Mallika Sunder

Age: 17

School: Catalina Foothills High School

Year: Junior

City: Tucson




While the country moved indoors and tried to figure out a world of social distancing and telecommuting, Mallika Sunder discovered her inner activist.

It started when she and friends circulated a petition to demand that their teachers at Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson receive permission to teach remotely from their homes during the initial COVID school closures.

“We essentially said that we should stand up for these teachers,” Mallika, 17, said. “If they had to go to the school, it’s put them at risk of getting the coronavirus. We got over 1,000 signatures. It just kick-started my activism journey.”

A spark was lit. Soon, Sunder established a chapter of March for Our Lives at her high school. She volunteered with the broader national March for Our Lives organization and learned more about community activism. Then, she became the editor-in-chief of The GroupChat for Change, a youth- authored and managed online magazine focused on social justice issues.

Through all these activities, Sunder said she’s learned that her voice – and the voice of youth – has tremendous power.

“It’s given me confidence that I can make a difference,” Sunder said. “What I’ve noticed in myself, and others is that people tend to categorize a lot of the ideas that we have for the future and hopes we have for the future – even things we hope for currently – as too idealistic. But that idealism, that young dream we have for the future, it’s a superpower for us, not something we should be criticized for.”

Sunder, an activist by nature, is now currently working on two very important projects that include petitioning for change in the school’s dress code. She feels as though in many schools, that dress code can target women and people of color. Sunder’s plans on using all she learns to make changes like this and many others.

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