A15-year-old Indian-American girl Gitanjali Rao has been named as the first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’ by TIME magazine for her “astonishing work” using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying. The “brilliant” young scientist and inventor were selected from more than 5,000 nominees and interviewed by actor and activist Angelina Jolie for the TIME special.
“The world belongs to those who shape it. And however uncertain that world may feel at a given moment, the reassuring reality seems to be that each new generation produced more of what these kids- five Kid of the Year finalists selected from a field of more than 5,000 Americans, ages 8 to 16- have already achieved: positive impact, in all sizes,” TIME magazine stated.
Rao, in her Zoom interview with Jolie on her process, said: “Observe, brainstorm, research, build and communicate.” She spoke at length about her work using technology to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying, and about her mission to create a global community of young innovators to solve problems the world over. “If I can do it,” she said in the interview, “anybody can do it.”
“Even over video chat, her brilliant mind and generous spirit shone through, along with her inspiring message to other young people: don’t try to fix every problem, just focus on one that excites you,” Time said.
Rao, a sophomore at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado’s Denver, said that her generation was faced with obstacles not seen before like COVID-19 pandemic and human rights issues. She added that her goal went from “not only creating my devices to solve the world’s problems but inspiring others to do the same as well.” Rao was featured in the web series Marvel’s Hero Project as Genius Gitanjali for her valuable contributions to society. She has also been featured in the Forbes 30 under 30 lists and spoken at several TED events. She is a recipient of the EPA Presidential Award, George Stephenson Innovation Award 2020, Kumon 2019 Student Inspirational Award and TCS Ignite Innovation Top Health Pillar Award, among others.