Contrary to popular belief, Millenials rock at innovation, leadership, and all-around wave-making. From athletes to artists to social enterpreneurs, the young people of "2 Billion Under 20" are sharing their stories both online and in an upcoming book to inspire their peers to make moves. According to the project's creators, Stacey Ferreira (age 21) and Jared Kleinert (age 17), "2 Billion Under 20 wants to change the way young people think about their future and empower them to act fully on their passions no matter how old they are. We do this by building a community of the world’s most inspirational, intelligent and talented young people and providing them with the resources and know-how to realize their full potential in any worthwhile endeavor." The project gets its name from the world population of approximately 2 billion under-20-somethings, and aims not only to release a book compiling their stories, but also to generate a worldwide network of young collaborators through local meetups, speaking opportunities, and social media.
To no surprise, several of the book's dynamic contributors are LGBT youth, including Brittany McMillan, founder of Spirit Day-- a nationwide day of action where millions wear purple as a sign of support for LGBT youth and to speak out against bullying. GLAAD has played a major role in amplifying Brittany's message to promote Spirit Day and efforts to end bullying and discrimination.
Central to "2 Billion Under 20" is the recognition that in spite of social and economic challenges facing the Millenial Generation, young people can and already are raising the bar and changing the world for the better. And it's pretty cool that LGBT youth have been part of that. Here are some of the young people already featured in the project:
Brittany McMillan is an 18 year-old equality activist from Surrey, British Columbia. In 2010, Brittany started her campaign Spirit Day in response to several LGBT teen suicides in September of that year. Through social media outlets, she asked people all around the world to wear purple to stand up to homophobic bullying and show support for the LGBT community. With GLAAD's help, Spirit Day has become an international phenomenon, attracting millions of participants, from celebrities, to media outlets, to churches, to local communities and schools -- even the White House has gone purple for Spirit Day in a united stand against bullying.
Jack Andraka is a Maryland high school student who at age 15 created a novel paper sensor that detects pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer in 5 minutes for as little as 3 cents. He conducted his research at Johns Hopkins University and is the winner of the Gordon E. Moore award at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award and was First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest at the State of the Union Address.
Corey Freeman has been helping others with their online presence since age 14. Developing WordPress websites for her parents and then for clients around the globe, she began a personal branding journey that would continue strong right into her 20s. After being introduced Headway Themes in 2009, she became a specialist in the internet’s easiest WordPress framework. Launching Headway101 in January of 2012, Corey has been teaching small businesses and individual professionals how to build their own websites through extensive training materials and expert consulting services. At age 20, Corey is the president and CEO of “Corey Freeman International LLC” and dreams of becoming a philanthropist and public advocate for equality and social acceptance. She is currently developing a YouTube talk show from her desk in Raleigh, NC.
At 17, Erik Martin was invited to the ScienceOnline unconference by his former teacher Stacy Baker (who rocks) to talk about student blogging, and became a core member of the ScienceOnlineTeen unconference to empower students and teachers with online spaces (like games!). At 18, Erik again paged in the Maryland General Assembly, and then began game design with the U.S. Department of Energy. He is now at 19 a student at the University of Maryland creating his own major in New Media and Global Affairs, with a minor in Planetary Science, and is working on the game Immune Defense with the Federation of American Scientists. He is also the CEO of Spark Education, a new online student assessment platform to reinvent k-12 testing. He one day aspires to be the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot.
Eric Arellano is 16 years old and has founded two projects dedicated to providing clean water to the developing world. The Clean Water Utility Project, his more recent venture, partners with city governments to give residents the option to check "yes" on their water utility bill to automatically donate $1 every two months towards clean water in the developing world. In 2009-- at age 13-- he co-founded Just Dig It, an organization "to provide access to clean water in the developing world, beginning with Ghana, West Africa." Before shifting its focus to the Clean Water Utility Project, Just Dig It raised over $30,000 and provided clean water for nearly 1,750 Ghanaians through fundraisers and donations.
These are only a few of the LGBT mavericks demonstrating the potential of the Millenial generation, and the network of "2 Billion Under 20" continues to grow! For more info and updates about "2 Billion Under 20," check out their Facebook (facebook.com/2billionunder20), Twitter (twitter.com/2BillionUnder20), and main website (2billionunder20.com). The project's creators are also seeking sponsors and long-term partners to help them produce their book, for which you can lend a hand here: http://2billionunder20.com/the-book/sponsors/