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10 Really Impressive Achievements By Kids

Dustin Koski


As kids, many of us have grandiose dreams of what we’ll have achieved by the time we grow up. Of course, if most of us were to see what was coming, we would have lost heart as children and probably not have found the will to go on. Still, there are those rare kids that didn’t have to wait until they became adults to live out things that stay dreams for the majority of people.

10 Brian Zimmerman

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Photo credit: Djmaschek

History is full of monarchs that were given power before reaching adulthood. But even though Brian Zimmerman acquired a relatively small amount of power compared to any of those young rulers, he came by it through work instead of by birth. In 1983, Zimmerman successfully campaigned for mayor of the unincorporated town of Crabb, Texas, (population 225 at the time) when he was only 11 years old. His campaign was no doubt helped by powerful rhetoric like: “The mayor isn’t there to sit and worry about keeping his job. He’s there to do what’s best for the people.”

Unfortunately, Zimmerman did not pull off his main campaign promise to prevent Crabb from being absorbed by the larger communities around it. At least, he had the consolation of becoming famous nationwide, with his story having been adapted into the film Lone Star Kid, which starred James Earl Jones and was produced by Ron Howard. Or at least that would have been consolation if the spotlight had appealed to Zimmerman at all. For example, he dismissed his appearance on Good Morning, America by saying of it, “I’m not jumping up and down.” You’d think the sort of person who becomes a successful politician would desire all the publicity they could get.

Sadly, Zimmerman died of a heart attack in 1996 at age 24.


9 Saugat Bista

On December 12, 2014, Love You Baba (“Father”) was released in theaters in Nepal. It marked the remarkable film debut of Saugat Bista, who was only seven years old at the time. That made him the youngest director in world history to direct a professionally made, theatrically distributed, feature-length movie, as confirmed by Guinness World Records.

The film has been marketed with the rather generic synopsis that it’s a drama “about a father and a daughter. A story with ups and downs of life and how a father struggles to fulfill all small desires of a motherless child.” It’s quite surprising to think that such a premise would appeal to a seven-year-old boy, let alone that the resulting movie would be as professionally filmed and produced as this 138-minute film is.

Beyond the heavily promoted fact that this seemingly expensive movie was directed by a child (it was shot on 35mm film, which alone costs tens of thousands of dollars for a movie of this length), the reception seemed to be positive. The Cinema Times reported that when the movie was screened for critics, some of them had “weepy eyes.” When most people Bista’s age make a movie, the only weepy eyes it can hope to cause are those of the parents who know they’ll have to suffer through it.

8 Thomas Gregory

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Ever since the English Channel was first swum without assistance by Captain Matthew Webb in 1875, swimming the approximately 34 kilometers (21 mi) between England and France has been a high-profile way for people to prove their athleticism. Swimming that distance is both incredibly taxing and dangerous. Among the people who have tried it, six of them have died in the attempt, even while accompanied by safety personnel.

So you wouldn’t expect a kid to be allowed to try it. Nevertheless, in 1988, UK citizen Thomas Gregory set out from France to swim to Shakespeare Beach at only age 11. Two weeks earlier, a 20-year-old swimming expert had died in a similar attempt.

With a crossing time of roughly 11.75 hours, Gregory became the youngest person to swim the channel, beating the previous record-holder’s time by about three hours and his age by almost three months. When Gregory arrived at Dover, the first thing he said was that he wanted to sleep for two days, which is one of the more understandable statements in the history of sports.



7 Suhas Gopinath

Suhas Gopinath started his company under much more desperate circumstances than most young entrepreneurs, and his company has grown into something much larger. He became the youngest CEO of a multinational company at age 17. He started the company when he was only 14.

Back in the early days of the Internet, Gopinath was a kid in Bangalore, India, who decided to forego school in favor of going to a local Internet cafe. There, he taught himself how to work the Internet. Access to the Internet was expensive in India back then, so Gopinath had to work as a clerk for the store for free just to be able to use the Internet.

Eventually, he hit upon the idea of contacting automotive companies, claiming they needed a website to do business with his company. As they didn’t have websites yet, he offered to make each website for $500, $750 if they needed it fast. In 2000, he had done enough web development to incorporate Globals Inc. Within three years, the company had gone multinational. However, even as he was becoming a famous businessperson in India, his parents insisted that he finish his college education.

6 Louis Braille

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Although we’ve already talked about Louis Braille’s revolutionary system of writing for the blind, we didn’t discuss what an achievement it was for a man who’d been blinded at age three by an accident with leatherworking tools. When he was 10, Braille was accepted into the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, an expensive school for the blind in Paris. He was such a bright child that the school awarded him a full scholarship.

In 1821, he heard an address at the school given by Captain Charles Barbier, a retired army captain. Barbier had been inspired to create a system of page bumps for soldiers to read and write messages in the dark of night. Unfortunately for Barbier, his dot system was clunky, the French language had too many symbols for him to effectively translate, and the army didn’t seem to be interested in it. Frustrated with the embossed lettering system at his school, 13-year-old Braille certainly was interested in the dot system, and he soon began working to make it better.

