Photo credit: Maia Alvarez
Meet the Candidate: Meera Mahidhara
1) What leadership positions or experiences will make you a strong candidate for Exec Board?
Since the beginning of tenth grade, I have been involved in a youth-led non profit organization called Youth Mind Alliance. This is an organization made by high-school students in hopes of spreading more mental health awareness and coping strategies. While under this organization, I was the marketing and policy manager. This meant that I had to write press releases, design instagram posts, and formulate policy papers in hopes of getting large-scale sponsors and news promotions. I found this work to be not only rewarding, but also academically stimulating. I had to utilize my conversational and social skills to make connections with other schools and affiliations related to mental health so that our organization could gain more followers and volunteers.
As I have entered eleventh grade, I found that Youth Mind Alliance wasn’t challenging me enough. I recently started the Social Innovators Program with the University of Pennsylvania and Schoolyard Ventures. Through this weekly course, I have learned so much about entrepreneurship and leadership. I also learned that my ideas can take me to new places and new heights of care and creativity. For example with my project. Through this program I have been able to come up with a website which links houseless youth and young adults to pre-existing drop in centers. The goal is that my website provides mental health screening tests that are directly sent to doctors and therapists at the drop in centers. The teenagers and young adults are then able to receive the care that they need. My leadership in my organization has allowed me to grow as a business person and as an entrepreneur. I have learned to share my ideas with confidence and tranquility so that the point is made without making anyone feel uncomfortable. I have had the honor and opportunity to work with businesswomen at the state level who specialize in care for homelessness. I have found that holistic approaches are always the best way to interact with consumers and partners, as well as increase engagement and audience reception.
2) What three words describe your leadership style, and why?
I believe that the three words that describe my leadership style are gentleness, inclusivity, and drive.
My whole life, I have always been the new student. I joined my middle school half-way into the year, and recently started Archer in tenth grade. As a result, I have been on the side of a new student. But I found that I have been able to integrate myself into the fabric of my community. As a leader, my goal has always been to be an inclusive person who is able to take ideas from people of all gender orientations, colors, and views. I want people to know that they can feel comfortable with a leader who feels comfortable sharing and receiving from them.
I am also a very polite and gentle person. I like to use this style of communication when leading. I find that it is easier to get a point across when there are stimulating and constructive discussions. One of my main mottos is “you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water.” I remember first saying this to my parents when one of their coworkers sent a rude email to them. They wanted to retaliate, but asked my opinion before sending their response. I told them that the most efficient things happen when one is calm and can look over the unintended emotion to find out the root of a problem.
This is not to say that I am not determined and have a strong drive to advocate about issues concerning diversity, equality, and more. I am notorious for asking as many questions as I need to until I can get a satisfactory answer. I aim to take people’s requests into consideration and use my drive to try my best and accomplish them.
3) As a student council leader, what are your main priorities for Student Council? For Archer?
My main priority for the Student Council is to include more ethnicity and diversity. I would like to do this by creating a safe environment with people from different affinity spaces and diversity clubs in Archer. I would like for different cultures to feel represented in a school and feel as though their voices and ethnic celebrations are being heard.
As for Archer, I would like to spread more awareness on mental health. I believe that there is a stigma related to asking for help on the basis of one’s mental health. As someone who has been struggling with anxiety, I used to find it really nerve racking to go up to my teachers and say that I needed extensions or excuses for certain projects. It wasn’t until I had worked up the courage to talk with my mentor that I found how freeing it is to speak up about my challenges when necessary and when I feel comfortable. I want other Archer students to have the opportunity to talk about their concerns or challenges around mental health in a safe and welcoming way. I propose for mental health affinity groups that are student-led are created every other week so that students who feel anxious from stress or schoolwork, can come to a group of inclusive, friendly, and comforting upperclassmen who are ready talk, have fun games to relieve stress, and can provide coping strategies and other resources.
4) What are your plans for building community and inclusion in Archer?
I believe that this is a complex question since there are so many layers of inclusion at Archer. There are new students, transferred students, POC students, and students of different gender orientations, skills, and abilities. As a result, I think it is important to make sure that all of these students are represented in a way that will make them feel welcomed and comfortable at their school. I think first and foremost, it is important to talk about diversity. As a student from South Asian descent, I find it so important to share my culture and educate other students on customs and traditions. I think that ethnic celebrations are one of the key aspects of a person’s culture. It is a time to celebrate your values, uphold traditions, and learn about your culture in a fun and engaging way. I believe that there should be more celebrations and fairs, like the Archer Cultural Food Fair to educate students and staff about students’ lives. I also believe that there should be more appreciation and assembly recognition for clubs and organizations that are student led. For example, I talked with some GSA members who said that their club attendance had drastically fallen and that they had nowhere to gain more followers or teach people about their values important to them. I believe that more student engagement in assemblies is very important in that it involves all parts of the community.
5) List all co-curricular activities, school-sponsored or otherwise, that you plan to be involved in next year, including the approximate time you spend on each per week.
I plan to play school indoor and beach volleyball next year. I am part of the beach volleyball team and we meet every day Monday through Thursday from 4:00 to 5:30. I also plan to take Advanced Study in Dance Company next year, so I will be participating in the Night of Dance and Dance Festival. I am pretty sure that there is a time commitment of 3:30 to 7 during tech week, but there are also consecutive breaks to complete homework or any other obligations. Finally, I plan to continue my work with my website and organization. I am intending to work on the organization in large amounts during the summer, so that I can hold an executive role that runs smoothly throughout the school year. This will be a time commitment of at most 2 hours during the weekends when volunteers and I go to Youth Homeless Shelters to educate teenagers and young adults on mental health.