Following a trip to India in 2017, Arissa was shocked to learn about the lack of access to education amongst youth and decided to use this experience to make an impact at home and abroad. It is for this reason that she created Project Power Global (or PPG), a global organization dedicated to bringing light to lack of access to education by connecting students from different parts of the world to learn from each other, to foster a friendship and support one another.
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Sisters, Olivia and Eloise make up the Davisville Chalkgrams initiative in hopes of spreading joy and positivity throughout their community by writing inspirational and celebratory chalk messages in front of people’s homes (from birthday messages, wedding proposal, “dog of the months”, retirement celebrations and more). To continue to spread light and love with their initiative, the girls also decided to donate 20% of profits to Sick Kids Hospital that work to save lives, find new cures and to provide world-class care for sick children.
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With mental health being a predominant issue that is impacting young people from across the globe, 16-year-old Eva started The Letter Help Project in hopes of developing a platform that prompts youth into situations that encourage dialogue and critical thinking about their own mental health well-being. The goal of her initiative is to instil a sense of connectedness in youth through peer-to-peer support.
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We all know that water is an essential part of life. It supports vital functions our body, plants rely on it to survive, it is constantly being recycled in a closed loop, the water cycle system, therefore being a finite source. It really is an extremely important substance and it is for this reason that 17-year-old youth activist, Apoorv, started the Jal Organization, his mission is "to stand for water, with water”.
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As per their mission statement, the heart of the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM) is rooted in justice and liberation. These factors motivate members of this remarkable organization to take an active role in the national struggle for the liberation of Palestine and its people. Maysam and Elias, representatives of the Toronto chapter of PYM join us this week to discuss the ways in which this remarkable grassroots organization is working hard to mobilize Palestinian youth through youth workshops aimed at developing leadership skills and critical analysis, commemorating the Palestinian culture and heritage, developing third world solidarity allies and much more.
In light of the devastating news of what is currently happening Sheikh Jarrah -that has been continuously happening across the country- we thought this educational episode would be incredibly important for our listeners to open their hearts and minds to the people of Palestine.
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With all the change and uncertainty in the world today, our remarkable guest Sarah continues to spread positivity and joy in the world around her. Her passion and determination to create positive change in the world is ultimately what led her to start the Positive Change Project in 2020. Her website provides ideas on how to spread kindness within ones' own community and also invites folks to send inspirational quotes to her "Bookmark Project" that mails inspirational bookmarks to various charities and organizations to spread love and hope those that need it most.
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16-year-old Luke Mullens was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. His journey is one that involves experiencing failures, discovering strategies, developing resources and connecting with influential people that have helped him become the young entrepreneur he is today. He refers to this journey as his "level up" and wants other young entrepreneurs to experience a "level up", the way he continues to do. It is for this reason that Luke partnered with like-minded individuals to create Rich Kids Global. A platform that helps young people achieve their goals through world class programming all focused on ways to develop an entrepreneurial spirit: from informative book clubs, meetings with young CEO's, educational workshops and so much more.
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Born in a beautiful city called Fujian Yong Chun in China, Dean (“D.N”) is currently a high school student passionate about promoting equality and inclusivity in his community. His journey first began when he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at a young age and began to experience a great deal of segregation and loneliness, due to feeling “different” from his friends and family. It is for this reason that D.N is an autism awareness advocate who is working hard to educate the public about ASD. He has an informative website focused on what ASD is, the science behind the disorder and ways we are able to help those diagnosed with ASD. He also shared his remarkable journey on the TEDX stage and was interviewed by the Global Autism Summit.
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Benjamin Wong (or “Ben”) has always had an inkling for entrepreneurship. From selling avocados on the street to starting his own company at age 13, there’s never been a time where he hasn’t been following his wildest dreams! Ben has always had an interest in topics like financial markets or business, and would always be asked by his peers for investment advice or tips for starting their own company. He transferred all his expertise into Kid CEO, his new pet project, in October 2019. He soon realized that that wasn't his entrepreneurial talent and that where he was at his best was shining a light on others. Starting with Kid Everest, the world's first crowd-funding site for kid entrepreneurs, on September 6th, the new Kid CEO podcast was born. Since then, he's interviewed stars such as Jahkil Jackson, the Obama-endorsed founder of Project I Am, which has gained international recognition for his blessing bags to those experiencing homeless. Now, Ben is continuing his mission of showing everyone in this world the extraordinary things kids can do. Ben is also the host of Fireflies Debate and YoungTrep with Benjamin Wong.
