With so much attention being directed at all the potential yardbirds in college town, it’s easy to become caught up in the hand-wringing, fretting, and negativity. But shield your eyes, because like a blinding beacon of hopeful, shiny teenage light, Nimrat Mann is commanding attention from all corners of the world. Back from a recent trip to Rwanda, she’s getting ready for college and trying to find the path that will give her the best opportunity to be the change she wants to see in the world.
Nim is a Chico native and a senior at Pleasant Valley High School. Her parents emigrated from India before she was born, and fostered in her a deep connection to India and the rest of the world. She credits her parents with helping her appreciate international cultures while fostering a global consciousness. She’s been able to hone her penchant for international do-gooding through various service club pathways, including Interact – a service club sponsored by Rotary International for kids 12 to 18 years old.
Mann is the District Governor of Interact and oversees 70 clubs from the northernmost school in California all the way down to San Ramon. Interact is the kid version of Rotary Club. Mann’s district has partnered with Asante Africa Foundation and is currently in fundraising mode. Asante Africa is an organization dedicated to providing resources and education in Tanzania and Kenya. “You can educate a woman, and she educates her children and generations after that. It’s a ripple effect,” explained Mann. “Just giving a child a uniform that costs $20 so that they can go and attend the school, just giving them that one necessity, it’s their ticket into school. The education is free, but the uniform is what can sometimes be a deterrent.”
Mary Goloff’s Mustard Sends A Girl To Rwanda
Mann became involved with AfriPeace in junior high and continued her involvement in high school when an opportunity to go to Rwanda presented itself. “Without the help of the Chico community, I wouldn’t have made it to Rwanda. I sold mustard all of last year at the farmer’s market. You know the mayor, Mary Goloff? She donated thousands of jars of mustard. Yeah, she makes mustard,” said Mann with a laugh. Mann raised $5,000 for the month-long peace ambassador mission to Rwanda – that’s a lot of mustard.
While she was in Rwanda, she worked with students and had the chance to hear their stories and bear witness to the post-genocidal recovery. She also studied their local government by attending, speaking, and interacting with their parliament. Mann detailed her experience, “What I observed in Rwanda, though they are one of the poorest African Nations, is that their corruption level is probably one of the least. In East Africa they’re making a movement to really empower women.” Next-door is the Democratic Republic of Congo, a kleptocracy where corruption is rampant, a stark contrast to the rapidly recovering Rwanda. “In a lot of African nations that are just going through the industrial revolution right now, it’s been found that if the women have a strong role in their society and the government empowers women, the country is just much more stable,” said Mann.
The Women That Inspire The Inspiring
“Not to sound like a cliché, but definitely my mom is inspiring to me,” said Mann. “My parents emigrated here from India, and I was born about a year after they came from New York. My parents had to completely switch professions. My Mom had a Phd in India, and my parents started from scratch when they got here and went back to school. My Mom went to nursing school when I was four or five. My mom also had my brother and sister while she was in nursing school, and she graduated as Valedictorian at Chico State.” Mann concluded, “Seeing my mom as such a strong woman in my own family has inspired me. There are so many strong women in my family.”
Other than her supermom, Mann is inspired by the First Lady of Rwanda – Jeannette Kagame. “She’s trying to really empower sub-Saharan African Women,” insisted Mann. “She’s right there, like as a co-president with her husband. To see how an African woman is doing that in a patriarchal society is really great.”
Going In Front Of The Rwandan Parliament
40% of Rwanda’s parliament is made up of women, one of the largest ratios of any government organization. To what purpose would our fearless, future leader be addressing this parliament? Mann answered, “Just to be able to be inquisitive and ask questions, to learn about post-genocidal recovery. We learned about how they were able to recover so quickly. The genocide happened in 1994, and here we are in 2013 and you can’t even really tell, they’ve recovered so quickly. The Rwandan people, without any support or real industries to sustain them? They had to have a really good plan.”
The Michelle Kwan Of Rollerskating
So what does our girl like to do for fun? “I’m a figure skater on roller skates. I’m ranked #3 in the country right now,” said Mann. She’s been roller-figure skating since she was three years old. Aside from being full of roller-win, her experience with roller-figure skating has definitely contributed to Mann’s self-confidence. Roller-figure skating by nature is a spectator sport, and being able to let go and skate confidently has translated into her everyday life. “At this point for me it’s no problem being in front of my peers and being as animated as possible, or talking to somebody as esteemed as a parliament member. I think that’s what skating has done for me,” expressed Mann.
Mann’s college plans are still taking shape. She’s been accepted to Cal and USC, but she’s set her sights on Yale. Our roller-skating humanitarian is also a philosopher. “In the future I plan on pursuing medicine, maybe through Partners In Health or the World Health Organization,” she said. “I know I keep saying that education is the most important thing, but when I take a step back, I think medicine may be the most important thing. Not necessarily the access to medicine, but the ability to use it as a way to negotiate. I see myself working behind the scenes in public health or global health.”
Mann knows she might be idealistic with her youthful energy and seemingly innate wisdom, but insists that a positive outlook is essential to change. “I hear the first-hand accounts of the extraordinary things that people are able to do because of tools like education and medicine. It’s reassuring. You have to be hopeful!”