15 People Who Give Us Hope For a Better 2018

2017 hasn’t exactly been the smoothest year in recent memory. Thankfully, for every tragic and ugly event that finds its way into the news, there is a story of someone working to make the world a better place. These feisty, awesome people are giving us hope for a better future with the work that they’re doing today.

Danica Roem

Danica Roem became Virginia’s first openly transgender elected official when she beat out Robert G. Marshall, a Republican known for introducing the state’s anti-trans bathroom bill. “The message that I can succeed because of my gender, not despite it, because of who I am without being afraid of who I am is a human message,” Roem said in the September interview with Cosmopolitan.

Jennifer Maddox

Police officer Jennifer Maddox knows that Chicago’s Southside can be a rough place, especially for young people. More than 100 children have a friend in Maddox whose program, Future Ties, provides a safe space for kids to learn and grow. “We can’t arrest our way out of this. Law enforcement needs the people in the community to work with us to solve some of the grassroots issues that are causing the violence,” Maddox told CNN.

Marc Edwards and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

The residents of Flint, Michigan knew that something was wrong with their water, but no one was listening. It took civil-engineering professor Marc Edwards to blow the whistle on the problem and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a local pediatrician, to test kids and prove they were been poisoned. Together, they battled “official ignorance and indifference” to crack the case.

Gintanjali Rao

Gintanjali Rao is just 11, but has already made a name for herself in the science world, beating out 10 finalists to win the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.” Her winning entry was a device that uses carbon nanotubes to detect the presence of lead in U.S. water systems.

Irene Nkosi

Nkosi was still in her teens during her second pregnancy when she learned she was HIV positive. The South African native faced ostracism in her conservative culture, but now is helping women in the same situation through the charity mothers2mothers. With the charity, Nkosi helps HIV-positive pregnant women give birth to HIV-negative children and provides education, counseling and family support.

Natalie Hampton

Natalie Hampton knew what it was like to have to eat lunch alone, and still has bad memories being ostracized. These experiences inspired the 16-year-old to create the kindness-promoting app Sit With Us, which helps kids find friendly people to sit with at lunch.

Mary Verdi-Fletcher

Mary Verdi-Fletcher is the founder and president of Dancing Wheels Company & School, an institution that brings together people in wheelchairs with able-bodied folks for physically integrated dance routines.

Circo, the Emotional Advice Kid

Every Sunday, 11-year-old Ciro—aka the Emotional Advice Kid—sets up shop in the New York City subways with a sign that reads, “Emotional Advice $2.00.” For that bargain, New Yorkers get five minutes of therapy. “I mean he’s a kid, he’s so beyond his years,” one of his clients said, “the advice he gave me was from his heart.”

Andrew Manzi

Andrew Manzi knows that for Iraq War veteran like himself, PTSD can be a crippling emotional and mental obstacle to overcome. That’s why the avid surfer started Warrior Surf. The six-week program is free for veterans and their families and provides surf camps and an emotional support system. Mazi told CNN that it’s a “natural approach to healing,” adding “you feel safe out there when you know you got a bunch of brothers floating around you.”

Tina Hovsepian

Architect Tina Hovsepian is taking on homelessness in Los Angeles with a beautiful solution to temporary housing. Using cardboard, she’s created Cardborigami, a structure that features strong, origami-like folds. “Because of the folding pattern,” she says, “it’s more structural than a tent is. It resists impact loads and wind loads much better, and when you’re inside, if it’s cold outside, it’ll be more warm. If it’s warm outside, it’ll be cooler inside.”

Women and Men of the #MeToo Movement

Sparked by numerous sexual assault allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, a number of Hollywood celebrities male and female spoke about past sexual violations that had been committed against them. The news soon led to #MeToo a hashtag that united sexual assault victims not only in entertainment and politics, but all walks of life to speak out and demand a change in the culture.

Damon Cole

Damon Cole’s day job is protecting the citizens of Fort Worth, Texas as a police officer. He becomes a different sort of hero in his free time though. Cole transforms into various superhero egos with his charity, Heroes and Cops Against Childhood Cancer, and lifts the spirits of sick children across the country. “Once I saw the positive impact I was having on the children I go see, that’s when I knew I had found my calling in life,” Cole said.

Autumn Peltier

Indigenous Canadian teenager, Autumn Peltier, first began advocating for humanitarian causes at just 8-years-old. Now at 13, she’s been nominated for the International Children’s Peace Price for calling on the Canadian government to take more action in protecting the country’s water from oil pipline pollution.

Daryl Davis

Daryl Davis is a one-man army when it comes to turning hate into love. For years the musician has been slowly befriending KKK members to find out why they hate and then convincing them to leave the hate group. “The more you build upon the things you have in common, the things you have in contrast like skin color begin to matter less and less,” Davis said.

Khali Sweeney

Founder of the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program in Detroit, Sweeney is committed to helping kids avoid the pitfalls of falling in with the wrong crowd. The kids who come to the program five days a week have all graduated high school and most have gone on to college. “I get kids who call me and I get parents who call me all the time, ‘Hey, could you pick my kid up early from school?'” said Sweeny. “I’m on call 24 hours like a doctor.”

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