San Jose High School, San Jose
When Mallika first saw the small classroom in a village school in India, she noted that it housed students from grades one to six on a dusty floor surrounded by rundown walls. And she knew that, had circumstances been different, she could have been one of those students. This realization moved her to action. Raising $35,000 through individual and corporate donations, she has worked to provide sanitary bathrooms for these boys and girls, water purification systems to reduce illness, additional classrooms, a science lab, a library, a medical camp, playground equipment and basic school supplies for three village schools. These basic amenities are essential to a well-rounded education, and help alleviate school drop-out rates and absenteeism.
The impact was immediate and clear: for 500 students, a new space for learning with new technology and sanitary facilities meant a difference in health and concentration levels, and in increased excitement around learning. Dedicated female bathroom facilities promoted girls’ education, gender equality and women empowerment. And, critically, allowed girls to attend school while on their menstrual cycle – which is one major reason why girls in India don’t attend school. From raising the funds, to conducting an international project requiring help from her grandfather in India, staff at the schools, and a non-profit foundation that oversaw and secured government approval for construction, Mallika learned to lead: bringing together diverse groups and individuals to achieve a common goal. She learned resilience: how to pick herself up and move forward when things didn’t go exactly as planned, and she learned that pushing through hardships has strengthened her in ways she never thought possible.
Mallika plans to continue building on her experience, connecting with people from different parts of the world, empathizing with their situations, and making their lives better. Combining knowledge with passion to create products that will improve lives and make the world a better place.