Every year, we get the opportunity to meet inspiring, creative, and courageous kids through our Scholastic Classroom Magazines and 2016 was no different. In fact, this year, our editors met so many extraordinary kids that making this list proved to be very difficult. From sending homemade spacecrafts into space to inventing medical devices, these 12 kids remind us that no idea is too big to accomplish as long as you’re willing to work hard to achieve your goals.
Our hope is that after reading their stories, you will be as inspired by these amazing kids as we were!
The Adventurous One – Noah Carver, 13, Maine
13-year-old Noah Carver was born blind, but he hasn’t allowed his condition to place limitations on his life. Noah has participated in 10Ks, raced boats, ridden horses, and even ridden tandem mountain bikes. He has also completed mountain hikes and can sing and play guitar, drums, and piano. Currently, Noah is preparing for a hike on the Appalachian Trail! In his spare time, Noah has also started a radio show on the local college station in his area and began hosting an online gathering for teens that are blind or visually impaired.
The Autism Awareness Activist – Connor Archer, 18, Maine
After he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age three, Connor Archer’s parents were told by doctors that he would never be able to talk. Today, 18-year-old Connor is speaking and using his voice to educate kids about autism and other disabilities. He has also created the Courageous Steps Project to help kids with autism and other disabilities. So far, his organization has raised more than $30,000 and the proceeds are used to buy items such as iPads and stress-relief toys to help students with disabilities.
The Engineers – Rebecca Yeung, 11, and Kimberly Yeung, 9, Washington
In September 2015, sisters Rebecca and Kimberly Yeung decided that they wanted to build a spacecraft and launch it into space. The sisters wanted to film the blackness of space, measure how high the craft flew, and find it once it fell to the Earth. Using a balloon, parachute, archery arrows, and plywood, the sisters designed and built the “Loki Lego Launcher,” which they successfully launched into space. After sharing video online, the sisters were invited to the White House Science Fair this past April, where they showed President Obama their invention.
The Entrepreneurs – Isabelle Adams, 13, and Katherine Adams, 10, Texas
When sisters Isabelle and Katherine Adams learned of the distance people, and oftentimes children, around the world travel to get access to clean water, they decided they wanted to do something about it. The sisters began creating and selling paper ornaments and the money raised was used for digging wells in places that don’t have clean water. Since the creation of Paper for Water five years ago, the sisters and volunteers have raised $825,000 and paid for 100 wells in 13 countries.
The Environmental Activist – Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 16, Colorado
Growing up in a family concerned about the environment, 16-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez knew at a very young age that he wanted to join the fight against climate change. At the age of six, he joined that fight and now ten years later, Xiuhtezcatl runs a group called Earth Guardians. As part of his role, Xiuhtezcatl travels around the globe, speaking to students in classrooms as well as world leaders and presidential candidates about the steps they can take to help save the planet.
The Game Changer – Maddie Messer, 13
Maddie Messer, 13, is an avid Temple Run player but she didn’t love being forced to play as a male avatar. The game did have an option to play as a female character, but it wasn’t free—that’s when Maddie decided to do some research. Maddie’s research of the 50 most popular iPhone games led her to discover that 90% of video games offered free male characters, but only 15% offered free female characters. Motivated by this statistic, Maddie penned an op-ed article in The Washington Post, which attracted millions of readers around the world, including the creators of Temple Run, who took heed to Maddie’s words and made the female avatar free of cost for all players.
The Historians – Tashama Coombs, 11, and Storam Coombs, 9, Massachusetts
Tashama and Storam Coombs are 11-and 9-year-old sisters who get to share their culture with others in a very cool way. The sisters are part of the Wampanoag tribe—a Native American tribe based in Massachusetts—and their dad is the head historian at the Wampanoag Homesite. The sisters participate at the Homesite by dressing up in traditional clothing and showing visitors what life was like for the tribe 400 years ago. Although Tashama and Storam partake in regular activities such as school, riding bikes and having fun, they love teaching others about their culture.
The Legislator – Laila McCain, 16, Massachusetts
It’s the law of the land that you can’t vote until you’re 18 years old but Laila McCain, a 16-year-old from Boston, isn’t letting her age get in the way of her voice being heard. Laila is a member of Boston’s Youth Lead the Change: Participatory Budgeting Initiative, a program launched in 2014 that gives teens and young adults the power to vote on how a portion of their city’s budget will be spent. Every year, the YLC is given a $1 million budget from the city of Boston and residents are asked to suggest ideas for programs to improve the city, which the teens then vote on. Thanks to Laila’s efforts as part of YLC last year, three local high schools received new Chromeboooks and surveillance cameras were installed in a South Boston park.
The One Helping Alzheimer Patients – Kenneth Shinozuka, 17, New York
After his grandfather wandered off at night, 17-year-old Kenneth Shinozuka decided that he wanted to create a device that would keep his grandfather and others who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease safe. Kenneth’s invention, SafeWander, is a sensor that clips into the sock of someone with Alzheimer’s and activates when the person steps out of bed. A wireless signal is then sent to an app on the caregiver’s smartphone, triggering an alert. Since his original prototype, Kenneth has also created a sensor that picks up on movement anywhere on a patient’s body.
The One Fighting for a Cure – Preston Kilzer, 13, Colorado
Preston Kilzer was just five years old when he was diagnosed with cancer. Although Preston has been healthy for the past eight years, he has made it his mission to honor his late friends, by putting an end to childhood cancer. Preston helps raise money for groups that work to find new treatments and a cure for the disease. Each year, for the last nine years, Preston has shaved his head for a fundraiser held by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. This past March, Preston and others collected almost half a million dollars for the organization.
The Scientist – Nikhil Gopal, 16, New Jersey
Malaria is a disease that kills nearly one million people per year and after his aunt’s close call with malaria, 16-year-old Nikhil Gopal decided that he wanted to help doctors figure out how to more effectively treat patients like her. So, Nikhil created a CD-like device that tests the blood of patients to see if they have malaria. If the patient has malaria the device will change color and once a picture of the device is taken and uploaded to Nikhil’s Malisa app, doctors will learn of how much of the malaria parasite is in the blood. Nikhil hopes that his system, which is much cheaper than ordinary malaria tests and doesn’t require electricity, will be of use to treat people in countries with limited access to medical resources.
The Superhero – Paige Sullivan, 9, North Carolina
When 9-year-old Paige Sullivan was in the hospital due to a serious heart condition, her mom made her a superhero cape to lift her spirits. Now that she’s doing better, Paige has decided to do the same for other children in the hospital! Paige and her mom have made over 100 superhero capes, which have been given out to children in local hospitals so they too can feel brave as they fight their illnesses. Paige has also written a book called Embrace Your Cape to let kids know what to expect in the hospital.
Thank you to Joanne Corrielus, the 2016 fall intern in Scholastic's Corporate Comunications department, for this post!
Image via Kenneth Shinozuka