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Chris “CJ” Matthews’ inspiring story began when his mom experienced a pregnancy loss when he was five years old. His own grief sparked an idea to create a project to support other kids who might be dealing with similar feelings of sadness. CJ told his mom that he never wanted another kid to feel sad and lonely like he did, and “Blankies 4 My Buddies” was born. Since then, this small project has grown into an organization that brings small tokens of comfort, like cozy blankets, to children dealing with traumatic situations from chronic illnesses to homelessness. CJ is always seeking to come up with creative ideas for helping others and making an impact in the world. He has never found "being a kid" to be a problem. In fact, he believes it to be empowering and just another way to have fun, be happy inside-out, and inspire other teens and kids to use their voices.
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17-year-old Natalie created Solely Sunshine, an international mental health organization focused on "sprinkling sunshine" by mailing letters of positivity and hope. Through her website, anyone (no matter where you are from or how old you are) is able to write free inspirational letters and words of hope and wisdom that are later transcribed to paper by her team of over 100 teen volunteers. These letters are then mailed to mental health facilities to instil a sense of peace and reassurance. To date, Natalie has received letters from 50 different countries, sent over 6,000 letter and has impacted over 10,000 people.
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This week we are joined by 17-year-old Katelyn Cai, a passionate public speaker with a dream of pursuing economics and public policy. Katelyn also happens to be the co-founder of Invest in Her, an organization focused on empowering women by supporting them find a sense of purpose and develop the appropriate skills for a financially independent future. The organization's incredible work varies from empowering young ladies to better understand their worth and speak out for their rights, to running online tutoring program and a financial literacy courses in partnership with other non-profits to educate girls reach their fullest potential.
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PERIOD works to eradicate period poverty and stigma through their three pillars of service, education and advocacy. This week, we are joined by PERIOD's National Chapter Manager, Eira Nylander Torallas to discuss the incredible work PERIOD continues to do by providing product to menstruators in need, train and equip youth with resources and information, and fighting to ensure equity and access to menstrual products in institutions large and small. They elevate and support the grassroots work of their 400+ PERIOD Chapters (in 43 US States and 35 countries) alongside other menstrual equity activists and organizations in order to change the conversation surrounding periods and advocate for policy change to advance menstrual equality in their communities.
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At the age of 3, our guest this week watched a video of a turtle being harmed by plastic in the ocean and decided he wanted to make a difference to better protect the ocean, the turtles and the planet. Today, at 11 years of age, young Ryan is the CEO, manager and employee of Ryan’s Recycling Company. He spends a part of every week sorting through cans and bottles from his customers and getting them ready to take to the recycling centers and has recycled 1.3 million bottles and cans from hundreds of customers. For Ryan, the passion to protect our planet and recycle comes from an understanding that more bottles and cans recycled means fewer bottles and cans in the ocean!
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Shreya Ramachandran is the founder of the nonprofit organization The Grey Water Project which promotes the safe reuse of grey water and water conservation as a way to battle droughts and climate change. (Grey water is lightly used water that makes up 60% of the used water in our homes). She was moved to action five years ago after witnessing the devastating effects of droughts firsthand in both California and India. She started out by doing research to see if grey water could be reused for irrigation. After winning state, national and international awards for her patent-pending research, she started her nonprofit to advocate her cause.
Currently, she does workshops and presentations at schools, libraries, community and corporate events to teach people how to use grey water in their homes and how to install a laundry to lawn system. She also runs water conservation challenges and has a grey water curriculum implemented aimed at school students to teach greywater recycling. “My goal is to have grey water reuse become like paper and plastic recycling - something everyone does,” Shreya says. She is launching a Climate Ambassadors Program for students to learn about climate change, implement a change project and receive recognition.
Shreya has won numerous awards including being a Top 20 Global Finalist at the Google Science Fair and 3rd place at the International Science and Engineering Fair. She is a National Geographic Young Explorer, Global Teen Leader, a recipient of the President’s Environmental Youth Award, the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes and the winner of the Children’s Climate Prize 2019.