Sources vary on whether it absorbed all of his spare time and vacations for two years or three. However, the determined fellow was still very much a teenager when he finished his Braille system. Then he shared it with his school director Sebastian Guillie, his classmates, and the public. Although in his lifetime Braille’s system won admirers that included King Louis Philippe, his invention was supposedly kept out of the school system for decades because sighted teachers were worried that the newly educated blind would compete with them for jobs.

5 Kieron Williamson

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The art field is where we expect to find child prodigies because we’ve heard stories about people like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was writing symphonies when he was four years old. But even among art prodigies, Williamson’s success stands out.

In 2009, when he was seven, Williamson was already selling his paintings for at least £900 each. By 2014, he was selling out art exhibitions in minutes for £400,000 and had more than 10,000 people following his newsletter. At only 13, his paintings have already made him a millionaire, and his parents have become his employees.

His subjects tend to include quaint, rustic, and rural settings: sailboats, geese, houses surrounded by trees with leaves changing color for autumn, etc. They’re stylized and soft looking, and it seems fair to say that you’d expect to see them hanging in a hotel.

So Williamson is not only a more accomplished painter than most adults, he appears to be more shrewd in his choice of subject matter when it comes to marketability. But according to an interview, he wants to buy a bit of land mostly to raise some cows on it, so he can paint them. Evidently, he’s not making cynical choices. These subjects just happen to appeal to him.



4 Willie Johnson

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Photo credit: US War Department

As horrible as it is that there are both wars and sometimes the need for them, it’s especially terrible when children are involved. For example, there was the horror of Joseph Kony’s use of child soldiers. However, as recently as the US Civil War, it was standard practice to put large numbers of children in harm’s way as drummer boys and the like. Many of those boys demonstrated such exceptional courage that they earned the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military distinction.

The youngest of that group was 11-year-old Willie Johnson of the 3rd Vermont Infantry. During the Seven Days Battles in 1862, his division was being driven back by the Confederate Army. Johnson kept his cool, stayed at his post drumming out the beat for an orderly retreat, and was the last of his division to retreat. President Abraham Lincoln personally bestowed the Medal of Honor upon him. He was one of about 48 soldiers under the age of 18 who received it.

Child soldiers were thankfully phased out of the US army by the 20th century. During that century, the youngest Medal of Honor recipient was 17-year-old Jack Lucas, who shielded his comrades during the Battle of Iwo Jima. With any luck, Willie Johnson’s record will never be challenged.

3 Victor De Leon III

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In 2005, video games weren’t nearly the pop culture colossus that they are now. YouTube was in its infancy, before thousands of people could make livings from posting videos of themselves playing games. Roger Ebert was still years from making his famous claim that video games would never be art, which led many people to debate the point.

Yet 2005 was the year that Victor De Leon III from New York became the youngest signed professional player for Major League Games at age seven, attracting so much attention that a documentary was made about him. He was also interviewed on 60 Minutes. That year, he earned enough to pay his future college fees.

To his family, it probably seemed inevitable. De Leon was playing games literally at the age of two. He participated in tournaments when he was only four and won them that same year. It might have seemed a little questionable when he entered Halo tournaments more than a decade before he was supposed to be old enough to play them. After all, the game is rated M for Mature. But he came from a household of such competitive gamers that during a 2005 Chicago Tournament with over 550 people, he came in second place to his own uncle.

2 Jake Marcionette

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One of the main selling points for Christopher Paolini’s best-selling Eragon book series was that he was only 17 when he finished the final draft of the first book. While Jake Marcionette may not have equaled Paolini as a professional author in terms of sales yet, Marcionette makes Paolini look like an old fogey in terms of age. Only time will tell if Marcionette eventually overtakes Paolini in sales, too.

In 2012, 12-year-old Marcionette decided to get an agent because he wanted to become a writer. Somewhat unconventionally, he tried cold-calling agents instead of writing queries as an adult probably would have advised him to do. By 2013, he had an agent and a publication deal with Penguin’s Young Readers Group.

By 2014, his book Just Jake (the first in a proposed series) was ready for publication. Just Jake is a comic, slightly autobiographical, illustrated book and apparently perfect for the market. It made its way onto the New York Times best sellers list the year it was published.

1 Marjorie Gestring

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In 2008, there was a big controversy about the ages of the members of the Chinese gymnastics team, including whether they were under too much pressure at too young an age. Yet even if the reports that He Kexinshe was only 14 were accurate, she still would have been about a year older than 13-year-old Marjorie Gestring when she set sail for Europe to take part in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Such was the spirit of the times that the ship on which Gestring traveled was literally called the SS America. Presumably, there was additional pressure on her because Katherine Rawls had beaten her during the Olympics trials, and Gestring was competing against returning champion Dorothy Poynton-Hill in the event itself.

Gestring was more than up to the task, her performance in springboard diving making her the youngest person to win an Olympic gold medal. It was the beginning of a career as a champion diver that went on for decades. She won eight times at the American Athletic Union. However, she was not able to qualify for the US Olympic team a second time.

Surprisingly, Gestring’s youth was not as exceptional as it might seem. Not only was Gestring just barely younger than 1992 gold medal platform diver Fu Mingxia from China, she wasn’t even the youngest medal winner at the 1936 Olympics. That was swimmer Inge Sorenson from Denmark, who was only 12. However, she won a bronze medal.

Dustin Koski accomplished nothing as a child. Learn all about that and more by following him on Twitter!