There are so many incredible causes that high school student Andrea Roy could have chosen from, but we’re thrilled that she decided to support Girl Rising through her Passion Project at school. In honor of her inspiring work - and her successful fundraising efforts - we’re excited to share her thoughts with our global community.

The following piece has been edited for length and clarity.

Andrea shares Girl Rising with her classmates at Passaic County Technical Institute!

A single thought has the power to change the world around us. At Passaic County Technical Institute, all sophomores in English II Honors work on a year long endeavor to show amazing progress in any area of their choice. Students have done remarkable things - building robots, learning languages, raising thousands of dollars to support charitable causes.

As my deep desire to make an impact on the world was brought forth to the surface, I decided to bring awareness about and raise money for the millions of girls who remain out of school today.

A native born Malayali, I grew up in America dealing with a clash of two strikingly different cultures. Being a girl of Indian descent has lead to personal experience with the cultural beliefs, although not to the same extreme, that leads to millions of girls in my own country to be married off as young as 13, or trapped in the sex trafficking mafias which run rampant. A majority of my family was born and raised in India, so most of the women in my family faced social pressure to agree to an arranged marriage.

I think even my peers from Indian American families face pressures like this. Women in our culture are discouraged from dressing “immodestly”, expressing their own opinions, or questioning double standards within the community. For women in India, learning how to cook, clean, or take care of children is seen as superior to understanding calculus, physics, or reading classic literature. In urbanized areas of India, we now see more women entering workforces, but there is still a significant gap between the two genders.

This motivates me to bring awareness about girls' education and women’s empowerment. By educating girls, we raise doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, and leaders who will shape the world. They will become the role models for the next generation of women, reminding them that gender shouldn’t determine your value.

My life drastically changed one afternoon as I curled up on my couch and decided to play a documentary for a change. Priyanka Chopra’s name that caught my eye, as a Bollywood fan, and the film’s description seemed interesting enough. The film was Girl Rising. I specifically connected with the stories from India and Nepal and believe that all people can connect with the strength and resilience shown by the characters.

I think education is a weapon we can use to fight against poverty, terrorism, and discrimination. With my education, I hope I can change the lives of others and inspire people to do the same.

Despite being bombarded with success stories and inspiration like “Work hard, Dream big”, most people don’t see themselves as significant enough or in a position that they believe could actually make a change. Growing up, I was never the most outspoken student. I have little experience with fundraising and it was definitely a challenge for me to talk to others and persuade them to donate. But I have gained a stronger sense of confidence and belief in my own abilities. Many girls weren’t blessed with the possibilities and choices I have. A need to make even the smallest difference motivates me to value and work hard in my own education.

It is empowering to understand and embrace my ability as an individual to make a difference in the world. Before starting my Passion Project, I had never considered that I alone could make changes in the lives of those around me.

Andrea Roy recently completed her sophomore year at Passaic County Technical Institute. She’s a member of the medical arts program and a self-described “overachiever”- ranking in the top 1% of her class. She dedicates her time to volunteering at her local assisted living facility, competing in HOSA, and serving the community with Keystone. Andrea is involved in many student groups including ERASE (End Racism and Sexism Everywhere) and Student Council along with performing in her school’s Asian Pacific Heritage Assembly. She hopes to attend John Hopkins University or NYU and pursue a major in which she can make a change in the world.

If you’d like to support Andrea’s fundraising efforts for Girl Rising, please contribute here!