There are no politicians among the newest class of TIME’s Next Generation Leaders—but these are definitely people others can and will follow. Sometimes that means succeeding despite youth, as the Japanese-American rock climber Ashima Shiraishi has, overcoming any obstacle put in her way. Other times it means listening to others, as the water champion Saran Kaba Jones did when she returned to her native Liberia, and discovered that what her people really needed was access to clean water.

That the members of this class are so young only makes their accomplishments so far that much more impressive—and makes the rest of us eager to see what happens next. At a time when the world is suffering what seems like a major leadership deficit—with poll after poll showing discontent with the political leaders in power—there’s something refreshing about a new generation coming to the fore. Given the scale of the problems facing the globe, we need fresh leadership more than ever.

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