This article appeared in the December 10, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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‘If I can do it, you can do it’: How first ‘Kid of the Year’ tackles problems

Sharif Hamza/TIME/AP
This undated photo provided by Time Magazine shows the cover of its Dec. 14, 2020, issue, featuring a 15-year-old Colorado high school student and young scientist who has been named the magazine's first "Kid of the Year." Gitanjali Rao has used artificial intelligence and created apps to tackle contaminated drinking water, cyberbullying, opioid addiction and other social problems. Rao is a sophomore at STEM School Highlands Ranch in suburban Denver and was selected from more than 5,000 nominees. Time says it wanted to recognize the rising leaders of America's youngest generation in announcing the award.
Kim Campbell
Culture & Education Editor

What will the next generation of problem-solvers look like?

We got a sense of that this past week when Gitanjali Rao, a 15-year-old from Colorado, was named the first “Kid of the Year” by Time magazine and TV’s Nickelodeon.

What makes this inventor, scientist, and mentor (to 30,000 students and counting) stand out is not only her work to identify contaminants in water or detect cyberbullying through a service called Kindly. It is her attitude: She extols failure as a path to success, recognizes that the field of science needs to include more diversity, and encourages others to act on causes they are passionate about. 

In 2017, then-staff writer Amanda Paulson interviewed her for the Monitor. Besides the teen’s intelligence and thoughtfulness, she recalls Gitanjali as someone “who truly cares about making the world a better place.” 

The way Gitanjali sees it, solving the world’s problems will take people recognizing their own inner innovators. “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,” she tells actor and Time contributing editor Angelina Jolie. 

Tonight, Time will unveil its “Person of the Year” on a special broadcast on NBC. The finalists are Joe Biden, Donald Trump, front-line health care workers and Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the movement for racial justice.

One day soon, Gitanjali may end up on that list, too.

This article appeared in the December 10, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 12/10 edition
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