Gitanjali Rao

I don't know about you guys, but when I was 15, I was definitely not in the running for anything like Time's Kid Of The Year. My crowning achievement of that year was toilet-papering our neighbour's house with a group of friends. While that did take a fair amount of coordination, it certainly required more stupidity than anything else. As my parents said, incredulously, "Why the neighbours' house?? You could have at least gone to a different neighbourhood!"

Gitanjali Rao spent her early teens rather more productively than I did. In 2020, she was crowned Time's Kid of the Year for using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying. Her mission is to create a global community of young innovators to solve problems around the world. Rao suggests not trying to fix every problem, "just focus on the one that excites you."

Another important goal of Rao's is to change people's perception of what a scientist looks like. As she says,

"I don’t look like your typical scientist. Everything I see on TV is that it’s an older, usually white man as a scientist. It’s weird to me that it was almost like people had assigned roles, regarding like their gender, their age, the color of their skin. My goal has really shifted not only from creating my own devices to solve the world’s problems, but inspiring others to do the same as well. Because, from personal experience, it’s not easy when you don’t see anyone else like you. So I really want to put out that message: If I can do it, you can do it, and anyone can do it."

I think it's easy to write off messages like that from kids who are labeled 'geniuses' because most of us have realised by now that we can't all be geniuses, dammit. Most days I can't even remember what day it is. But as Arthur Ashe said,

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

To read more about Rao's inspiring work, head here.

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