and has also had her worked featured in STREET x American Apparel Magazine and Golf Vacations Magazine, to name a few publications. Even more impressive, Natalie has won several photography awards for her work and has even had her photographs featured in a London exhibit.

Lex Erath, Author

A former TP writer herself, current college student Lex Erath wrote and self-published her own book, Quant3m, when she was a freshman at Tufts. The book’s plot line is filled with drama, suspense, action, and some totally cool sci-fi; what more could you want?

Matthew Crosman Shaw, Member of The MS80

Like many musicians, Matt’s career started at various school talent shows. But this changed when a band dropped a show at a local club at the last minute, and the venue decided to book a random band (as you can imagine, The MS80 was chosen to play that night). Since then, the band has been featured on local radio stations, interviewed by Michigan State University’s radio station, performing at many other shows, and working on producing a full-length album. The group’s music is unique and just incredible, especially considering the lack of resources they have to record their music. Music from their EP is available on iTunes, and they will be playing at an art gallery throughout the month of February to help get more teenagers interested in the arts.

Akila Prayaga, Social Entrepreneur

Akila is the founder of several different organizations that seek to help people who don’t have access to crucial resources. She is the founder and president/executive coordinator of the Youth Literacy Initiative (YLI), which promotes literacy and provides services to impoverished areas with low literacy rates. She also founded Today’s Readers Tomorrow’s Leaders (TRTL), which provides residents with educational materials they might not be able to access due to their circumstances, as well as YCareer, which offers “over 400 free internships, jobs, and summer programs” to high school students.

Sam Gilman and Andrew Kaplan, Co-Founders of Common Sense Action

Sam and Andrew’s brainchild, Common Sense Action, is a grassroots organization dedicated to bringing Millennials to the policymaking table to build a more stable and fair future for all. Sam and Andrew are both currently juniors at Brown University, and they are both C.V. Starr Innovation Fellows for their work on CSA.

Savannah Brown, Vlogger

Savannah, a YouTube sensation racking up over 75,000 subscribers and counting, has been making videos for years. She covers a range of topics including dealing with high school life and  larger questions about identity, and she’s definitely a force in front of the camera!

Grayson McGuire, Dancer

Grayson has found success as a top notch dancer, even auditioning for Travis Wall’s new reality TV show and only being turned down because he was still 17. He started his own dance company, the SCORE Contemporary Company, in Los Angeles despite his young age.

Brittany Amano, Founder of Hawaii’s Future Isn’t Hungry and Teens Stopping Domestic Violence

Brittany is a junior in high school and has started two non-profits, Hawaii’s Future Isn’t Hungry and Teens Stopping Domestic Violence. Even cooler: She also spoke at TEDxHonolulu ED, and a documentary is being made about her for local film events.

Brent Comstock, Founder of BCom Solutions

Brent started making websites and fixing computers at age 12; he then founded BCom Solutions, which helps startups develop marketing strategies and technology integration plans (and his client base has grown to over 75+ different organizations!). He is currently a freshman in college and a motivational speaker for young people, even speaking at the TEDxYouth Conference at the Hewitt School in New York City about starting his business and encouraging students to pursue their passions regardless of where they’re from (he was living in Nebraska at the time he founded BCom).

Jessica Waters, Founder of Cupcakes for Camp

At age 12, Jessica was diagnosed with epilepsy, but when she went to a local summer camp, she learned how to deal with her illness and that it shouldn’t stop her from living her life. Then, she decided to make a change. She founded Cupcakes for Camp to help send other kids with epilepsy to summer camp as well, so they could learn how to not be held back by their seizures.

Brian HK Chan, Photographer

Hailing from Hong Kong, Brian HK Chan has made a name for himself in the world of photography…and did we mention that he’s only 18? His work has been featured in PhotoVogue Vogue ItaliaGlacier Magazine, and Ignyte Magazine. Even more impressive? He does it all while juggling being a first-year medical school student.



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the author

Lily Herman is a junior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Besides bopping around on The Prospect, Lily is a columnist for USA TODAY College (read the Quad Report, yo); an editorial intern for The Daily Muse; a contributing editor for the campus blog Wesleying; a national contributing editor for Her Campus; and an editorial/marketing intern at HelloFlo. When she is not studying or awkwardly waving at people around campus, Lily enjoys eating Sour Patch Kids and re-watching the Friday Night Lights series finale (she's Team Saracen, by the way). Also (shameless plug alert), feel free to follow her on Twitter, or email her at lherman(at)theprospect(dot)net.

4 Readers Commented

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  1. Kate Avino on February 19, 2014

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! What an honor! So happy to collaborate with TP and to be recognized!

  2. Ann Marie Miller on February 19, 2014

    This is an amazing recognition for all those chosen.

  3. Jessica Waters on March 16, 2014

    Thank you so much. What a wonderful honor.

  4. Matthew Crosman Shaw on May 8, 2014

    I didn’t know about this until this morning (a couple months late)
    But thank you so much! It’s a huge honor to be amongst such stellar youth

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