The teenage years can be one of the toughest stages in our lives. There’s hormones, managing a social life, plus the pressure to perform well in school, and think about the future like college and a prospective career. If a teen feels overwhelmed, there’s often a good reason why. However, the teens that you’re about to meet managed to do some great things that can inspire us all. Here are the 10 most amazing teens you won’t believe actually exist!
Teenagers are typically self-conscious about their appearances, and will often resort to diets and exercise programs, to match what they see in the media. But that isn’t the only path to self-acceptance. For example, this teen has been dubbed, “Muscle Barbie” because she is not only beautiful, but strong. While she only recently graduated out of her teens, 20-year-old Julia Vins has been bodybuilding, since she was 15 years old. The Russian teen started hitting the gym because she was lacking confidence in her appearance. But, she found that she didn’t enjoy doing cardio, so she opted to lift weights instead, which led her to the world of powerlifting. Currently, she can power lifts about 419 pounds, and she has become an overnight sensation on social media. Vins looks a lot different from the other bodybuilders. She maintains the appearance of looking sweet and innocent, which creates a juxtaposed look, next to her bulging muscles. She has gathered a massive following on Instagram and has even created a website so her fans can keep track of her progress. Vins is one of Russia’s leading power lifters, and people all over the world are inspired by her hard work, and the results that she has obtained.
All the Jamarion Styles wanted to do was be on a basketball team. The 13-year-old lost his hands as an infant due to a bacterial infection, but he never let that stop him from achieving his dreams. Each week, he would go to his local community center in hopes of playing, but would never get picked to be on a team. So, on his first day of school at Eagles Landing middle school, he talked to Darian Williams, the school’s basketball coach. Styles told Williams that he just wanted to be on the team, and he got in. Williams noticed that Styles was dedicated, as he would be the first to practice and the last to leave. Styles sat on the bench for most of the season until March 2017, when Williams put him in the last 6 minutes of the game. Style made not one, but two 3-point shots! He became the school’s hero, and has aspirations to also play volleyball as well as a tryout for the football team next year. And if you’re wondering if Styles is still going to the community center, that would be a yes, and he’s one of the first picks for teams now!
Amaiya Zafar fights like a girl. And trust us, it’s a great thing! Zafar fell in love with boxing when she was just 14 years old. Her parents initially tried to get her involved with fencing, but she told them, “I’ll box before I fence.” Her father, Muhammad Zafar, worked with her until she was able to find a gym that would accept her for not only being a girl, but for being Muslim, as well. Adhering to her religious beliefs, Zafar wears a hijab under her boxing headgear, as well as long sleeves and long pants. When she would box against boys, they would yell about punching her pretty face off. You know, all the sexist jargon one can come up with. But Zafar found herself in a media storm, when she was disqualified from competing in the sugar Bert boxing national championships in November 2016, because of her clothing, due to the dress code from USA Boxing. Her opponent, Aliyah Charbonier, didn’t feel right about being declared the winner and gave her the title Belt. Zafar pleaded her case with USA boxing, and as of April 2017, she has been cleared to box. Now, the 16-year-old teen has her sights set on the 2020 Olympics!
Being overweight can be a challenge, especially in the health and social aspects of life. Losing weight can be an even tougher process, both mentally and physically! It can be even worse when you’re a teenager, and having to deal with high school, and life overall, while your hormones are going nuts. When Austin shifflett was attending William Monroe High School in Greene County, Virginia, he said his life was horrible. He was called names, and shifflett hated going to school. So, he acted out and got referrals, which led to suspensions. After hitting the scale and realizing he weighed 324 pounds, the team decided to make a change. Once graduation was over, he started eating a low carb high protein diet. In his first weeks, he lost 9 pounds. After hitting the 80-pound milestone, he started going to the gym. In one year, the teen lost 166 pounds! Afterwards, Shifflett had to get some loose skin removed. After he healed up, he started getting calls about starring in commercials, and he’s become a model. All of this was accomplished before he was old enough to drink! Today, he runs about 6-9 miles per day and does other things like hiking and basketball to keep his activity level up.
Skydiving is one of the most thrilling activities on the planet. There’s nothing that gets your adrenaline going like jumping out of a plane in free-falling back to earth. But for 16-year-old Mackenzie Wethington, it was a skydiver’s worst nightmare, and the scenario most people run through their heads right before jumping. In 2014, she was skydiving in Chickasaw, Oklahoma when her parachute malfunctioned, and she survived a fall more than 3,000 feet. Her injuries included several broken ribs, and she also broke her pelvis, lumbar spine, and her shoulder blade. Wethington also injured her kidney and liver, along with having bleeding in her brain. The fact that she is alive and well today is nothing short of amazing. She recently won a $760,000-dollar lawsuit against the skydiving company, Pegasus Air Sports Center, claiming that she wasn’t properly trained before the jump and her parachute was beyond her skill level. Pegasus air tried to say that Wethington panicked, and didn’t follow proper instructions. But given that her parachute only opened partially and spun towards the ground, the judge ruled in Wethington favor. Her rehab team marveled at her, saying that her survival shouldn’t have happened, and it was nothing short of a miracle given, her body type and stature.
