Girls in Action
At just 19 years old, Samantha Peszek has already has accomplished more than many of us will in a lifetime. Born in Indianapolis in 1991, she began gymnastics and launched her outstanding career in 1993. In 2004, at just 12 years old, she became the youngest member of the U.S. Junior National Gymnastics team, competing for the U.S. internationally. In 2007, she became the world champion and in 2008 she was named to the U.S. Olympic team, where she helped the U.S. win a silver medal in the team competition. After the Olympics, Peszek went back to finish her senior year in high school, had shoulder surgery, and accepted a full gymnastics scholarship to the University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA). Teen Voices freelance writer (and former Girl in Action herself!) Jen Rubino had the chance to interview Peszek about her incredible career. Peszek had originally planned to try to be part of the Olympic team again this year, but once at college, decided that college and all the responsibilities that come with being a student-athlete there needed to take priority. Peszek speaks about what it was like to be an Olympic athlete four years ago and how it is different for her now.
Have you heard the name Julia Bluhm? If you follow national news, you’ve probably seen her name making headlines. That’s because recently, Bluhm and her best friend Izzy Labbe, along with many other teen girls, have been speaking out against Photoshop. And not just any type of Photoshop use—the use of Photoshop in teen magazines. Specifically, these girls asked the editor of teen magazine sensation Seventeen to produce one page of unaltered photos per magazine.
Elizabeth Beisel is just like any other college student—with good grades, a healthy social life, and four international medals to represent her competitive swimming career! Okay, so maybe she isn’t your average Jo. At the age of 15, Rhode Island native Beisel traveled to Beijing, China to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics as the youngest member of the U.S. swim team. Four years later and still training hard to hone her skills as an athletic powerhouse, 19-year-old Beisel has moved from her home team of the Bluefish Swim Club in Attleboro, Massachusetts to the University of Florida Gators, and she’s looking to take London by storm in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
A little more than a year ago, 16-year-old Jen Rubino thought about how she could change the experience of a child in the hospital. Having spent a lot of time in hospitals herself, Rubino drew from her own life to see how she could improve those of others. Today, Rubino looks to bring joy to hospitalized children through card creation and delivery. Teen Voices recently spoke with Rubino about her organization, her illness, and how they have both affected her outlook on life.
Nicole Maines, 14, is a activist for transgender rights. Nicole bravely told the world about her transition from boy to girl in a two-hour interview with Boston Globe reporter Bella English; the story was published in December 2011 on the front page of the Boston Sunday Globe. Publicity around Nicole and her transition has grown exponentially, and we are honored that Nicole has selected Teen Voices as her last public interview. Read on to learn more about her activism in advancing the rights of transgender individuals.
After losing several family members to cancer, Jazmin Branch turned her grief into the quest for a cure. She began researching cancer while she was in high school. As she investigated, Jazmin found there was more to the disease than meets the eye, or the girl for that matter. Teen Voices spoke with Jazmin about her research, and how she became focused on its incidence in Latina and African American women.
"Everybody saw me as this unruly child who always got in trouble. After I was diagnosed, people could see that I was a girl who was different and had a gift to give."
These are the words of Amanda LaMunyon, a 16-year-old girl with Asperger's Syndrome. Despite the challenges she faces, LaMunyon doesn't let Asperger's stop her from sharing her skills to help others. In fact, through her generosity, talents in the arts, and a website where she sells prints of her paintings, LaMunyon raises awareness for children's health issues and autism foundations.
Sejal Hathi was 15 when she started her own nonprofit to help girls around the world. Her titles include U.S.A. Ambassador for Ashoka's Youth Venture; National Board of Directors at Member for Youth Service America; National Board of Directors at Girls for A Change; Youth Advisory Board Member for State Farm Insurance; and Founding and Steering Committee Member of the World Bank's Youth, Development, and Peace Network of North America. But being a part of these organizations was just the beginning of Sejal Hathi's ultra-ambitious youth service career. As a sophomore in high school, she started a global non-profit organization to give young girls a voice at home and in their communities. Sejal spoke with Teen Voices editorial intern Lindsay McCormack about how her organization, Girls Helping Girls (GHG), can remind all girls that they have the power to help others and make their own dreams come true.
Hurricane Katrina slammed against the Gulf Coast in 2005, leaving thousands homeless, injured, and terrified. While many of us wanted to help but didn't know how, Talia Leman got to work. Trick-or-treating that Halloween, she asked for coins instead of candy. The result: ten million dollars and an organization that's still churning out change.
Talia spoke with Teen Voices' Lindsay McCormack about Halloween costumes, helping others, and a whip-smart idea that's changing the world.
Dallas Jessup, now 19, remembers the day in 2004 that she came home from high school to find her mom waiting by the TV. Her mom asked Jessup to sit down and watch the news clip that she had saved on the family's TiVo earlier that day. The news footage showed the now-infamous case of Carlie Brucia, an 11-year-old whose abduction from a Florida carwash was caught on surveillance tapes.
In 2008, Cassandra Lin had a problem to solve. In her small, Northeastern town of Westerly, Rhode Island, the high price of heating oil was preventing some its residents from staying warm during the cold winter months. When Cassandra and a group of her friends discovered that waste cooking oil can be turned into bio-diesel fuel, they started a charity called TGIF: Turn Grease into Fuel.
Brittany Bergquist was just 13 years old as she watched the affects of the war from her home and decided she wanted to make a difference. On an unforgettable rainy Saturday morning, using $14 from her piggy bank, Brittany and her younger brother Robbie founded Cell Phones for Soldiers, an organization that soon became an influential and far-reaching non-profit.