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We all know the famous saying that “laughter is the best medicine". Here at Starts with Y, we hold that thought close to our hearts as we have seen the way laughter has brought people together on this platform. We have also learnt about the ways in which laughter triggers healthy physical and emotional changes in the body. We have had the pleasure of connecting with young experts who have explained the ways in which laughter boosts the immune system and triggers the release of pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in our brain. It is for this reason that we wanted to end our incredible season two with “Y Bloopers, Zein and Lauren” ... a final episode filled with a great deal of love, gratitude and laughter.
Everett Thorn created the clothing brand "Carbon Oil and Coil" in hopes of protecting our planet and environment. Proceeds from every purchase made through this sustainable clothing brand is donated to "Choose Today Carbon Capture" that supports various carbon sequestration projects focused on fighting against climate change. Everett firmly believes that we should be pushing for a world that focuses more on ethical clothing, as it can be stylish and affordable (whilst standing behind great causes) ... and he hopes this clothing brand is doing just that!
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Cassidy Murray founded Changemaker Odyssey alongside her sister Kaitlin in hopes of creating a global youth-led educational platform that provides young people with the tools to transform their lives and make a positive impact in the world. The goal of Changemaker Odyssey is to create a movement of young people empowered to enrich their lives and push humanity forward. They do this by providing service-learning resources (from webinars, books, videos, coaching and much more), all geared towards supporting change-making youth make meaningful impacts in the world around them.
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10-year-old Dana Perella’s goal has been to educate people about rare diseases impacting youth such as Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and more. It is for this reason that she created Cookies4Cures. To date she has baked over 10,000 cookies and raised over $86,000 to support the research and treatment of rare diseases. Her work has been widely recognized as she was awarded the 2020 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes this September.
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“For the Menstruator” (previously know as Accessible and Affordable Sanitation for Women or AASW) was founded by Ziyaan Virji at only 15 years of age. The initiative stemmed from Ziyaan learning about the struggles his mother faced in finding comfort in menstruating as a child. After watching documentaries such as “India’s Menstruation Man” and further educating himself on this topic, Ziyaan began producing and distributing reusable sanitary packages to equip girls with necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to better understand the process of menstruation. His goal is to provide over 10,000 girls with access to sanitation in the next year.
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Our incredible guest Nicole created her business CuteRoots with a simple goal in mind “to put smiles on faces, and flowers in the ground.” Nicole wanted to ensure she was standing behind an eco-friendly, impact-focused business and ensured all of her greeting cards (including the envelops) were made from 100% recycled paper. Her punny and incredibly well-designed cards are all embedded with wildflower seeds which means they can all be planted and her “impact line” of greeting cards focus on supporting various organization from the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund, the loveland foundation and many more.
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13-year-old Alyssia Duda launched her non-profit, Alyssia’s Dream, in hopes ensuring ballet and the arts are accessible at all youth regardless of age, race or gender. In a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune, Alyssia shared that “often times in ballet class, students of colour, especially black girls, are the only black student in the class." Being the only black dancer in some of her own ballet classes, Alyssia's goal is to ensure all youth are provided with the same opportunity to experience the power of dance, regardless of the colour of their skin.
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18-year-old Jameson embodies what it means to be a change-maker who "rises to the occasion". Whilst in self-isolation during the pandemic, Jameson created his organization known as Circle of Friends, to support the children of frontline workers through mentorship and virtual connectivity. Jameson continues to work hard to instill a sense of peace and community within these youth while their parents/guardians are so bravely working their day jobs.
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Following a trip to South Africa and learning about the threats facing wildlife during a safari, 8-years-old Kate was determined to do something to help the animals who were being harmed by humans and knew she had to also educate young people about this issue. It is for this reason that Kate wrote "Lets go on Safari". A book that provides examples of small-scale, achievable animal advocacy projects that kids can initiate. Profits of the book go to organizations devoted to wildlife conservation, such as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Jane Goodall Institute and Global Wildlife Conservation.
