Gitanjali Rao, a 15-year-old scientist and inventor from Lone Tree, Colorado, was named TIME’s first ever Kid of the Year in December.
A Scottsdale teenager was one of the top 20 finalists.
The Kid of the Year award recognizes young leaders who make positive impacts on their communities. Rao was chosen from more than 5,000 nominees for using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying.
Rao appears on the cover of TIME’s Dec. 14, 2020, issue, which features an interview conducted by Angelina Jolie. In it, Rao says, “Our generation is facing so many problems that we’ve never seen before. But then at the same time we’re facing old problems that still exist. Like, we’re sitting here in the middle of a new global pandemic, and we’re also, like, still facing human-rights issues. There are problems that we did not create but that we now have to solve, like climate change and cyberbullying with the introduction of technology.
“I think more than anything right now, we just need to find that one thing we’re passionate about and solve it. Even if it’s something as small as, I want to find an easy way to pick up litter. Everything makes a difference. Don’t feel pressured to come up with something big.”
The new award came from the aftermath of TIME choosing teenager and global climate activist Greta Thunberg as its 2019 Person of the Year. Thunberg’s following prompted the media company to look into other exceptional teenagers working to change the world.
Dylan Capshaw, a Scottsdale teenager, was one of the top 20 finalists for the Kid of the Year honor. At a young age, Dylan began rescuing at-risk pets and wildlife. He started the Dylan Capshaw Wildlife Foundation and sanctuary, along with two pandemic-response organizations: For The Frontline and The Sanitation Stations.