These 5 millennials are changing the name — and age — of activism right now.

For many years, critics and studies denounced young people for not voting or being apathetic toward politics and activism.

In the past few years, though, a number of teens, tweens, and everything in between have been outspoken on topics such as race, gender, class, and sexuality, raising the awareness level of passionate young people around the globe.    

From crushing the patriarchy to advocating for better educational facilities for historically underserved kids, these adolescents are showing the world that age ain't nothin' but a number, but it's a number that, when used right, can change the world.  


Check out these young activists:

1. 17-year-old Yara Shahidi

Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for H&M.

A winner of the Young, Gifted and Black Award from BET and a recipient of college recommendation letters from Michelle Obama, actress Shahidi is using her brilliance, grace, and youth to change the world.

The "Black-ish" and soon-to-be "Grown-ish" actress has spoken openly and lovingly about being an informed, outspoken teenager in an age of fake news and twisted ideology on American values. She's defended immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ folks, and other groups often targeted by hate and bigotry while also using her platform as an example for young women of color.  

"For me, just by being on a show called 'Black-ish,' race became an unavoidable conversation," Shahidi told Teen Vogue. "It gave me this platform to address these topics, and that opened the doors to develop my voice in an intentional way."

An outspoken fan of James Baldwin that's headed to Harvard, it's clear that Shahidi is one of many paving the way for young activists to make their voices heard.  

2. 18-year-old Amandla Stenberg

Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for WE Day.

Stenberg has been a trailblazer for young, queer women of color. The bisexual, biracial actress and singer shut down critics who complained that her portrayal of Rue in "The Hunger Games" was problematic back when she was still a young tween. Since then, Stenberg has given speeches on authenticity, spoken out against racism and white supremacy, worked to provide spaces for queer people of color, and continuously advocates for black women to unapologetically be their true selves.

The rising star continues to use her work in art and music to increase representation and is extremely dedicated to amplifying the voices of teenagers.

"I think people discredit teenagers and how wise they can be," Stenberg said in an Instagram post. "Sometimes, I meet teenagers who are much wiser than many adults I've met, because they haven't let any insecurities or doubts about themselves get in the way of their thoughts."

3. 21-year-old Zendaya

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.

OK, OK, so Zendaya technically is not a teenager, but the Disney star and outspoken activist made some serious waves during her teenage years and continues to do so as she gets older. After dropping her publicist for making racist comments, Zendaya speaks out about racism in the television industry and its disproportionate effects on young black women.

4. 15-year-old Rowan Blanchard

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Glamour.

The breakout star of "Girl Meets World" gained notoriety when she penned a heartfelt and eloquent letter after the show was cancelled. The TV star praised her own generation — often criticized for being lazy — as being "extraordinary" and capable of creating a better world.

"Teens determine and influence all of this in general, and I hope and think our show reflects you for how you are: brave, opinionated, audacious, devoted, dynamic, loving, nurturing, and powerful. ... I will continue to fight to not be talked down to by the shows, books, and movies, that are aimed towards us. I am sorry that this channel is just not able to understand that (don’t think for a moment this happened because of you.) But I know what we are capable of. I know very well what we did. I am above all humbled to know I belong to such an extraordinary generation. What an honor."

She's kept her promise to continue working to change the world by advocating on the behalf of young girls, encouraging diverse representation, and committing to being an activist, even when the cause doesn't affect her.  

"To me, activism is a need to know, a need to explain, and a need to help," Blanchard told Teen Vogue. "At first I was very scared of the term. I thought, 'Am I actually doing enough?' Then I realized that oftentimes existing is activism in itself."

5. 16-year-old Willow Smith

Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

As a singer, Smith has become very popular within R&B and indie circuits, but her work outside the studio is even more revolutionary. The 16-year-old has been vocal in calling out white supremacy and class discrimination, while also being an advocate for changing gender norms and creating safe spaces for people who don't fit the binary. The young star continues to perform in speak in ways to are revolutionary in their existence, and it's clear she is just beginning.

Honorary mention: 24-year-old Chance the Rapper

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images.

While Chance the Rapper is also beyond his teen years, his impact on youth and teen culture is remarkable.

Often referred to as "the voice of our generation," the young rapper has utilized social media to create opportunities for teens and young adults, has been outspoken against police brutality, racism, and classism, and has raised millions of dollars for Chicago Public Schools.

Whether it's advocating for the arts in schools or crooning to a crowd desperate for relief from a toxic political climate, Chance has been a source of joy, love, and pure excellence, setting an example for millions and teens and young adults around the world.  

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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!