By Sarah Beach
Sometimes the world can seem like such a big, messy place, but really it’s just a lot of people like you and me. The truth is that just one person, even if she is small, can still be mighty enough to change the world. Here are some inspirational girls who have dreamed big and done just that.
Many of these girls didn’t know exactly how they would change the world when they started out. They just knew that they saw a problem, and they were determined to help fix it. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big and putting your ideas out there. Even if you don’t succeed, you will learn and grow, and one day, you too will make a difference that changes the world.
Meet Ashley Reel, a 15-year-old from Texas who set up the Hurricane Harvey Homecoming Dress Drive in the days following the devastating storm.
Many teens were left with nothing when their homes were flooded by Harvey. Homecoming, which was just around the corner, wasn’t a top priority for families who had lost almost everything they owned. Ashley though, recognized that Homecoming was important to many of her peers. Although Ashley’s home was spared from the flooding, some girls from her school were not so fortunate, and in neighboring districts, many more people were underwater. Ashley decided to help!
Initially, she started the project by setting up a Facebook page and posting on a community website. Her original goal was to gather 50 dresses to help local girls, but her campaign quickly gathered momentum.
“I knew it was way bigger than just the 50 dresses when the first news people came and said they wanted to interview me.” Ashley said. “Someone in Kingswood [a neighboring district] said they wanted to do a drive for me and they got 1000 dresses!”
Soon, Ashley was receiving dresses from all different parts of the US and even Germany.
“We have a friend in Germany and she did a drive over there and collected 50 dresses.” said Ashley “And then a friend in New York also did a drive and collected 75 more.”
The number of dresses began to mount up. Initially, the Reel family kept them in their house, but soon they were taking over the whole of the downstairs with dress racks in the living room, the kitchen, the office, and even upstairs and into Ashley’s parents’ room!
When it came time for girls to try on dresses they would come to Ashley’s house. “We had all the dress racks lined up around the perimeter of the living room and the girls could come in and chose a dress and try it on.”
Later, they had so many dresses that they had to coordinate with local businesses so girls could try dresses on there too.
Ashley tried to help gather outfits for boys as well, but it didn’t gather as much momentum. “We did have a few suits and things for boys, but I think only two or three boys came in looking for things. It was nice to be able to help them out as well though.”
Ashley admits that at times the dress drive was a bit overwhelming. Each lunchtime her mom would call her and she’d be doing an interview to publicize the drive, or she would be being told about more dresses that they needed to pick up. But Ashley never hesitated or questioned whether or not she was doing the right thing. “There are so many girls who had it so much worse than me. We didn’t get any water in our house and some girls lost everything. It wasn’t a problem just having lots of dresses everywhere.”
Ashley and her mom, Tammy, have helped over 1000 girls to find Homecoming dresses. They didn’t only help girls affected by the flooding, they also helped out families who couldn’t afford to buy dresses.
“There were these two sisters who came to my house. One was a senior and one was a junior, and they had never been to Homecoming or another school dance before because they couldn’t afford to go. One of them was really tiny and she didn’t think we’d have anything to fit her. But they both found a dress and then they picked out jewelry and shoes as well. Their mom asked when they would have to return it all and we told them that they could keep it and both girls were crying with happiness that they got to keep such a fancy dress and go to Homecoming.”
Homecoming season is over, but Ashley’s work isn’t done. Not only is she collecting for Prom and Homecoming next year, but a neighboring school district has asked to work with Ashley right up until she graduates, helping people to find dresses.
Ashley has collected more than 3,600 dresses so far, an incredible achievement that just shows what you can achieve if you have a great idea, you work hard, and you persevere.
Now 20 years old, Adora is a writer, activist, and public speaker who first began writing at the tender age of four.
In 2010, aged just 13, she gave a TED talk on “What Adults Can Learn from Kids” in which she said that adults could learn a lot from “childish” thinking. Kids, she said, often have bold ideas, creativity, and optimism. Adults should be willing to learn from kids as well as to teach them. The message resonated with many, and to date her TED talk has over 4.8 million views. Adora has published several books and regularly speaks on a range of topics. She has championed literacy, the use of digital tools in education, and gender equality. She was named one of Huffington Post’s “18 under 18 Most Amazing People of the Year” in 2012, has spoken at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and is recognized as a Global Teen Leader by the We Are Family Foundation.
Many of you will have heard of Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
Alexandra “Alex” Scott started to fundraise for childhood cancer patients when she was just four years old by holding a lemonade stand in her front yard. She was in the hospital having received a stem cell transplant when she told her mother “When I get out of the hospital, I want to have a lemonade stand.” Alex wanted to raise money so the doctors could “help other kids, like they helped me.”
Alex held annual lemonade stands in her yard to benefit cancer research for children. Soon, news of her hard work helping others, despite her own illness, spread. People all over the globe started holding their own lemonade stands and sending the money to Alex and her cause.
Sadly, Alex passed away in 2004, at just eight years old. By that point she had helped to raise over $1 million to help find a cure for childhood cancer. Her family set up a foundation in her name that continues to raise money for the cause to this day.
Maya Penn started her own eco-friendly fashion company, Maya’s Ideas, when she was just eight years old.
The company provides “environmentally sustainable, fashionable accessories and clothing.” 10 - 20% of the profits that the company makes go to charities that Maya is passionate about. Now 17, Maya has been featured in many publications and has also given TED talks. Oprah Winfrey selected Maya as one of her Supersoul 100 Influencers, and she has also partnered with Google to speak about girls, coding, and computer science at their Made with Code events.
Mikaila Ulmer is an entrepreneur and the founder of “Me and the Bees Lemonade.” On her website, Mikaila describes how from a young age, she became fascinated with bees and what they do for our ecosystem. She created a lemonade using her Great Grandmother’s flaxseed recipe, and sweetened it with local honey. A percentage of the profits from her lemonade goes to international organizations that are fighting to save honey bees. Her delicious drink is available at Whole Foods Market and Wegmans, with the tag line “Buy a Bottle…Save a Bee.” Check out www.meandthebees.com/wheretobuy to find a store near you.
Capri Everitt was moved by a book she read when she was younger entitled The World Needs Your Kid by Craig and Marc Kielburger, that told stories of kids who had far less than her. Some of them lived in poverty and even had to collect garbage just to stay alive.
A keen singer, Capri came up with the idea of raising money to help these children by learning the national anthems of 80 countries and singing them around the world. She completed her 80th anthem in August 2016 when she was just 12 years old and has raised money and awareness of child poverty in the process. Follow her on instagram
@caprieveritt or check out YouTube.com/80anthems.
Jazz Jennings is a YouTube personality and LGBTQ rights activist. She is the youngest person ever to become a
national transgender figure. She was assigned the male gender at birth, but made it clear “as soon as she could speak” that she was actually female. In Jazz’s YouTube videos about her life, “I am Jazz,” she speaks openly and publically on trans issues, raising awareness. She has also written books, founded the Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation with her parents to assist transgender youth, and is currently in talks with a doll manufacturing company to have a doll modeled after her.
How will YOU change the world? Remember, change can start with just one person having just one small idea. If you see a problem, you are just as capable of finding a solution as anyone else. Dream big, and don’t be frightened to try.
BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD!