Ms. Graduate Profile

Senior Sonali Mehta demonstrates leadership in several activities


Sydney Wong

Senior Sonali Mehta involves herself in numerous activities; from speech and debate to theatre; the GSA to helping orphans in India.

Mary Catherine Wells, Lead Reporter

When looking at the definition of well-rounded, senior Sonali Mehta may be viewed as the epitome of this. NHS president. Co-captain of speech and debate team. Co-captain of mock trial team. Co-founder of the Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA. On the council for GoMAD. An actor, director, and stage manager for theater.  A reading coordinator for Pratham.

“There are different ways I balance everything,” Mehta said. “Not all of them are huge time commitments. The biggest time commitments are the year round ones, so theater and debate.”

The feelings Mehta has about each thing she does makes the balancing easier.

“For me the main thing is I am really passionate and I really care about all the things I do,” Mehta said. “So it doesn’t feel like I am having to work all the time. Like when you enjoy what you’re doing it is a lot easier to make it all work. I like everything I do. If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

Her parents also helped her on her path to success by “teaching her the important priorities in life.”

Sonali is very self motivated and always has been,” Sonali’s dad Sacheen Mehta said. “But [her mother and I] don’t micromanage them. We give suggestions, advice and encouragement but she chooses her own path.  We also give her the freedom to make her own decisions once we give our input.  Sonali exhibits very good judgement and that gives us confidence in her decision making ability.”

In areas like mock trial and debate, Sonali has been able to compete on a national level in debate, which helped widen her knowledge.

“I have been on the circuit with people from all over the country and all over the world, and gotten to go to harvard and yale and places like that for competitions,” Sonali said. “Just the activity itself has taught me a lot about research and speaking and that kind of thing.”

In the past year, Sonali helped co found the GSA, gay-straight alliance, with senior Morgan Garrett.

“We founded it when we realized it wasn’t necessarily the easiest thing to be a LGBT teen in this school,” Sonali said. “So we just wanted those kids to know that there was a safe place for them and there were people who loved them and cared for them no matter what.”

Her father sees Sonali’s efforts with respect to the GSA as “both courageous and compassionate.”

“She saw a need for an organization that would support kids who are often the target of bullying and have a documented higher suicide rate than average,” Sacheen said. “We have advised her always try to take the high road when confronted with choices along the way, to stand up for what she believes but that it is always better to try persuade those who disagree with you to see your perspective as opposed to fighting with them, and to respectfully but unwaveringly try to enlist people’s cooperation. And she did exactly that.”

In her work with Pratham, she donates time to help a charity working with children in India.

“I manage the fundraising efforts for over 20-30 kids in the US from Dallas and those kids raise money that we send to India so we can get the kids in India an education,” Sonali said.

Sonali feels as if she is paying it forward when taking part in this.

“I am Indian and my grandparents moved here from India when they were very young,” Sonali said. “So if they hadn’t I could potentially be that kid in India without an education.”

Friends of Sonali view all of her efforts as “inspiring.”

“It is cool to just know her as a person,” boyfriend of  Sonali and senior Matthew Norwood said. “There is not many people in the world that can do everything she does. So it is neat just to have that influence on my life.”

Although Sonali is involved in many activities, in a few months she will be leaving some, but not all, behind when she attends Duke in the fall.

“I am hoping to continue a lot of the things in college,” Sonali said. “Duke has a great mock trial team and a theater program and I am planning on majoring in public policy so I will be doing a lot of those things, like speaking and charity. I want to be a humanitarian lawyer so speech, debate, mock trial, and theater, all go towards that as far and presenting and being able to advocate for yourself in front of people.”

Contrary to the sadness Sonali feels about leaving some things behind, she is “really happy with what I was able to do in each of the things.”

As her parents, we couldn’t be prouder of her,” Sacheen said. “This question asks me to brag shamelessly about her, so here goes: Sonali is kind-hearted, hard-working, self-motivated, leadership-oriented, and intelligent. It’s a perfect combination of traits that helps her succeed in all that she does. She has far exceeded our wildest dreams already.  She is out to change the world for the better and her determination and talents are likely to help her succeed in that goal.”