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As a daughter of Mexican immigrants, 17-year-old Marina is proud of her heritage and culture and has grown up taking advantage of the resources and knowledge she’s gained through her unique experiences. It is for this reason that she created her website "Culture of Change" as she wanted to create a safe online space that allows youth of all ages to educate themselves on various topics including the US justice system, the crisis in Yemen, the act of protesting and so much more. Marina firmly believes that everyone has the power to grow their mindset hopes her website is able to provide information that offers different perspectives that will open minds and hearts.
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At only 11 years of age Gitanjali was named America’s Top Young Scientist of 2017 with a device to detect lead in water faster than any other current techniques. She has created several other inventions including "Kindly" an artificial intelligence service to detect and stop cyber bullying as well as a snake bite detector tool that measures the severity and type of venom injected during a snake bite using thermography. Gitanjali actively combines science and kindness as a catalyst for social change and to make a difference and hopes to continue to make positive impacts in the world... one innovative invention at a time.
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9-year-old Justin began his journey in kindergarten when he learned that one-third of frog species are on the verge of extinction. As he continued to research more about frogs and their incredible impact to our ecosystem as well as the importance of protecting these beautiful species, he set a goal for himself to conserve 30% of the planet by 2030. He hopes to make the planet safer by promoting the idea of plastic reduction to better our planet and our water quality for the frogs and beyond.
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Sammie came across her first “buddy bench” at only 8-years-old. The idea had a profound impact on her, as sitting on a “buddy bench” is a nonverbal way of asking for a friend. Sammie knew she needed to bring this idea to her community so she began creating "Sammie's Buddy Bench". Her goal is to not only ensure youth across the globe have access to a buddy bench, but she also creates these 6ft benches in the most environmentally friendly manner as each bench is solely made of 200 lbs. of plastic caps and lids.
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Blerina Ago firmly believes that the power of education is one of the most powerful tools the world has to offer but is also a tool that is not equally accessible to all. With this, Blerina founded Backpacks for Brainiacs, a non-profit organization aimed towards helping provide children in need with the basic necessities they need to succeed in school. To date, her incredible cause has supported 3 charities and delivered over 100 backpacks and school supplies to those in need.
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According to “Affinity Numerology” the number 24 represents strength, compassion and long-term security. 3 words that perfectly sum up what the past 24 episodes of Starts with Y have felt like.
This platform has become an outlet that continues to instill a sense of hope within us that the world is in good hands as the next generation of youth are made up of strong and compassionate leaders who are already fighting for meaningful change and long-term security to ensure our world is one that is inclusive, kind, safe and peaceful.
We hope you enjoy this "Season Finale" blooper reel episode as much as we do! See you all back for more laughs, incredible new “Y” words and even MORE stories of remarkable change-makers for Season 2 of Starts with Y.
Vivian and her sister May founded Linens N Love when they were only 12 and 14 years old. Their award-winning nonprofit organization collects pillows, bed sheets, towels and blankets from franchise hotels that would have otherwise been thrown out because of the smallest imperfections. With this, Linens N Love's mission is to donate and re purpose 100,000 linens to charities and shelters in need including animal shelters, homeless shelters, teen outreach centers and much more. They hope to create a world that minimizes the amount of waste that goes to landfills, all while promoting the importance of student leadership and community service among youth and providing warmth to individuals around the world.
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Emmanuela Shinta is the CEO of the Renu Velum Foundation. She is a Dayak leader, activist, filmmaker and writer whose work is widely known in Asia Pacific. With a reputation of leading and empowering young people, she regularly speaks at workshops, graduations, panel discussions, activist forums and even in churches, around the region. She created Ranu Welum in hopes of empowering indigenous Dayak youth to learn to better self-express whilst gaining a better understanding of who they through incredible teachings from their ancestors and elders.
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Jana Amin is an Egyptian-American high school student who founded the initiative “ Bantoota” (Arabic for a girl), focused on amplifying the voices of young Muslim women through storytelling. Jana has a passion for international relations and Middle Eastern studies, with a special interest in gender studies and Islam. This drive within her led her to plan her 17th birthday party initiative known as #17for17, focused on advancing girls' education by leading a conference with 17 incredible advocates and leaders passionate about the topic of women empowerment.
