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Feel-Good Friday: Teens who are taking on the world! Four girls who prove you're never too young to make a difference

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It's pretty easy to feel like you can't really change the world. Adults throw around the words 'just a teen' or ‘wait until you get to the real world’ a lot. And in a ‘real world’ filled with seven billion people across seven different continents, it can be pretty easy to feel like you can't do much.

Well, no offense to the big, bad grown-ups, but in this case they are totally wrong because you really can make a difference! Change starts with one person, something these four teens definitely proved.

The Diller Teen Tikkum Olam Awards is a campaign all about teens who are setting out to change the world. One thing some of these teens have in common? Major girl power, something we at GL love.

Amanda, Paige, Morgan and Lillian all made a huge charitable difference in many different ways, proving that no idea is too small and no goal is too big. Their passion and compassion led them to be recognized at the 2014 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. The $36,000 award each received is just a small, monetary token compared to the positive differences they’ve made in so many people lives.

Meet this year's winners and get inspired:

Amanda H., 20, Atlanta, GA

As a dancer, Amanda knows how important motivation, passion, persistence and discipline can be in order to live a healthy lifestyle. In fact, these things were so important to her, she decided she wanted to share them with low-income children in her hometown of Atlanta, GA. That’s how Wear then Share was born. This project empowers underprivileged children through dance and distributes the dancewear they need to take center stage. Amanda runs the programs through homeless shelters and the Boys and Girls club. Since 2006, Amanda has been able to provide $80,000 worth of dancewear to the kiddos of Atlanta. Not only does she run the donation drives and funds, but she also actually teaches dance classes to the children first-hand. She’s currently training others to do the same, so Wear then Share can branch out nationally. You go, Amanda!

Paige A., 18, Woodcliff Lake, NJ

Brushing your teeth may not be something you consider a privilege. Actually, sometimes it’s more of a chore than anything. Lying in bed and realizing you forgot to brush your teeth? Yeah, it’s a pain. However, there are millions of people who suffer from dental related problems that lead to oral cancer and other terrible diseases, just because they can’t afford a toothbrush. Paige realized how lucky she was to have a toothbrush one night, which inspired her to reach out to World Dental Relief (WDR), a nonprofit charity that distributes dental supplies around the world to various healthcare missions. Paige wanted to help. The result? Donate a Toothbrush, an organization she founded that collects toothbrushes and distributes them worldwide. It’s the largest provider of toothbrushes for the WDR. 106,000 people in over 60 countries have been able to brush their teeth thanks to Paige’s continuously expanding efforts. That’s something to smile about.

Morgan D., 16, Woodland Hills, CA

Almost everyone has been affected by cancer in some way, whether it’s because of a family member or a friend. When Morgan’s grandmother passed away due to Lymphoma, a type of cancer that attacks the immune system and spreads via bloodstream, she vowed she’d make a difference. It started with a one-day event she ran called Cuts for a Cure. It was so successful that it raised $29,000 to go towards fighting the disease, and recruited 25 people to sign up for the National Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Registry. Amazed and inspired that she really could make a difference, Morgan launched the Ambassadors for Hope Club. This organization consists of a network of high school clubs that seek to raise awareness about blood cancers through blood drives, fundraisers for critical research, and bone marrow/stem cell donor recruitment. In four years, they’ve managed to recruit 250 donors, personally match four donors with people battling cancer and in need of a bone marrow transplant and have raised $45,000 for City of Hope, a leading cancer research center. Plus, Morgan is the youngest trained volunteer recruiter for Be the Match National Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Registry. Morgan is truly help lead the fight against cancer.

Lillian P., 14, New York, NY

Lillian experienced vision impairment first-hand when she was younger. Born with a cataract, she had undergone two surgeries to correct her vision before the age of five. She remembers the nerves and fears she had waiting before surgery, wondering if others experienced. She wanted to help other patients and began volunteering in the pediatrics surgical unit, a task that led her to realize that over 19 million children world wide are visually impaired, but cannot access the proper care they need. At just eight years old, Lillian founded Vision for and from Children (VFAFC). Their mission is to provide eye surgeries and vision-related services for children in need across the globe. Although it is a US based organization, they team up with world-renowned physicians, recruit teen “Diplomats” and sponsor teams of ophthalmologists to provide eye care services and sight-restoring surgeries to children in third world regions, as well as in the U.S. 24,210 children receive the gift of sight thanks to Lillian and her foundation. Her biggest hope? To expand the foundation even more through her “One Million $1 Bills” campaign, that will fund building ophthalmology centers in developing countries. We see a better world thanks to Lillian and her efforts.

Are you inspired by these stories, or do you know a teen who is making a difference in your community? Tell us in the comments below!

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by Kate Radin | 2/1/2016
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