GirlBoss Alexia Hilbertidou first New Zealander, Pasifika person selected as National Geographic Young Explorer

A 21-year-old Kiwi social entrepreneur has been selected as a National Geographic Young Explorer for her work in empowering young women - the first New Zealander and Pasifika person to do so.

Alexia Hilbertidou, who is the founder of GirlBoss New Zealand, says she was sworn to secrecy for months, but could finally share the news on Wednesday.

The new cohort of National Geographic Young Explorers is made up of 24 people from around the world who are aged between 17 and 25 years old. They represent a wide range of causes, including ocean and biodiversity conservation, food insecurity, plastic pollution, and the impacts of drought and water scarcity.

Hilbertidou says she will launch a new GirlBoss NZ initiative during her work with National Geographic to empower the young women of Aotearoa.

"It is beyond my wildest dreams to join the organisation behind some of the documentaries, magazines, and heroes (hello fellow explorer Dr Jane Goodall) who inspired me growing up," she said.

"I pay tribute to my late Samoan Nana who always taught me the power of our people as navigators and servant leaders," she says.

National Geographic says the new Young Explorers "prove there is always a reason for hope".

"They have limitless potential to make an impact, with the imagination and drive to develop solutions to problems within their communities and beyond," they say.

"These changemakers know that age is simply a number, a number that does not reflect their ability to work collectively to address some of our planet's most pressing issues."

The cohort represents 15 countries, and shares what one Young Explorer calls the 'it' factor.

"The passion, the authenticity, the special sauce that inspires others and creates these ripple effects of change," Chander Payne, an 18-year-old urban farmer, says in a National Geographic blog post.

Another new Young Explorer, 23-year-old photographer Markus Martinez Burman, says young people dare to tell the truth.

"It is in our shared empathy and energy that we find unity and strength."