Character Making News: Teens Showing Grit

Why Grit Matters

Grit is a character strength defined by Dr. Angela Duckworth as “a combination of perseverance and passion for a very long-term, meaningful goal.” That ability to commit to long-term goals and work hard to reach them can lead teens to major achievements — in adolescence and adulthood. Whether it’s putting in extra hours to master their classes, making a difference in their community, or training for years to compete in the Olympic Games, teens demonstrate grit in ordinary and extraordinary ways. 

According to Dr. Duckworth, grit — like all character strengths — can be learned and developed in young people. Parents can encourage and teach grit by modeling it. When children watch adults respond to setbacks and bounce back from failure, they learn to do the same.

Gritty Teens in the News

Looking for some inspiration to share with your teen? Check out our round-up of our favorite stories of grit and determination in adolescents worldwide. 

‘Fuel to Her Fire’ A Rising Basketball Star Thrives When You Doubt Her

Philadelphia native Diamond Johnson embodied grit and perseverance in her journey to North Carolina State. Described by her high school basketball coach as “the pulsing heartbeat of the city,” Johnson spent many early mornings and late nights working on her technical skills. When she was snubbed from an All-American nomination, Johnson used the rejection as fuel to push her basketball dreams even further — making it to the North Carolina State Wolfpack — but not before earning recognition from basketball legends Dawn Staley and Allen Iverson.

Here’s What Time’s 2020 Kid of the Year Gitanjali Rao Is Working On Now

At 16, Gitanjali Rao, TIME’s first “Kid of the Year,” is working toward many meaningful goals. Her latest: addressing education inequality. Rao, who researches complicated scientific tools like artificial intelligence and carbon nanotube sensor technology, developed an app to monitor cyberbullying in partnership with UNICEF. She also works with multiple charitable foundations to address educational needs for students worldwide, and wrote a book available in five languages. Rao’s latest project has her detecting parasites in water in developing nations.

She Flew Around the World in 155 Days. She’s Only 19

The world saw incredible grit and passion when 19-year-old Zara Rutherford braved dangerous weather and restricted airspace to become the youngest woman to circumnavigate the globe solo. Even as weather and logistics delays piled up, Rutherford persisted. Pilot Shaesta Waiz, who set a record in 2017 that Rutherford broke, said this about the impressive teen: “It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what your gender or your age is; it’s all about determination.”

Jordan Stolz: From His Backyard Pond to Olympic Ice

17-year-old Jordan Stolz started training at five years old on his backyard pond. Now, he’s seen as the future of speed skating. Stolz pairs his natural gift of speed with the character strength of grit, trusting his instincts and pushing his body to be better each day. Even during the pandemic, he used the extra time at home to work on his strength training, which led him to qualify for the 2022 Olympic Games.


Learn more about nurturing grit and character in teens here.

Hear more about grit from Dr. Angela Duckworth:

Explore our Grit tip sheets:

About Taylor Tropea

Taylor is a Communications Associate at CPTC. Her background is in marketing and communications, and she brings experience executing digital communications initiatives in higher education and tourism.

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