The story of 8-year-old Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López started going viral after she was the first child awarded a prestigious science award in Mexico but she’s not the only kid with extraordinary talents. Fellow 8-year-old Mexican wunderkind Zury Tlapanco Reyes recently made headlines when she won first place in the Mental Calculation World Cup and 12-year-old Mari Copeny, who has been fighting for clean water for Flint, Michigan since she was 8 years old. Fellow 8-year-old Adhara Pérez is already taking college courses after it was discovered the Mexico City native has an IQ of 162 – higher than Albert Einstein. This slideshow is all about showcasing young girls who are in some way making the world a better place or making history long before reaching adulthood. From innovators to activists to literal geniuses, these young ladies are inspiring reminders of what children of color are capable of. The list features 12 girls of color from all over the world who have made a mark in the last decade, so prepare to feel empowered and motivated by these young girls making big moves.
Xóchitl Guadalupe Cruz López
In 2018, Cruz López became the first child to win a prestigious science prize from Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM). She was recognized for her solar water heater made entirely from recyclable items including hoses, glass panels, plastic cable ties, and a wooden base. She’s from San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, where the climate is very cold and her heater is low cost and environmentally friendly while remaining economically accessible for people in her community. The heater, which she installed on the rooftop of her house, has the capacity to heat two and a half gallons between 95 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit. “I want to help with my knowledge because there are a lot of poor people here,” she told Mexico News Daily.
In 2009, then three-year-old Elise Tan-Roberts became the youngest member of Mensa, with an estimated IQ of 156. Only those with an IQ of 148 and above — the top two percent — qualify and the average IQ is 100 while Albert Einstein’s IQ was allegedly 160. Tan-Roberts said her first word — “dada” — when she was five months old and when she was two she took a complex 45-minute IQ test that proved she was gifted. Tan-Roberts was born in London in December 2006 and comes from a mixed background that includes ancestors from England, Malaysia, China, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. When she was just two she could count in Spanish and knew the capitals of 35 countries.
Zora Ball made history in 2013 as the youngest person to develop a mobile game app. The then first-grader built the game using a programming language called Bootstrap that’s used to teach students between the ages of 12 to 16 to learn complex math through video game development. She was schooled on all things tech at Harambee Institute of Science and Technology 48-week after-school program, STEMnasium Learning Academy. She successfully reconfigured the app at the University of Pennsylvania’s Bootstrap Expo where the app was unveiled, taking down any naysayers who alleged her older brother — a STEM scholar — may have helped her.
Leanna Archer created her company, Leanna’s Natural Hair Care Products (later Leanna’s Essentials) when she was just nine years old. Archer began using her Haitian great-grandmother’s recipe to sell homemade hair care products in 2003 and at 17 was the CEO of her thriving company. Her products included deep conditioning treatment and hair oil and they were 100 percent natural with ingredients including Kokum butter and red hibiscus from Haiti. Though the company is currently no longer selling products, there’s no denying her talent and business savviness at such a young age. In 2008, Leanna founded the Leanna Archer Education Foundation in Haiti to help provide meals and education for children in her homeland.
Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny
Amariyanna “Mari” Copeny — also known as “Little Miss Flint”— wrote a letter to President Obama in 2018 asking to meet with him regarding the water crisis in Flint and seven months after they met in person he authorized $100 million to repair Flint’s water system. Flint’s nearly 100,000 residents were drinking contaminated water that needed to be so chlorinated it corroded new engine parts at a local General Motors plant. Copeny and the nonprofit Pack Your Back have handed out more than 700,000 water bottles to local families by Dec. 2018. Since 2016, Mari has raised over $500,000 that has benefited more than 25,000 children in Flint, providing school supplies, toys, bikes, and clean water. She is the youngest Women’s March Youth Ambassador, National Youth Ambassador for the Climate March, and Youth Ambassador for Equality for Her as well as a self-proclaimed future president. Now she’s taking her efforts to a national level partnering with a socially-responsible water filtration company to provide state of the art water filters to communities impacted by poor water quality nationwide.
With the poise and grace of an adult, six-year-old Sophie Cruz gave an inspiring speech at the Women’s March in Washington in 2017 advocating for her undocumented parents. “We are here together making a chain of love to protect our families. Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed,” she said. But before that moment, she met and hugged Pope Francis in 2015 after she chased his motorcade, she then handed a letter she wrote asking for his support for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). But the tiny but fierce activist didn’t stop there, she then met President Barack Obama during the 2016 Cinco de Mayo celebration in the White House — though her parents had to wait outside due to their status. Her family lives in Los Angeles and she reportedly was inspired to take on the cause when she learned her family can’t visit her grandfather in Mexico.
When she was just 11 years old, Marley Dias launched a campaign called #1000BlackGirlBooks to showcase 1000 books that featured black girls as protagonists in November 2015. The campaign collects and donates books and works with educators to find and promote diversity in literature. By 2017 she had accumulated more than 9,000 books and landed a book deal of her own. Her book, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! came out in January of 2018 and centered around literacy and diversity written as a guide that explores activism, inclusion, and social justice.”Innovation comes from, one, acknowledging yourself; two, studying and understanding the problem and three, finding a solution. It’s a typical adventure in a hero story, which I now live today,” she told Forbes.
