TIME for Kids and Nickelodeon have picked Orion Jean, an 11-year-old Black entrepreneur, as the 2021 Kid of the Year. Young leaders who make a difference in their communities are honored as part of the program.
Jean, a Texas native, was honored on the second-annual Kid of the Year TV special for his efforts in organizing projects that encourage people to do good things for others, such as his race to kindness initiative.
For TIME, Jean got the opportunity to speak with Angelina Jolie, an actress and global ambassador, about creating a compassion campaign.
“Well, to me, it can be a number of things. And the one that I started was the race to kindness,” Jean said. “The race to kindness is not just a series of events but also a call to action. It’s a way to get people involved in the community, you know, and when they see something happening now, they can go out and do something about it. Kindness is a choice, and while we can’t force others to be kind, we can be kind ourselves and hope to inspire other people.”
He went on to say that while people have great ideas, they rarely act on them. Nonetheless, he encourages others to get started on anything and to believe that they, too, can make a difference.
“So many people have great ideas but never act on them. I think it’s all about really caring about the issues that you’re seeing. Someone told me that you have to find something that breaks your heart for you to really get out there and make a difference in that area,” Jean said.
“And I want others to know that they can start today,” he continued. “If there’s an issue or problem or something that they see that they want to solve, all it takes is really just knowing deep down inside that it’s something you care about, and you can go out and get started.”
In a statement, TIME’s editor-in-chief and CEO, Edward Felsenthal, said that the 2021 Kid of the Year is chosen every year, and that Jean represents “sheer inspiration.”
“Choosing the Kid of the Year, now in its second year, is sheer inspiration. And Orion personifies it.” Felsenthal said. “When he was just 9 years old, he won a student kindness contest and donated his $500 prize to a local children’s hospital.”
“Since then, he’s collected and donated hundreds of thousands of books, meals, and toys to those in need,” he continued. “Orion not only launches big efforts to fix problems he sees in everyday life, like food insecurity and lack of access to education. He also inspires others to join him, bringing local communities and governments together to help the neediest among us.”
Jean was honored among the other top contenders at Trevor Noah’s Kid of the Year TV special, which was hosted and executive produced by Trevor Noah on Wednesday. Celebrity visitors included Charli D’Amelio, Scarlett Johansson, Meghan Trainor, 2020 Kid of the Year, Gitanjali Rao, and others on the Nickelodeon TV special.
Nickelodeon stars Alaya “That Girl Lay Lay” High, Dylan “Young Dylan” Gilmer, and Wolfgang Schaeffer also took part in the show as part of a kid committee to assist celebrate the top five Kid of the Year contenders.
Jean is also featured on the cover of TIME’s February 28/March 7 edition, which will be available on newsstands on Friday, February 18. Nick.com, Nick App, and Nick On-Demand now have the TV special available to view.