Ananya Murali, 18, of Shorewood, Wis., a senior at Shorewood High School, designed and conducted an educational leadership camp to teach more than 100 middle school girls life skills and strategies to stand up against bullying and other forms of aggression in school. Ananya became interested in that subject when her family experienced harassment and discrimination after moving from India to the U.S. They started smashing our car windshields and tires and saying Go back to your country, we dont want you here, said Ananya. She did some research and learned that bullying is a huge problem in schools, especially for minority children. I was determined to take action, she said.
With $2,000 in grant money and the help of several dozen youth and adult volunteers, Ananya developed an anti-bulling/leadership curriculum and then organized a camp at a local middle school called Step-Up Against Bullying and Violence. The more than 100 girls in attendance heard national and local speakers, took part in group discussions and team-building activities, learned peace songs written by Ananya and participated in a yoga session. Since then, Ananya has conducted her camp for more than 1,000 youth at other schools, Girl Scout gatherings, Native American reservations, an international youth peace conference and five schools in India. Because of her efforts, Ananya was invited to be a delegate and speaker at the United Nations 59th Commission on the Status of Women.