Not every day does an American teen get to meet the likes of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but last month Sri Muppidi, 17, was happy to make the acquaintance of the renowned South African social activist.
Muppidi, a student at Amador Valley High, visited New York in mid-October to participate in the United Nation's first International Day of the Girl Child. She is a teen advisor for Girl Up, which was begun by the United Nations Foundation to garner the compassion and energy of American girls to help their counterparts in other countries through U.N. programs.
"I am excited to use what I have learned to help girls in developing countries reach their full potential," Muppidi said. "They deserve the same opportunities as me, and I hope to do my part to make their dreams achievable."
Muppidi is a Girl Up representative in the East Bay, appointed to provide her perspective on the issues facing girls today.
"I heard about Girl Up through one of my friends who was involved with it, and I was excited to learn more about the programs that Girl Up does," Muppidi explained.
"I went through a grueling application process and was then chosen as one of 14 Teen Advisors from across America," she added.
Her trip last month was to meet other Teen Advisors from across the country and to learn more about the Girl Up programs. The teens all received advice on how to plan events and use social media to reach their goals.
The main goal of Girl Up is to help eradicate child marriage, a tradition that prevents young girls from becoming educated and living up to their potential, noted Muppidi.
The Teen Advisors also planned their strategy for 2013 and celebrated the first International Day of the Girl Child.
"I think that the most exciting aspect about my trip to New York was meeting all of the other teen advisers for Girl Up," Muppidi summed up earlier this week. "All of them were so inspiring, and I was encouraged to work harder and do my best to support Girl Up in my community."
"It was also very exciting to meet important U.N. officials such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon," she added. "I was able to speak to them at a panel celebrating the International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11 to learn about child marriage, an issue affecting many girls around the world."
"I am so thankful that this day now exists," Muppidi said.
She recalled Ki-moon saying, "All members of society will benefit when we let girls be girls, not brides."
The panel, which also included U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet and UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, discussed the importance of ending child marriage and possible solutions to the problem, Muppidi reported.
Returning home, she planned a fundraising and awareness-raising event in Pleasanton along with her friends Nisha Grewal, Mekhala Hoskote and Adriana Morton to encourage other members of her community to get involved in Girl Up. The fundraiser, held Oct. 20, was for Amador Valley students to buy boutonnières and corsages for Homecoming at Bloomies on Main Street with a portion of the profits going toward Girl Up.
"I am working to start a club on campus at Amador Valley," Muppidi said. "We are looking forward to a number of fundraiser and awareness events throughout the year. We will teach students about issues affecting girls worldwide, such as child marriage and violence.
"We also hope to advocate for issues that Girl Up represents by speaking with our congressional representative and reaching out to other media outlets. We are looking forward to a great year."
To learn more, go to GirlUp.org.