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At 12 years of age Molly Pinta had a dream of bringing a Pride Parade to her hometown. With the help of her parents, her dream came to life as over 2,000 people attended the the first-ever gay pride parade in the northwest suburb. The family was able to raise over $55,000 for the cause and the parade itself was supported by 50 sponsors and 90 local groups, organizations and politicians. Their continuous hard work has also cultivated a great deal of community awareness around teen sexuality and continues to connect thousands of people on their BGPride Facebook page, creating a support network for both teens and their parents to consult at the time of coming out and beyond.
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High school students Nakshh and Apoorvi created The Happiness Project in hopes of implementing mental health programming in government and aided schools across India. By conducting surveys, connecting with psychologists and training educators, the organization creates customized workshops for each school based on what is most needed to support the student body. Their goal is to ensure mental health no longer remains a taboo subject throughout the education system in India and hope they are able to support youth on their journey to live happier lives.
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Kyle's "why moment" was sparked at 13 years of age, when he attended the 2006 FIFA World Cup with his family. After connecting with Angolan fans during the Angola and Iran game, he learned about the way the country used soccer as a means of instilling peace, hope and unity. It was for this reason that Kyle founded FundaField, a non-profit organization founded by students dedicated to enrich the lives of less fortunate youth through the game of soccer. Their underlying message is that "if they don't play together, they won't score goals.". To date, the organization has funded and built 11 fields, held over 15 tournaments and are continuously donating sports equipment to these communities.
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15-year-old Marie is an incredible anti-bullying advocate and is also the UAE Representative for "GirlUp Arab World". Marie's difficult experiences with bullying led her to partake in the “Think Twice and Type Wise” initiative at her school that is intended to create a safe community and end bullying. Marie bravely decided to use this initiative to upload an honest video of her bullying experience. Her powerful video has become a beacon of light to many who are experiencing similar hardships. Marie continues to promote peace with her community and is working hard to empower youth to speak out and stand up against bullying.
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The story of the youth-founded organization, Seedlings, began when 16-year-old Esther was educating herself on plastic reduction, the impacts of carbon emissions on our planet and the process of seed sharing. It is for this reason that Esther and Kathy created Seedlings, a non-profit organization focused on bettering the planet we live on through a variety of educational programming. Their “Seed Library Program” allows the public to donate seeds, pick up free seeds to grow learn about the importance of planting your own seeds to better the environment... all through hand-made wooden boxes placed around the city of Toronto!
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17-year-old Jonas still remembers his first time volunteering at Skid Row at only 4-years-old and seeing a young person his age waiting in line to receive a warm meal. It was in this moment that Jonas realized that homelessness was an issue he wanted to learn more about. At 6-years-old he founded "Love in The Mirror”, a non-profit organization focused on supporting disadvantaged youth through clothing and food drives as well as volunteering in communities and homeless shelters. Jonas's hard word has been recognized through various awards, including the Nickelodeon HALO Award Honoree and his organization continues to supports thousands of people, whilst inspiring youth across the globe that you are never too young to make meaningful impact.
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Rochelle is co-founder of SPARK Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers educational services focused on mentorship, entrepreneurship and service-learning. This idea came to Rochelle 7 years ago, after realizing the dire need for workshops, camps and educational resources geared towards supporting change-making youth interested in making impacts but needing the resources and support to get their incredible ideas going. Rochelle's dedication to supporting youth within her community has been widely recognized, as she has been named "Top 25 Under 25 by the Surrey Board of Trade", she was nominated for the YWCA Women of Distinction award and was awarded the Governor General Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.
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Following the outbreak of the pandemic, university students Jack, Alex and Nathan returned to their hometowns eager to find ways to support their local communities. They created The Basket Project in hopes of providing relief and protection from the virus to those experiencing homelessness. They do this by handing out baskets containing sanitary essentials such as gloves, sanitary wipes and masks whilst also asking the general public to continue to support their cause by donating, providing in kind donations and spreading the word about this remarkable cause.
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19-year-old Whytli is the co-founder of the non-profit organization “End the Stigma”. The organization promote the notion that mental health should be an ongoing conversation and they aim to provide helpful resources to those struggling with their mental health. From their #NoFilterStory campaign that allows youth to comfortably listen to and/or share their own mental health stories, to well-being tools as well as support groups with an in-house therapist. Whytli has also created her own podcast “In the Wake” as a means of advocating for those suffering with mental illness as well as moving the conversation of mental health and well-being forward.
