Skip to main content

Approaching differences with compassion

By Sarah Kim

For Sonia Rao, kindness is having compassion for and kinship with those who are viewed as different.

She puts that definition into practice through her work with Abilities Dance, a program that provides dance classes for children with disabilities.

“I had never really talked to or worked so closely with kids with special needs. It’s amazing how similar we are with such differences,” said the senior at Green Hope High School. She describes the dance class as “the best part of my week.”

Sonia channels her compassion in several other ways. As a part of her school’s music club, Melodic Minds, which she founded, she teaches music to children with disabilities. In her free time outside of school, she volunteers as a coach for young Ultimate Frisbee players.

The Ultimate Frisbee field is one of her favorite places to be. “Ultimate is such a limited sport [in regard to the number and representation of players] and it’s not popular, so it’s a very diverse and open-minded community,” she said. “I think diversity allows all people to become open-minded, to see different beliefs, ethnicities, ways of life.”

The most effective way to encourage diversity is education. “Education is one of the main things that can inspire change,” she said. “It can bring you down paths you might not have had before.”

Especially for people who are disadvantaged on account of their gender or country, education is the key for a positive future. Sonia looks up to Malala Yousafzai as an inspiring activist for girls’ education.

Sonia plans to educate the world-wide community through journalism. She said she believes diversity in journalism is valuable in that it “inspires accepting and inclusive stories all over the world.”

Growing up Indian-American, Sonia has always sought diversity in media. Her own experience with a lack of Asian representation as well as that of her immigrant grandparents has urged her to prioritize diversity. “My grandfather who was in the Air Force as a colonel would get judged on his skin color and his accent even though he’s a veteran,” she said.

Sonia is interested in telling her own stories to inspire others. She served as the Opinion editor at her school newspaper, The Falcon News Feed, and she will continue to write as the editor in chief. She explained her affinity for Opinion pieces: “You get to have your own spin on how the story is shaped. You get to dictate your own story and viewpoint.”