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Teenagers who change the world

Ben Cooper

Controller BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and Asian Network

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There are two clichés of teenagers in mainstream media – that of monosyllabic grunting threatening trouble makers, or the front page photo of two long haired blond girls hugging as they celebrate their exam results.

Sure they exist, but Radio 1 wants to shout proudly about all of the young people living in our society and the fantastically diverse lives being experienced in the UK today. We not only reflect and celebrate youth culture through its music, but also through the stories that we tell in between the records. This Tuesday we tell the stories of ‘10 Teens Who Changed the World’. It will inspire you, and depending on your age, make you wish you’d been able to make your mark on the world before you were twenty.

The first teen we hear from won the Nobel Peace Prize last week – it is the incredible and inspirational story of Malala Yousafrzai. You will know Malala as the teenager who refused to be silenced by the Taliban, but closer to home do you know about Eliza Rebeiro from Croydon? At 14 she found herself excluded from school, and after a friend was killed, set up ‘Lives Not Knives’. She’s gone from printing 100 T-Shirts that she sold to friends, to speaking out against knife crime to over 10,000 school pupils a year. Or do you know about Brittany Wenger, who, when aged 17, developed a software program that is over 99% effective in diagnosing breast cancer – which all sprung from a school project she was working on.

These stories are part of BBC Radio 1’s annual celebration of positive messages about teenagers. To find out who the other seven are you’ll have to listen to the show. Also you should try to listen or watch the Radio 1 Teen Awards this Sunday at Wembley Arena. It’s a huge event in the calendar for our audience, whether they’re with us at Wembley or getting involved from home, and I’m very proud that we can bring British teens together for one big positive moment. Around 9,000 young people will scream as loudly for their music, TV, film, sport and vlogging heroes, as they do for the four Teen Hero Award winners. These are the young people rewarded for their fundraising or caring, for overcoming adversity or for the helping of others. It’s quite an emotional moment when an arena full of teenagers is cheering and clapping total strangers for their selfless efforts.

Obviously they will quickly return to holding their phones back in the air or checking them for status updates, but that’s a cliché I’m happy to use.

Ben Cooper is Contoller, BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra.

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