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Move over, Millennials: Three ‘Generation-Z’s who are changing the world

They’ve been called “Globals,” “The Next Great Generation,” “Digital Natives,” “Post-Millennials,” and “iGeneration”. However you refer to them, Generation Z – defined loosely as those born in 1995 to 2012 – are making a difference in today’s world. They’re founding nonprofits and think-tanks; they’re focused on understanding other cultures and challenging traditional ways of thinking.

Today, we’re highlighting three young CIEE alumni who have demonstrated a passion and commitment to improving the world around them. 

Eli Wachs, age 16

CIEE High School Summer Leadership Academy, Nanjing, Summer 2014
President and Founder, High School HeroesX

Eli Wachs with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter while I was attending the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit

Eli Wachs (left) with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit. 

High School HeroesX is a youth organization that works to give high school students a platform to effect meaningful change on their communities. Eli Wachs, a current junior in high school, is a testament to the fundamental concept behind the organization: that his generation has the fresh perspective and the technological know-how to identify innovative and creative solutions to community problems.

Eli formed the concept for High School HeroesX after he read Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis (founder of the X PRIZE Foundation). “I became enthralled by the book's central thesis that so many of the world's great challenges are being overcome by a combination of innovation and growing access to technology,” Eli recalls. After reaching out to Dr. Diamandis, Eli decided to create High School HeroesX as a platform for high school students in the Philadelphia area to address issues such as poverty, education, and environmentalism. Meanwhile, Eli is combining his passion for social entrepreneurship and other cultures: he’s currently working on the upcoming launch of High School HeroesX China.

Eli Wachs with the class he taught in China this past summer on CIEE program

Eli Wachs with the class he taught in China this past summer during his CIEE program.

Eli’s participation in CIEE’s High School Summer Leadership Academy furthered his desire to become a global citizen. “Given the connected world in which we live, I think it is imperative to be aware of the world around us and embrace different cultures, languages, and customs,” Eli says. “My study abroad immersion programs in China have been remarkably rewarding experiences.”  

Eli is combining his passion for social entrepreneurship and other cultures: he’s currently working on the upcoming launch of High School HeroesX China.

As he looks forward to college, Eli plans to pursue an area of study that combines his interests in innovation and social entrepreneurship, and to return to China to study abroad. His writing has been published on Huffington Post Impact.

Xiong Her, age 18

CIEE High School Summer Leadership Academy, Nanjing, China Summer 2013
Gates Millennium Scholar Recipient


Xiong Her with CIEE Alumni Relations Director Dan Olds at the CIEE Annual Conference at a 100K Strong Foundation event in Washington, DC.

Xiong Her is a recipient of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, an prestigious award given to individuals from diverse backgrounds who have demonstrated excellence in academia. This fall, Xiong began his freshman year at Marquette University, where he plans to study international affairs with the goal of pursuing a career at the U.N. or U.S. State Department.

Xiong spent much of his childhood in an impoverished refugee camp called Wat Tham Krabok in Thailand. In a recent interview with the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Xiong describes his time in the refugee camp in two words: no hope. Xiong has worked to overcome his difficult past and pursued extra courses throughout middle and high school to advance his education and English language abilities. 

“My experience with a Chinese host family opened my eyes to the true cultures of China,” Xiong says.

Xiong says that his CIEE High School Abroad program sparked his interest in majoring in International Affairs and continuing to study Chinese history and language. “My experience with a Chinese host family opened my eyes to the true cultures of China,” Xiong says. “I had the opportunity to tour and immerse myself into the rich historical sites: the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, famous local mansions, and temples.” Xiong is also an ambassador for 100K Strong, a foundation focused on strengthening US-China relations through study abroad and language learning. He connects with students from his high school, as well as high school students in Marquette University’s Upward Bound program, to encourage them to seek out international education opportunities. Xiong’s own study abroad experience isn’t over – he plans to spend the next academic year in China. 

Tuongvan Le, age 19

CIEE Business Language + Culture Program, Shanghai, China, 2014
Founder, IM Venture

Tuongvan Le is a current sophomore at Harvard College who participated in the CIEE Business, Language and Culture program in Shanghai, China in the summer of 2014. She is the founder of IM Venture, an enriching cultural and skill development program connecting Vietnamese students studying abroad to Vietnamese local students through a trip across Vietnam. Le lived in Vietnam until the age of 12, and she started IM Venture to reconnect with her Vietnamese identity, and to have meaningful experiences through interactions with local Vietnamese students. 

Anh truoc dai noi

Le also launched “Students to Service”, the first online magazine focused on student’s activities in Vietnam. Much of her work is focused on youth empowerment and cultural exchange. ”It helps me connect with my homeland, continue being aware of the community that I grew up in, and feel fulfilled to be able to make a tangible impact in the country where I grew up,” says Le.


CIEE is a proud partner of the 100K Strong Foundation, an organization that works to strengthen US-China relations through study abroad. CIEE has over a dozen study abroad programs in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, in addition to our Teach in China programs and programs for high school and gap year students – check out all of our programs on our website


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