17-year-old Mack Beggs may have his gender listed as “Female” on his birth certificate, but has identified as a male since the age of 12. As of spring 2017, he is a junior at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas. He became the first transgender teen to win the Texas state title in the girl’s class 6A division in wrestling, for the University of Interscholastic League. But Beggs’ win wasn’t without controversy. The UIL rules prevented him from competing in the boys’ division because he was born biologically female. During his freshman year of high school, Beggs started medical treatments to further his transition by using hormonal injections. The parents of a previous female opponent announced they were suing the UIL over Beggs’ his participation in the tournament. Given that the state of Texas has a strong stance in their opinion on the transgender community, the fight for equality hasn’t been easy. Having Beggs compete against females doesn’t seem fair, especially since he is a male by both body and soul. But in the eyes of his oppressors, allowing him to compete as a male would “Justify” the transition, all because of the gender that is listed on Beggs’ birth certificate. When Beggs won the title, there were both cheers of joy as well as boos. Beggs chooses to focus on the positive, and still continues to train as a wrestler!
In February 2017, 17 year-old Katie Vacek and her boyfriend, Kernie Baker, were walking in the woods when they decided to climb a tree. After taking a selfie, Vacek said she freaked out and tried to grab a branch, but ended up falling 15-20 feet below. She was airlifted to the hospital, and ended up paralyzed from the waist down. Vacek told reporters in April 2017 that there was one thing she wanted to do, dance with her boyfriend at the senior prom. Her mother initially had reservations, and never thought that she would see her daughter stand upright again. With the help of her physical therapist, a harnessing device was created so that with the help of Baker, Vacek can dance at the prom like all the other students. There may be a lot of buckles, but Vacek will have her moment. Not only is Baker the backbone of her dancing endeavors, but he has also been an amazing support system, during Vacek’s recovery. Despite the horrifying accident, Baker says that the ordeal has brought the two closer together. Now, it looks like between Vacek’s determination to stand up in Baker support, they will share that special dance on prom night.
Just because you’re young, it doesn’t mean you can’t change the world. 15-year-old Jack Andraka made headlines after he took his grief and turned it into progress. After losing a family friend to pancreatic cancer, Andraka started using Google to research ways to prevent cancer. From using information that was readily available online, Andraka was able to come up with a new way to detect ovarian, pancreatic, and lung cancer. He requested space from research labs so that he could continue to study and test his ideas, but he was rejected over 200 times. Eventually, he was able to get space at Johns Hopkins! The craziest thing about his discovery was that it only cost 3 cents and takes just 5 minutes to run. It’s just a simple blood test that works like a diabetes strip where the levels of mesothelin is tested. Mesothelin is a known marker for the early stages of pancreatic cancer. That is 26,000 times less expensive, 168 times faster, and 400 times more sensitive than current cancer tests. For example, the test for pancreatic cancer can cost $800 dollars and misses 30% of all types of pancreatic cancer, which is one of the most deadly and has one of the highest mortality rates. In 2012, he won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which got him $100,000 dollars in scholarships. He managed to accomplish all of this before he was old enough to drive!
In high school, all students are told to think about is getting into college. While undergraduate studies may not be on everyone’s radar, or even part of everyone’s future, a good percentage certainly try. That means getting good grades in high school, getting good test scores, and participating in extracurricular activities, in order to build up a good resume. After doing all of that, it still isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get into college. But 17-year-old Ifeoma White-Thorpe doesn’t seem to have that problem. The Morris Hills High School student was accepted into all 8 IVY League schools, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell. Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania, plus Stanford! Getting into one IVY League school is hard enough! She initially had her sights set on Harvard, and got into their early Action Program. But then the other acceptance letters came in. That’s no surprise considering she’s president of her student body. Got first place at the national liberty museum’s Selma speech and essay contest, and ranked high in all of her Advanced Placement testing. How will white Thorpe make her final decision? She wants to major in global health policy, so it all comes down to the quality of the program, as well as scholarship options.
14-year-old Royce Mann is an eighth grader at the Paideia school in Atlanta, Georgia, who has been making a big splash in mainstream news. In 2017, he won a slam poetry competition, which unexpectedly went viral. Why? his poem, “White boy privilege”, is about his feelings on being automatically privileged because he is white and male. In his poem, he apologizes to all the groups that aren’t white, as well as women. One of the most powerful points in his poem was when he said if he was offered to trade places with a minority, he would most likely not do it because “To be privileged is awesome.” In a time where race and gender are sensitive subjects, the world has been stunned to see someone not only tackle this topic, but for that someone to be so young and not part of any groups that are affected by prejudice. After going viral, man experienced a lot of backlash, and even received threats and accusations that he was “Ashamed of his race.” Instead of allowing himself to be affected by the negativity, man is staying focused on his message. Which is quite a mature move for a kid who hasn’t even reached high school yet.