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From empowering disadvantaged youth in Nigeria, advocating against child marriage, promoting the idea of equality, and much more. Wadi Ben-Hirki founded her non-profit organization at only 18-years-old. As a youth advocate and a role model, Wadi continues to inspire youth in Nigeria to set and accomplish their goals and become the best version of themselves. Her message has spread across the world as she has been honoured with several national and international awards. She continues to inspire youth worldwide to treat one another with compassion and kindness in order to create a just and peaceful world.
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In light of what is happening in the world and the pandemic has had on access to education, best friends, Rachel, Alyssa, Jackie and Destiny created “Better as One” to shed light on the importance of supporting vulnerable learners during this time. Alyssa and Rachel join us to speak to the way they have been using their time at home to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by fundraising for Personal Protective Equipment and educational resources whilst educating their own communities on ways to support this incredibly important cause.
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As soon as 11-year-old Rachel was introduced to the world of Genetically Modified Organisms, she knew she had to take action and inform youth about their rights to make environmentally sound choices. Today, 20 year old Rachel continues to fight for our right to know what’s in our food. She founded Kids Right to Know, a non-profit organization dedicated to support youth claim their right to know what is in their food. She launched her "Just Label It!" campaign in hopes of advocating for the labeling of GMO foods, as without labels, we don’t have the freedom of choice to decide what we eat.
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17-year-old Ivan is passionate about amplifying the voice of young people. He continues to do so by bringing light to causes such as: gun violence, youth experiencing homelessness, environmental issues and much more. Ivan is a member of the Oakland Youth Advisory Committee and played a key role in the March for Our Lives Oakland rally. His remarkable story showcases the power of youth coming together, raising their voice and fighting for a better tomorrow.
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Following the 2017 Women’s March, 15 year old Alara knew she wanted to continue to raise her voice to support women's rights. Alongside her friends, Lara, Jordan and Laura, She Clothing Co was created to empower women to “wear feminism on their sleeve” and speak out against inequality by understanding their rights. 100% of their proceeds support charities that are dedicated to empowering young women across the globe.
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At only 7 years old, Savanna had a passion to educate and empower individuals and communities live happy and healthy lifestyles. After years of determination and hard work, 14 year old Savanna is not only an accomplished author and speaker but she is also the CEO of Happy Heart Advices, an organization focused on educating youth on the functions of the heart while getting them involved in fun, heart-pumping activities.
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At 11 years old, Stella began asking her family why they were unable to swim the LaHave River. She learnt about the high levels of fecal bacteria in the river and decided she needed to take action. Now at 16 years old, Stella’s journey has led her to not only being recognized and honoured through several awards and nation-wide media coverage, but she also received 15.7-million-dollars to support homeowners get new septic tanks.
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Imagine being forced to leave your home. Imagine being forced to leave some of your favourite books and toys behind and saying goodbye to friends and family in short notice. Imagine taking one last look at the home you grew up in and wondering if you will ever see it again. This was the reality for Sedra and Shahd, who join us to speak their own experiences fleeing Syria to seek refuge and safety in Canada. Sedra and Shahd are passionate about supporting those still living in refugee camps in Syria. They started an initiative called "Elegant Art" in which 100% of the proceeds from their art sales are donated support families living in refugee camps in Syria.
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Aiza never imagined that a dream created in her grade 10 civics class, would turn into such an impactful reality. To date the "Aiza Teddy Bear Foundation" has distributed 100,000 stuffed toys along with school supplies and clothing donations. Her non-profit organization continues support those in need by opening doors and paving paths towards healthier, safer, and economically stable lives... one Teddy Bear at a time!
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Paul joins us this week to share the "WHY" behind Water for Water, a non -profit organization he started when he was just 17 years old. Water for Water is committed to bringing clean water to developing communities, as well as shifting the narrative around bottled water towards one of recycling and sustainability.
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Zein and Lauren share the "WHY" behind creating a podcast, their personal "WHY's" and share sneak peaks of some of the remarkable stories that will be shared on this podcast.
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