Gitanjali Rao, a 15-year-old Lone Tree girl, called her the first child of the TIME year

DENVER – Named the first TIME magazine kid of the year to be a 15-year-old Colorado girl.

Gitanjali Rao, the Lone Tree, was chosen from a group of more than 5,000 candidates for its “exceptional leadership” in finding solutions to social problems such as cyberbullying and water pollution, according to a brief description of the TIME selection process.

“It was exciting. All my friends are very excited, they’re weird about this all day, just like me – as it should be “and it’s just such a surreal thrill, an exciting experience,” Rao told Denver7 on Zoom Thursday.

Rao said Oscar-winning actor and UN humanitarian ambassador Angelia Jolie also notified Zoom of her latest performance, calling the experience “surreal” and not something she could have ever imagined.

And while she may be the first child of the year, for the bright teenager, it’s not the first result.

In 2018, Rao, who was only 12 years old at the time, spoke to Denver7 after being voted America’s best young scientist because he created the Thetys device, which detects lead in water – an invention inspired by the water crisis in Michint Flint.

“I think that’s all we can do with technology;” we just have to apply it the right way, and I really wanted to start that, ”Rao told Denver7 on Thursday when we asked him what motivation he had to help others. “The whole situation (STEM school shooting), if there is one, has encouraged me to continue to do more – and not just more in the use of technology, more in helping people and growing as people.”

A message to those who want to change the world?

“I think if you start with the question of what you love and love, everything will fall into place.” … If anyone wants to change the world, for those who are watching, who want to make a positive impact, just start with what you are passionate about and then dive deep, ”Rao said.

TIME, the special edition of The Child of the Year, will be released on Friday, MST at 5:30 p.m. on the Nickelodeon channel.