Talia Leman, 13, of Waukee, Iowa, a seventh-grader at The Academy in Des Moines, founded an organization called "RandomKid" that seeks to educate, motivate and unify young people around the world to work on a broad spectrum of pressing needs. She began two years ago by encouraging kids in her area to trick-or-treat for coins instead of candy on Halloween, and donate the money to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. After her cause was publicized by a Midwest grocery chain, Iowa's governor and NBC's "The Today Show," kids across the country reportedly raised millions of dollars for Katrina victims.
With the help of an adult adviser, Talia then established a nonprofit organization and created a Web site (www.randomkid.org) that solicits support from young people everywhere for projects such as selling kid-designed and -manufactured key chains to help rebuild the Gulf Coast, raising money to build a school in Cambodia, finding homes for stray pets, and collecting DVDs for soldiers overseas. One of Talia's biggest current projects involves encouraging schools across the country to make and sell their own private-labeled bottled-water products to help fund clean-water technologies in distressed areas of the world. She's also working on setting up a "mini-United Nations" made up of young delegates from around the world who work together to address global children's issues. "If we want a better world, we need to know that the world does belong to us, and that we have the power to make it better," said Talia.