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State Honoree

Akhila Boda

Lewis Center, Ohio

Akhila Boda, 17, of Lewis Center, Ohio, a senior at Metro Early College High School, founded a club at her school that advocates for female empowerment and organizes fundraisers to support girls’ education in third-world countries. “As an American with Indian parents, I’ve experienced two worlds that are on opposite ends,” Akhila said. “In India it is not uncommon to witness a girl getting married at 14 to support her family. In the states, my parents have given me a choice to make decisions about my future.” Believing that all girls should be able to make their own choices about their lives, Akhila began searching for organizations that advocate for girls’ rights and discovered Girl Up, a United Nations initiative focused on gender equality. When she learned her school did not have a Girl Up club, she started one.

The club started in 2016 with only two members; today, 15 students attend meetings and plan projects addressing issues important to them. The group has met with Ohio congressmen to lobby for bills that seek to enhance educational opportunities for adolescent girls around the world, and has raised more than $10,000 for that cause through several fundraisers. These have included a 5K run/walk and a doughnut sales event, the proceeds of which have enabled 21 girls in Liberia and 70 girls in India to remain in school, provided six girls in Malawi with new bicycles to get to school, and supported girls in Uganda and Guatemala.