Jamaican-American teen Haile Thomas garners honors from CNN

The Atlanta-based Cable News Network (CNN) has named a Jamaican-American among its five “Young Wonders of the Year.”

Haile Thomas, 17, who lives in New Windsor, a town in Orange County, upstate New York, was named by the network on its “Young Wonders: A CNN Heroes Special.”

All five “CNN Young Wonders” were also be honored during “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.”

The other honorees were: Sidney Keys III of Hazelwood, Mo. Keys, 11, encourages a love of reading by helping boys see themselves in books through his monthly book club, “Books n Bros,” CNN said.

Christina Li (Macomb, Mich.), 19, who is helping close the gender gap in the tech world. In 2015, Christina created “Hello World”, a computer science camp for middle school girls, CNN said. For the past three years, her free week-long camp has introduced about 30 girls to web development, game design, robotics and more.

Campbell Remess (Tasmania, Australia). Remess, 13, spreads kindness and comfort to hurting kids. Through his “Project 365 by Campbell,” he creates and delivers custom-made teddy bears for children battling illnesses around the world, CNN said.

Ryan Hickman, (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) Eight-year-old Ryan is on a mission to keep debris out of the ocean and save marine life through his thriving “Ryan’s Recycling Company,” according to CNN. So far, his efforts have resulted in the recycling of more than 275,000 cans and bottles — a total of 60,000 pounds.

CNN described Thomas as “a teen health activist,” stating that her “HAPPY organization is leading the next generation toward a healthier future by bringing cooking lessons and nutrition education to children in underserved areas.”

The popular network said the five “extraordinary young people” are “making a difference in their communities.

“Their inspiring stories serve as reminders that you are never too young to change the world,” CNN said.

It said Thomas is an international speaker, health activist, vegan food and lifestyle influencer, podcaster, the youngest Certified Integrative Health Coach in the United States, and the founder/chief executive officer of the nonprofit HAPPY (Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth).

Thomas said on her website that she founded HAPPY when she was 12 years old to “address the need for free/affordable plant-based nutrition and culinary education in underserved/at-risk communities, as well as in schools and through annual summer camps.”

She said she has personally engaged over 15,000 kids since beginning her activism in 2010, stating that she was inspired to pursue this passion after her family successfully reversed her father’s type-2 diabetes “without the use of medication, only healthy eating and lifestyle choices, and upon learning that kids were also increasingly being diagnosed with conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity.”

Thomas said all of her programs, projects and initiatives are geared towards engaging, educating, motivating and empowering young people to make healthy lifestyle choices to live their best life.

She also hosts the podcast “Girl Empowered,” interviewing, inspiring and empowering women; “therefore fulfilling its mission to broadcast female voices of empowerment.”

Thomas is one of the first eight young chefs featured on season one of “Rachael vs. Guy Kids-Cook-Off,” and also on “Cupcake Wars Kids,” both airing on the Food Network.

She also worked for two years as the Jr. Chef Advisor for Hyatt Hotel’s “For Kids–By Kids” Menu, with her kids’ menu recipes serving at all Hyatt Resorts in North America and the Caribbean.

Thomas said she has been featured on the “Today Show,” “Dr. Oz,” “Home and Family Show,” and “The Rachael Ray Show,” and highlighted in several major publications, including O magazine, Teen Vogue and YES magazine.

She is the first teen to be featured on the cover of Experience Life Magazine in the October 2016 issue.

Additionally, Thomas said she creates creative and artistic lifestyle and vegan recipe videos through her channel “Plant-Powered Haile” on YouTube.

Thomas started to work at the Canyon Ranch Institute in 2015 as a nutrition science assistant; and, in 2016, she partnered with the nonprofit Harlem Grown organization to educate people about urban farming, sustainability and nutrition, according to Jamaicans.com.

It said Thomas and her family moved from Arizona to New York in September 2016, “so she could expand her business.”

In 2017, Thomas was the youngest graduate of the Integrative Nutrition Health Coach program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Jamaicans.com said.

“Nutrition is super important for our growth and development for our brains and our bodies,” Thomas says.

“Haile is an example for all of you, what your little powerful voices can do to change the world,” said former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama on Thomas’s website.

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