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25 most remarkable teens in San Diego named by public defender

San Diego County Public Defender Randy Mize and the San Diego County Public Defender Youth Council on Wednesday selected the 25 Most Remarkable Teens in San Diego for 2021.

The Most Remarkable Teen program recognizes San Diego youth ages 13-19 for their contributions and efforts in many categories including environmental advocacy, arts and culture, technology, LGBTQ activism, leadership, courage to overcome adversity and other outstanding accomplishments.

“Celebrating the contributions of young people is particularly meaningful this year as we are transitioning from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mize said. “We received 159 nominations from all over San Diego County, documenting inspiring stories of youth demonstrating courage, spirit and unparalleled tenacity these past 18 months.”


One of the honorees is 18-year-old Aidan Hallinan. Two years ago this week, he was ready to kill himself. He remembered that night vividly.

At that point, I just said, 'You know what, I don't want to do this fight anymore. I’m done with it all. I’ve made up my mind and this is what I want to do,' and so that’s what I ended up trying to do,” he said.

He survived the suicide attempt and got help for his depression, spending almost a month in hospital care.

Aidan Hallinan is a suicide survivor and founder of the Hope Sparkk movement @hope.sparkk on Instagram
Courtesy of Aidan Hallinan
An undated photo of Aidan Hallinan, a suicide survivor and founder of the Hope Sparkk movement @hope.sparkk on Instagram

After being released and continuing his recovery, he turned the darkness into light for himself and many other young people living with mental illness. He produced a video message telling his story and his solution that he shares online.

"I was completely hopeless," he said. "But then I got a little bit of hope that pushed me through and that’s why I’m still here today.”


Hallinan also started a movement called HOPE SPARKK. The movement for positive community support launched on Instagram.

llan Jinich, 17, is another one of the 25 remarkable teens in San Diego. He’s a junior at San Diego Jewish Academy and the son of Mexican immigrants. He directed and produced a documentary on injustice at the Mexican border. He said communities such as San Ysidro suffer from higher than normal rates of asthma and he calls it environmental racism.

“Whether it be pollution or things that ruin the environment that’s directly affecting them because of decisions made by the government,” he said.

The San Diego County Public Defender Youth Council was formed in 2017. Youth Council members include students from San Diego County High Schools. Public Defender Attorney Advisors work with Youth Council members to help them achieve their goals as they focus on projects to promote civic engagement.