Collete Davis was not your average 12-year-old. Instead of playing outside or with friends, Davis spent her days studying the mechanical engineering of cars by taking apart and reassembling trucks. By the age of 13, this interest led her to realize her dreams: to become a race car driver. And now, at the age of 17, Davis is already an accomplished race car driver
At just 17 years old Amanda Thomas began her own charity, The Big Re-Gift, to benefit women and children at her local domestic violence shelter. A senior at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, South Carolina., Amanda is one of 51 students across the country to be recognized by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards as an outstanding teen making a difference in her community.
Channing Seideman, age 17 from Aspen, Colorado, has been living with epilepsy since she was ten years old. Rather than give up her active lifestyle of skiing and horseback riding, Channing and her family have found ways to make things work. With the help of her service dog, Georgie, Channing is helping give back to others who are dealing with epilepsy--just like her.
Rebecca Kantar, age 18, and "Minga," her youth-run civic organization, are dedicated to ending the global child sex trade through educating teens. Kantar has actively been presenting Minga's message in front of large audiences of teens at places like Harvard University, Cornell Medical School, and the Clinton Global Initiative Conference.
Gladys Gitau, a student at the public high school in Lawrence, Massachusetts started her own newsletter—What's Good in the Hood—while participating in a business social entrepreneurship program offered in her community. What's Good in the Hood highlights the positive things happening in Lawrence, particularly what kids are doing to give back to the community, such as cleaning up their city and planting trees through the Comcast Cares Earth Day event.
Catch this wave! Lakey Peterson, 16, is already a big hit in the professional surfing world. At age 12, she won the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Western States Champion, and was the top female pick for the 2011 USA Surf Team. The surfing wunderkind tells Teen Voices about her life in the water, her determination, and her passion for keeping the ocean clean.
Sixteen-year-old Lindsey Kimball has a lot more life experience than you would expect from your average teenager. She has fought cancer twice"“her first battle at the age of seven. Rather than feel sorry for herself, Kimball took her experiences with the disease and became an outstanding activist fighting to raise money and awareness for cancer.
When the oil spill endangered marine and bird life off the Gulf of Mexico this summer, sixteen-year-old Shannon Pugliese didn't just stand by and watch" Hear what August's Girl in Action has to say about what she's doing to help!
July's Girl in Action Ali Broshar is using her talents and her own website to give back to the community "“ important for any good entrepreneur!
June's Girl in Action Hayley Winterberg has drawn on her own experiences with bipolar disorder to create the group MY LIFE, remove the stigma from mental illness and give youth a place to feel "normal" again.
After an earthquake devastated the country of Haiti in January 2010, March's Girl in Action Katie Riley knew she had raise awareness in her community and help the people of Haiti in any way she could.
Meet February's Girl in Action: Annie Wignall, 17, from Iowa who is making custom bags and filling them with essentials like toothbrushes, combs, and more!
Allison Novack combines her passion for music with public service by producing teen-friendly concerts with 1308 Productions, a non-profit that she and her family created. The shows give new bands exposure, benefit different causes, and allow teens to help organize the events and gain community involvement. Allison talked with Teen Voices about her work to improve her community and the world through music.
Norfolk, England-based Megan Craysord-Noble launched the Fight to Live Campaign to raise awareness of eating disorders and the damage they can do. She started Fight to Live in response to "pro-ana" (anorexia) and "pro-mia" (bulimia) websites that actively promote eating disorders as a lifestyle choice, instead of recognizing them as dangerous illnesses. Megan talked with Teen Voices' Teresa DiViacchi about her work to highlight the dangers of eating disorders.
Risha Shukla learned at a very young age that it is absolutely no fun to be a sick child in a hospital. After her experience, she decided to create the Kids Who Care Club, which helps to cheer up young hospitalized children. Risha started this work when she was just seven years old, and has been doing it for more than five years! She talked with Teen Voices' Kinne Chapin about how she got started, what her organization does to help children, and why she thinks it's important that all of us give back to our communities.
Lights, camera, action! That's what 18-year-old Naomi Nelson is about—getting things done. For the past three years, Nelson has worked for Reel Grrls, a nonprofit after-school media and technology program that teaches girls to take charge of media. Teen Voices talks with Nelson about her latest documentary, her take on the media, and why she taking a stand to help foster care kids like herself.
When Malvi Hemani visited her family in India two years ago, the sight of so many children without access to good education affected her so much that she decided to do something about it. After researching international foundations that help children, Malvi started her own: LEAP. Through LEAP (Learn, Encourage and Promote), Malvi raises money for children in China and India whose parents cannot afford to send them to school and donates money to charities who do similar work. We talked to Malvi about her inspirations and where she'd like to see her charity go in the future.
These teen cousins started a charitable organization called Breast Friends Forever, which raises funds for women with breast cancer. The organization's goal is to help women deal with their day-to-day financial needs -- and make a stressful situation a little easier to handle. We talked with Erika and Mike about how their organization works, how they got the idea, and why they love doing what they do.
Recent high school grad Rebekah Isack wrote an award-winning essay in her local newspaper's editorial section about environmental conservation. She wrote to increase awareness of the threats to our environment and to make it clear what we all need to do to take care of our world. We spoke with Rebekah about what you can do to stay green.
April's Girl in Action is Shannon McNamara, a fifteen year old from New Jersey. With the support of her parents and community, Shannon opened an after-school reading program for girls in Tanzania, Africa in July 2008. Shannon's program is known as SHARE, "Shannon's After-School Reading Exchange." Besides from promoting children's literacy, Shannon is a Girl Scout who loves to travel with her family. We got to speak with Shannon about her activism, her travels, her favorite books, and how other girls can be activists, too!