"Kids these days," we've all heard it. The words are usually said with disdain and meant to imply that kids are somehow not what kids of generations past were. But finalists in the "That Was Easy" competition may challenge that notion.
Appearing on ABC News Now, contestants shared their entrepreneurial ventures that have brought forth positive change in society, ideas that show that one is never too young to make a difference and that maybe, just maybe, kids today may be doing more than they're given credit for.
The competition seeks to encourage youth entrepreneurship, with judges selecting students or "change makers" who are most successful at getting a program or organization off the ground that benefits society and creates positive change.
The competition is sponsored by the Staples Corp. in collaboration with Youth Ventures, and the winning finalist gets a $5,000 Staples Shopping Spree, a $1,000 grant for his or her venture, and a consulting opportunity with Staples executives, who will help guide the endeavor.
While they may not be walking uphill both ways to school, students saw a challenge and confronted it directly.
Take a venture like Becca Robison's. Becca, from Utah, was 13 years old when she founded No Boundaries, a science camp for girls.
The Gender Gap in Space
Becca had dreams of becoming an astronaut. But like many girls, she often heard that work in outer space was better left to the boys. After a visit to space camp at age 10, she decided it was time to change the world's attitude when it came to girls and science. And so Astrotots was born right in her own backyard.
Becca recruited teammates and with support from Youth Venture, she launched No Boundaries, Science Camps for Girls, an organization that provides free science camps for "at-risk" girls between the ages of 4 and 10.
"Our focus on 'at risk' girls is because we feel that science can be a ticket out of poverty for these girls. We want to change girls' attitudes about science, and over 1,000 girls have already had that opportunity. ... I feel that every girl who attends our camps comes away thinking 'I'm a Scientist,'" Becca says.
No Boundaries goes international this summer, and girls in India will have their own chance to say, "I'm a scientist."
Helping Homeless and Abused Children
Kyle Freas, is an 18-year-old from Texas who created Youth Together. Founded two years ago when Kyle was 16, Youth Together encourages elementary school students to help abused, homeless and critically ill children. Youth Together works with local nonprofit organizations to develop kid-friendly service opportunities that have been brought to schools in Texas and New Mexico. So far, more than 50,000 elementary-age students have volunteered.
"I believe that our program can work in any town to help their abused, homeless and ill children. I am hoping to prove that we can make community service easy for schools," Kyle says.
Contestants come from diverse backgrounds. Jordan Schwartz's Hispanic ethnicity led her to found the Children's Bilingual Theater in Georgia two years ago.
Troubled about the divide between the English- and Spanish-speaking communities, Jordan, 12 at the time, decided to take action and bridge the gap.
"I started the Children's Bilingual Theater when I realized just how much I had benefited from my experiences in community theater. I saw that standing up in front of people to talk got better with practice and that learning a script was like learning a new language and that too got better with practice," says Jordan.
"I am most proud of being able to include people that have never done theater before and watch them learn and grow."
Helping Teens Through Theater
John Muller founded his own theater group Washington, D.C. DreamCity Theater Group began two years ago when Muller was 20. The Group is an entirely youth-led nonprofit theater company that has engaged more than 7,000 people throughout the District of Columbia.
Supported by Youth Venture, all performances by the Theater Group are free. Talking about Youth Venture, John says, "When I first met YV, I was at a community college. Now I am on the verge of graduating from George Washington University with honors."
Pursue Your Entrepreneurial Dreams
Sheena Lindahl and Michael Simmons from New York began Extreme Entrepreneurship Education four years ago, when they were 20 and 21 years old.
EEE, as the organization is known, helps college students pursue their dreams by fostering an entrepreneurial mind-set. EEE has reached more than 10,000 young people through events and speaking engagements, and each month more than 25,000 people visit its Web site to download free educational and inspirational content.
Sheena may have described the efforts of all the contestants when she said, "I believe that everybody has something unique that they can contribute to the world. We all have these grand, unique visions of what we can accomplish in our lives to change the world. Yet so few of us follow them. I believe that if we can get a few more people doing a little bit more toward their dreams, we will be making a long, lasting positive difference in the world -- with far greater impact than I could ever have alone trying to make a difference."
Please go to http://www.youthventure.org to vote on your favorite venture.