Alternatively titled, twenty inspirational (present and future) Twenty-Somethings
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My apologies for the lengthy post but I really wanted to give these inspirational people the recognition and time that they deserve. I bet you my non-existent puppy that it’s worth the read.
Inspired by Forbes’ latest Thirty Under Thirty, and my good friends at Seneca Media,
I decided to talk about Inspirational Twenty-Somethings that make us want to be better humans. I’ve talked about keeping the blog real and avoiding the trap that twenty-somethings sometimes fall in to – comparing ourselves to the idealized version of our twenties. However, this post is more of a tool for inspiring us to be the best versions of ourselves.
Without further ado (and in no particular order), here is my list of inspirational (current and future) twenty-somethings. I’ve tried to avoid “celebrities” to honour everyday, real people. However, there may be one or two sprinkled in. Be sure to click on their names and links for more inspiration!
Molly has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare retinal disease causing loss of vision. In the face of adversity, Molly has brought light and inspiration as a Youtuber and motivational speaker. At just five years old, she began speaking as an ambassador for The Foundation Fighting Blindness Canada. Molly ran with the Paralympic torch for the winter games in 2009 and was Miss Teen Canada International 2010. Now, Molly continues to thrive and showcase her experience of overcoming adversity.
2. Lilly Singh
#Girl Love, Youtuber, Bawse author, and all around inspiration. Some might consider Lilly a celebrity but she keeps it real and deserves a spot on our inspiration list. Lilly continues to inspire with her solid work ethic, compassion, and all-around bawse behaviour.
3. Paul Leduc
As the Founder of Canadian Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse himself, Paul was frustrated with the lack of support for male survivors of sexual abuse and did something about it. Thus, his non-profit was born in order to provide access to funding for male survivors of sexual abuse and to increase awareness on the subject.
Sabrina is the Founder and Executive Director at Femme International, an NGO dedicated to promoting women’s health through education in East Africa. She is a passionate advocate for women’s rights. Sabrina believes in the importance of using education and conversation to empower women and girls by breaking the menstrual taboo.
Born with Down Syndrome, Andrew owns Group Hug Apparel and uses some of his proceeds to support charities. By the time 2015 rolled around, he raised around $35,000 for charities. He encourages everyone to “stay strong and rock on”. Watch the documentary on this extraordinary man here!
6. Dan Edwards
An accident left Dan a C5-C6 quadriplegic at the age of 18. Using his experiences, Dan has become an amazing motivational speaker making a difference in the community. His public awareness initiatives have raised $75,000 to support community mental health services, helped install 30 accessible ramps at local businesses, and informed youth about available mental health resources.
7. Kevin Breel
Author of Boy Meets Depression: Or Life Sucks and Then You Live, Kevin is a comedian, mental health activist and viral Ted Talk speaker. Speaking from his heart about his story of depression, he is also an ambassador for the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. Named one of the Most Influential Millenials by Parade Magazine, his humour and honesty are sure to take him far.
Kelly joined the Canadian Forces and was training to deploy to Afghanistan by eighteen. During training, she had completely torn a ligament in her leg. She pushed past the pain to deploy for an eight-month tour in Afghanistan as an infantry soldier. Her injury worsened when she returned home and she had to re-learn how to walk properly. Kelly was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress injury and depression a year after returning home. This year, Kelly competed in her first Invictus Games in Toronto (where I was honoured to be a volunteer). She credits the games as helping her find her motivation again. She even competed in wheelchair tennis despite never having played tennis or have been in a wheelchair. You can read more about Kelly here!
Michel is a former child soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo forced to become a refugee at eleven-years-old. He has seen a lot of unspeakable things and terror during his life. Now he is a peace activist, using his story to encourage others to believe in their ability to make a difference. He also is an author of a graphic novel, Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War. I definitely encourage everyone to read about the horrors he faced as a child soldier to better understand the child soldier issue.
10. Sarah Kay
Sarah is a spoken word poet and the founder of Project Voice, an organization that promotes the spoken word as an educational and inspirational tool. Beyond being published in many magazines, she also has written books- B and No Matter the Wreckage. You can listen to her amazing Ted Talks If I should have a daughter and Poetry makes people nervous.
This might be cheating – pretty sure he’s fresh out of his twenties but it’s unladylike to ask. Regardless, he should still be on this list. Mark’s TEDx Talk, Why we choose suicide, is instrumental in helping eliminate the stigma of mental health discussion. He is the CEO of Strategic Mental Health Solutions. He has also youngest president of a provincial Canadian Mental Health Association division in history and the youngest member of the board of directors for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Click his name or the other links provided to learn more about this moving mental health advocate.