Sage Grace Dolan-Sandrino
Afro-Latina trans activist Sage Grace Dolan-Sandrino was in eighth grade when she came out as trans but didn’t receive support from administrators at her school. She took the opportunity to advocate for the trans community and quickly became a prominent activist, recognized on a national level for her efforts in helping LGBTQ+ of color. Under the Obama administration, she served as Ambassador to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and helped to create that administration’s federal guidance for protecting trans students from discrimination. A self-proclaimed citizen artist who uses her work as a form of advocacy, the now 18-year-old student is studying at Bard College where she co-founded the Gender and Orientation Alliance. “Respect me, my body, and my privacy. Stop talking about my genitals — I’m a kid. I will educate you so your fear can disappear and we’ll all be good,” she wrote for Vice.
Earlier this year, Alannah George joined Elise Tan-Roberts as one of the youngest members of Mensa at four years old with an IQ of 140. George taught herself how to read and said her first word when she was seven months old, forming full sentences by the time she was 18 months old. She’s even got ties to the royal family attending the prestigious St George’s School, in Windsor Castle, where many royals have attended. She took intelligence tests which place her at a reading age of a 7-year-old and the spelling and mental arrhythmia age of 6-year-old. “I want to give her the opportunity to achieve her potential. She needs to be stretched. Her curriculum needs to be altered so she doesn’t get bored in class,” her mom Nadine told The Mirror.
Autumn Peltier from Wiikwemkoong — a First Nation in northern Ontario — is just 15 years old but she’s been advocating for the protection of sacred waters for nearly half her life since she was eight years old. Her aunt, Josephine Mandamin, received the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation in 2016 and this year Peltier was named the chief water commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation after her aunt’s death left the role vacant, representing 40 First Nations in Ontario. The commission is an advocacy group established to advise the Anishinabek citizens and leaders on managing water and the Great Lakes. In November of 2016, she made a national call to action for Canadians to participate in a shutdown of highways across Canada for an hour on Dec. 5 as a way to promote water protection. “I cry watching the videos for Standing Rock,” Autumn said in her call to action. “We shouldn’t have to fight for our water, we should just be able to have clean drinking water.” She made headlines in 2017 when she was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize for her efforts. “I like to share that water is really sacred. Water is life. Mother Earth doesn’t need us, we need her,” Peltier told CBC. This year she once again advocated for protecting the environment by telling the United Nations “We can’t eat money and we can’t drink oil.” Though she’s been doing this for years, she’s now seeing more activism with more than 6 million people joining her in climate protests in September in more than 100 countries and on all seven continents.
— United Nations Foundation (@unfoundation) March 15, 2019
Climate activist Alexandria Villaseñor, 14, has recently been making headlines as she’s joined forces with fellow climate activist Greta Thunberg and 14 other children who filed a landmark complaint at the United Nations (UN). In the complaint, they allege that the world is violating their rights as children within the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and she’s suing five of the world’s biggest carbon polluters.“We want you to go out and take action for your rights, too,” she told Earther. In March of this year, she spent 12 Fridays on strike outside the United Nations to support a school strike movement for climate change. “I school striked in the polar vortex, which required a subzero sleeping bag,” she told Teen Vogue about the picketing spot in New York. In May of this year, she received the Disruptor Award from the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards and was awarded a Youth Climate Leadership prize from Earth Day Network.
Zury Tlapanco Reyes
Eight-year-old Zury Tlapanco Reyes won first place in the Mental Calculation World Cup in Guangzhou, en China.on July 2019 where she solved 70 mathematical problems in five minutes and without errors. Reyes is a student at the Aloha Mental Arithmetic School in addition to attending a regular elementary school and this was her first time participating in the competition, saying she enjoyed the process. Reyes, who is from Altamira, in the state of Tamaulipas in Mexico, competed against children from 35 different nations but had already been recognized for her skill after she won the Cup of Excellence in the Sixth Championship at her school.
Adhara Pérez is am 8-year-old Mexico City native whose IQ surpasses Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking at 162 and who overcame odds to become one of Forbes’ 100-most powerful women in Mexico. She grew up in the low-income neighborhood of Tláhuac and diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when she was three years old, a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum that makes it hard to communicate and socialize. She was relentlessly teased by classmates and struggled to adjust in school but all that changed when a psychiatrist suggested she get an IQ test and it was confirmed she’s gifted. She went on to finish elementary school by 5, middle school by 6 and high school by 8, according to the Yucatan Times and now she’s taking online classes studying engineering. She dreams of attending the University of Arizona to study astrophysics and is already studying English with the hopes of one day becoming an astronaut. Vogue México reports that Pérez is developing a smart bracelet that’ll be able to monitor the emotions of special needs children so as to help prevent seizures or an emotional crisis.