The 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World

Youth Service America
May 16, 2012

"Some may recognize that youth are always at the center of social change. Others may still think this is a radical idea ... History tells us that people who change the world are often young -- they just need the chance."  - Steve Culbertson, YSA President

For anyone who believes that young people can't make a difference, and that the young voice in this world doesn't count, this list will make you think again.

Youth Service America– an international leader in the youth service movement – has recognized and awarded 25 teens and young adults who, through service to others, are creating large-scale, profound community change.  These young people are the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the world.   

All under the age of 25, these young people have all made waves in their communities and around the world to promote change for the better with their projects. The honorees hail from diverse regions of the world: South Dakota and Rhode Island in the U.S., Uganda, Jordan, Australia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Honduras and Colombia. They are leading major conservation efforts; raising awareness about health crises; addressing childhood hunger; speaking out on LGBT issues; inventing cutting-edge technology; and more.

In patnership with the Huffington Post and in conjunction with the 25th annual YSA Global Youth Service Day, the honorees have been unveiled each day with the opportunity to share their story, passion, and inspiration of their projects. 

Meet these amazing young people and read their stories below--and don't be surprised if you find yourself itching to get involved, support, or start your own global-changing project!

Tamer Shabaan Tamer Shaaban
Filmmaker & 
founder, Mantis Films (Egypt)

"I did the only thing I knew how -- I made a short film with a message. The message was simple: "We are Egyptian. We are human. Let us be..."

Dylan Mahalingham 
Social Activist & founder, L'il MDGs (USA)

"Kids over the world came together to raise $780,000 for tsunami relief. Leveraging the collective power of youth and the Internet, our..."

Anoka Abeyrathne
Conservationist (Sri Lanka)

"We made Sri Lanka's first digital environmental music video, which I starred in as an earth spirit to bring environmental degradation into..."

Ghalib Khalil
Activist (Pakistan)

"Being young and alone, I had to think of ways to get across the message. Now the only tools I had were my cellphone, my laptop and the..."

Alec Urbach
Filmmaker & Activist (USA)

" It is my belief that to create a more peaceful, humane society, we must first have an educated and intellectually hungry society ..."

Kendall Ciesemier
Founder,  Kids Caring 4 Kids (USA)

"I believe that service is our power against combating issues like bullying, teenage suicide and depression because when we make a difference..."

Christopher Yao
Founder, Kids Change the World (USA)

"To solve 21st-century problems like poverty, global warming, homelessness and economic crises, young people need to work together.."

Daniel Kent
Founder, Net Literacy (US)

"I was unable to find any organization that would build computer labs in interdependent living facilities and teach seniors how to become... "

Camilo Jimenez
Eco-entrepreneur & founder, Ecopuntas (Colombia)

"One day I realized that producing and creating technology was my passion, and I decided to change the world through my actions."

Madelyn McGlynn
Founder, NETwork Against Malaria (US)

"My sisters and I wanted to help, so we researched malaria and learned that it kills one child every 30 seconds. It was terrible to realize..."

Zander Srodes,
Eco-educator & founder, Turtle Talks (US)

"The moment my passion found me, I was 11 years old and on the beach in Florida. I saw yellow stakes in the sand where sea turtles had nested...."

Abdel Alzorgan
Inventor, Conservationist (Jordan)

"I might be a dreamer, but a person without dreams and ambition is just breathing, and life is more than oxygen. We are here to achieve..."

Luis Cruz
Inventor & accessibility advocate (Honduras)

"Following research on how technology could be used to improve the lifestyles of disabled people, I discovered that this technology was..."

Cassandra Lin
Inventor & conservationist (US)

"By age 10, I already had my sights set on changing the world. I came together with my friends to start a community service team with the.."

Kyle Weiss
Philanthropist & Founder, FundaField (US)

"FUNDaFIELD's soccer fields have the greatest impact on kids in areas that have recently undergone conflict or some sort of traumatic experience...."

Grace Li
Co-founder and CEO, We Care Act (US)

"We Care Act has engaged over 20,000 people from 17 countries and helped over 14,000 kids recover from natural disasters. Through my work..."

Jeremiah Kimbugwe
Social worker (Uganda)

"I have given my international friends a reason to come to Uganda to spread peace and love. We put up a medical center with our bare hands..."

Olivia Bouler
Environmental activist (US)

"It was my eight-year-old brother Jackson who truly inspired me. As he described his love for the outdoors, I realized that it was essential..."

DeAndre Roberts
Human rights activist (US)

"In the depths of someone's mind, a great vision is nurtured and created. And just as it takes a village to raise a child, it will take a world to embrace this new vision ..."

Jonny Cohen
Founder of GreenShields (US)

"Many may think that a school bus is ordinary, but I see it as extraordinary. Yes, it's an extraordinary opportunity to help decrease our carbon footprint..."

Brittany Bergquist
Founder of Cell Phones for Soldiers (US)

"In 2004, when I was 13 years old, I was watching the morning news when we heard the story of a soldier ..."

Student ambassador for the Global Soap Project (US)
"Four million people will die annually from intestinal diseases because of a lack of access to soap and clean water. While we take soap..."
Valens Ntamushobora
Women's rights activist (Rwanda)
"In many rural areas in Rwanda, women have been excluded from the decision-making processes affecting their lives, families and communities,..."
Marita Cheng
Engineer, Founder of Robogals Global (Australia)
"How can you make sure you're using the best ideas to create for the world if the group at the table doesn't evenly represent the world?..."

Mohammad Barry

HIV and human rights activist (South Africa)
"I'm serving a death sentence for a crime I did not commit. This is my story ..."









































































YSA (Youth Service America) improves communities by increasing the number and the diversity of young people, ages 5 to 25, serving in substantive roles. Through campaigns, grant programs, resource development and training opportunities, YSA promotes a global culture of engaged youth committed to a lifetime of service, learning, leadership and achievement.

Sponsored by YSA, Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) is a campaign that celebrates and mobilizes the millions of children and youth who improve their communities each day of the year through service. GYSD 2012 will be held on April 20-22 in more than 100 countries on six continents. For more information, visit and

Photo: Flickr/martinak15.