12. Malala Yousafzai
If you haven’t heard of Malala, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Born in Mingora, Pakistan, Malala has seen more than most twenty-year-olds have. An advocate for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, Malala defines inspiration. She co-founded the Malala Fund with her father at the age of fifteen after she survived the Taliban’s attempt to assassinate her. The Malala Fund helps fight for free, safe and quality education for girls who otherwise have been denied access to education.
13. Emma Watson
Yes, I know, I said no celebrities but Emma Watson is inspiration central. She is the kind of girl that I envy (despite my repeated assertions that twenty-somethings should compare themselves to others). More than just an actor, she is a Global Goodwill Ambassador and women’s rights activist. If you haven’t seen her 2014 speech on gender equality, you should watch now.
14. Harrison Browne
Harrison Browne is a professional hockey centre for the Metropolitan Riveters. He also happens to be the first openly transgender athlete in professional sports. Known as a trailblazer for LGTBQ rights, he helped form the first ever transgender policy in professional sports. He was also voted the Inclusion leader for the NWHL advisory board. Harrison talks about his life and career over on his youtube channel.
15. Lizzie Velásquez
Lizzie is a phenomenal motivational speaker! She was born with an extremely rare congenital disease, Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome. After being called the “World’s Ugliest Person” in a 2006 youtube video (honestly, what is wrong with people?), she began speaking out about bullying in her TedxAustenWomen Talk How Do YOU Define Yourself? Lizzie and her mother wrote about her story in Lizzie Beautiful, the Lizzie Velasquez Story. She has authored several other books including Be Beautiful, Be You, Choose Happiness, and Dare to Be Kind: How Extraordinary Compassion Can Transform Our World.
It is important to acknowledge the inspiration that can be found in the up-and-coming generation.
As you may have noticed the (not so sneaky) subtext, I mentioned future twenty-somethings. I wanted to include teenagers that have the potential to be inspirational into their twenties (and beyond). So, here are five spectacular teens that are destined to be inspirational twenty-somethings.
At fourteen, Hannah is already making waves of change and has an even brighter future ahead of her. Author of Momentus: Small Acts, Big Change, Hannah is a blogger, public speaker, and activist. She is a role model and kind human being who cannot be defined in a short description. Be sure to keep an eye on this one- she will move mountains.
At nineteen years old, Ashley is a TEDx speaker and a young woman who has overcome odds once deemed insurmountable as she was born HIV+. Now, Ashley uses her powerful voice to raise awareness while teaching people the possibilities of overcoming adversities and tribulations. On the verge of becoming a twenty-something herself, Ashley will do big and amazing things with her passion. She’s one to watch for sure!
15-year-old Zuriel is a female education activist. In 2014, she became the world’s youngest filmmaker to have a self-produced and self-edited work. By twelve, she had four documentaries under her belt, all of which focused on important African issues. Her first documentary was about the revolution in Ghana. She quickly followed that with Educating and Healing Africa Out of Poverty, Technology in Educational Development, and a Promising Africa. The documentaries showcase the positive side of Africa to counteract all the negative we hear. Moreover, Zuriel’s passion for access to education led her to start the Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up program to see that every child gets a chance at education. We can’t wait to see what she’ll continue to accomplish!
Some refer to Muzoon as the “Malala of Syria” but she is amazing as simply Muzoon. Like Malala, she fights for girls’ rights to stay in school. She was motivated when half of the 40 girls in her class dropped out of school to get married. Muzoon was appointed as UNICEF’s youngest goodwill ambassador. She was honoured for her efforts to keep girls in school and out of child marriage or child labour.
18-year-old Clare started a pen-pal initiative between her school and an all-girl school in northwestern Kenya. It inspired her to launch Kakuma Girls, a book containing stories from girls in the Kakuma Refugee Camp. It explores issues that concern girls from both countries while showcasing their dreams for the future. Proceeds from the book will go towards a university education for some of the girls in Kakuma. You can check out how you can get involved in helping here. Judging by her advocacy and her TEDxYouth@Toronto talk, Clare will continue to be an inspiration when she enters her twenties (and beyond).
There you have it.
Thank you for reading this long but important post. I’d like to give an honorary shout out to dogs, pizza, and cookies for being another source of inspiration! Until next time…
PS. Who inspires you? Leave your answers and suggestions in the comments.