One 19-year-old’s Journey from Special Needs to Acclaimed ‘Genius’

Despite being born with special needs, 19-year-old Amanda Gorman is an Ozy Genius Award winner who is now using virtual reality to change society

Amanda Gorman
(Image: Gabrielle Gorman/Amanda Gorman)

Young, brilliant, and talented, Amanda Gorman is taking the world by storm. The 19-year-old poet, writer, and activist was born with special needs, but Gorman didn’t let that stop her from setting massive goals and obtaining them.

She is already a published author with a book entitled, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, inspired by her favorite line from Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and was Los Angeles’ first ever Youth Poet Laureate.

Coming from a very strong family with an incredible support system, Gorman’s mother championed her creativity, encouraging her to take risks. “I was showing my mom some of my work that I had been doing where I had been painting and doing visual art over my poetry and she was like, ‘This is something. You should keep on this path,’ and I’m very grateful that I have that type of supportive mom.”

In addition to her upbringing, Gorman attended New Roads School from K-12, which championed unorthodox thinking, encouraging students to go beyond basic regurgitation-based education practices and focus on tangible steps that center around creating meaning and doing. Her finals culminated in critical thinking, focusing on topics that included ways to change the world.

 

Amanda Gorman (Image: Amanda Gorman)

 

Now a freshman at Harvard University and inspired by her twin sister Gabrielle who is a filmmaker, Gorman became an Ozy Genius Award winner from pitching her idea, Generation Empathy, to create a more empathic and inclusive community through virtual reality.

The OZY Genius Awards offers 10 college age students up to $10,000 and the opportunity to bring their genius idea to life. The OZY Awards Ceremony, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co, aims to support the next Albert Einstein or Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey or Wendy Kopp, as they write a book, film a documentary, launch a new company or create the next Teach For America.

With the $10,000 grant, “Students will have a firsthand opportunity to have a look into the lives of teen change-makers like them who are really making an impact and a difference in their communities,” says Gorman. In order to win the money, Amanda has to submit a business plan for her idea.

Born in Los Angeles, Gorman believes that she is a part of the new type of genius. “Intelligence can come from anywhere and expresses itself in many forms.”

“Being at Harvard, I get to see what different types of people can bring to the table because when you’re sitting in a classroom and there are people who either know a lot of information or have been (working on) a specific academic topic for a long time, you think, ‘How do I belong here? How do I fit in? What do I provide?’ That’s been making me reflect on what I can contribute to society and academia, in terms of a unique type of genius that is a critical thinker. I’m a dreamer and I tend to have ideas that can bring two different sides of an argument together,” says Gorman.

Look out for this young lady who is vying to run for president in 2036 and until then, watch our full-length interview with Gorman here.

 


Sequoia Blodgett Sequoia Blodgett is the Technology Editor for Black Enterprise, Silicon Valley. She is also the founder of 7AM, a lifestyle, media platform, focused on personal development, guided by informed, pop culture.