Gen Z-ers are our pillars of innovation. Spanning from the ages of 10 to 25, these children, teens and young adults are paving the way across industries.
One of EBONY’s 2022 HBCU STEM Queens, 13-year-old McQuarter is on the move. She is the youngest Black person in the nation to be accepted into medical school. Right now, she’s on track to enter the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine at age 15. McQuarter, who pulls double duty at both Alabama’s Oakwood University and Arizona State University, also has the distinction of being the youngest girl of color to intern at NASA. Not content with just her own success, the Texan advocates for other young girls of color through her Brown STEM Girl Foundation.
Realizing that traffic stops can be one of the most dangerous situations for Black civilians, Price, 21, created The Safety Pouch when he was 16 years old. The fluorescent orange holder organizes several vehicle credentials, minimizing active movement when dealing with law enforcement during these interactions. Price also works directly with police departments to train officers how to interact with his invention and remind them of de-escalation techniques that can be used during traffic stops to promote safety.
At just 25, Sandu, the Accra, Ghana-born digital architect, was already known for creating the world’s first smart retail store experience with Nipsey Hussle. Last October, Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners also bet on him, investing in his impact-driven innovation incubator Spatial LABS (sLABS) exploring the limitless possibilities at the intersection of technology, culture and humanity. In June, sLABs launched the chip-embedded garments LNQ. It’s an opportunity, shares Sandu, “to develop hardware that would equip users and creatives with the tools they need to create, engage and share with their communities while bridging the physical and digital worlds like never before.”
Some stories are larger than life, and the actors who tell those stories take on great responsibility. This October, 15-year-old Hall will bring the iconic story of Emmett Till to life in the film Till alongside actresses Danielle Deadwyler and Whoopi Goldberg. The emotionally impactful project is just the latest in an expanding list of television and film credits for the Los Angeles native. Hall launched his career with appearances in the television shows Star, Black-ish, and the high school sports drama All American, before stepping up to the big screen in Space Jam: A New Legacy.
Abruptly ending his college career to pursue entrepreneurship, 24-year-old Kenyan-born Kitonga founded Vitable Health and grew it into a multimillion-dollar business. Although his venture began as an urgent-care, on-demand business or “Uber for Urgent Care,” as Kitonga describes it, today the $9 million company is a Philadelphia-based membership healthcare service, offering primary care insurance plans to members that include virtual and at-home visits. Launching his health care model nationwide to deliver affordable and accessible health care to more underserved populations is his next move.
Cooper, an 18-year-old activist, founded Girl Well, a nonprofit that provides under-sheltered teenage girls with self-care kits to promote self-love, and encourages young women to embrace their mental, physical and emotional well-being. Through her vision, more than 500 homeless girls across five states have received these kits. The operation has also partnered with the online teletherapy site Better Help to provide free counseling for girls in need. In February, Cooper was honored in the first-ever Prudential Emerging Visionaries Program, which recognizes students for their work addressing the challenges of a changing world.
Known as “Little Miss Flint,”15-year-old Copeny is an activist and philanthropist who was instrumental in garnering $100 million dollars in relief during the Flint, Mich., water crisis that began in 2014. A social justice warrior, she served as a national youth ambassador for the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, has worked with anti-bullying organizations and has raised more than $600,000 for the Flint Kids project, which provides school supplies to fellow Flint students. Impressed by her change-making efforts, the Lottie Company, a children’s toy manufacturer, created a “Kid Activist Doll” in her image.
Hayes, 13, has literally turned making millions into an art form. Although the digital artist has been creating since she was a toddler, it wasn’t until an uncle introduced her to NFTs that her art took off. Long Neckies, the signature characters prominently featured in her work, earned her more than $3 million in digital currency. Named the first artist in residence for Time magazine last fall, Hayes created a collection featuring iconic women like Aretha Franklin and bell hooks. With the proceeds from her NFTs, she started Kids on the Blockchain, an online platform that demystifies technology and promotes young digital artists like herself.
At age 12, Bryant organized her first demonstration, Justice for Trayvon Martin, a rally for Martin and other unarmed Black lives lost to police violence. In 2016, she created a petition calling for the removal of Confederate statues from Charlottesville, Va., parks, and the city council voted to remove them in 2017. Now completing her studies at the University of Virginia, the 21-year-old award-winning activist, community organizer and author continues to educate others about implementing social change and justice.