Charvi Gangwani, a biology major at Sullivan Foundation partner school Hollins University, is one of 34 young people representing 23 countries this month as the 2022 Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leaders (GTLs) selected by the We Are Family Foundation (WAFF).
The WAFF chose the GTLs based on their social-good innovations, organizations, projects, and promise for creating a more just, equitable and peaceful future.
In response to what she felt was a huge gap in mental health resources available to students in her home country of India, Gangwani cofounded The Amygdala, a global, student-led organization raising awareness about mental health issues, advocating for access to mental health services in schools, and helping adolescents achieve psychological resilience through education and resources. Jigyasa Jain and Nandini Bhachawat are listed as The Amygdala’s cofounders on the organization’s website.
Gangwani was still a high schooler when she founded The Amygdala in March 2020. She was facing adversities at home and felt there was a huge gap in mental health resources for India’s students. When COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown, she saw an even higher degree of fear, anxiety and depression among teens.
As the pandemic raged on, Gangwani and her classmates conducted a survey in the local community to determine whether other teenagers were dealing with emotional issues. Their findings, according to a bio of Gangwani, were “startling,” inspiring her to find a creative solution to spread awareness about mental health and de-stressing young minds. She named her organization The Amygdala in reference to the integrative center for emotional behavior in the human brain.
The Amygdala has since become an international movement. It’s comprised of psychological education and mental health workshops and webinars, a speaker series that connects mental health professionals to students, and a series that highlights the stories of young mental health advocates. To date, her group has led 74 sessions impacting more than 3,000 students worldwide, and their education guides have been used in 43 schools across India.
Gangwani also organized an online global discussion titled “Believing in Yourself Is the Key to Good Health.” It was offered to grade 11-12 students in Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, Nepal and the Philippines on UN Day, Oct. 24, 2020. At the grassroots level, she and her team organized in-house sessions related to students’ mental well-being for grades 6-10, with the sessions conducted by school counselors, city counselors and health officers from the Health Department of Madhya Pradesh, India. In 2021, she was nominated for an IWoman Global Award in the category of social work.
The 2022 GTLs will convene virtually from July 11-August 12 for WAFF’s Three Dot Dash Just Peace Summit. Collectively, the work of this year’s GTLs addresses all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“I cannot wait to represent Hollins at the summit,” Gangwani said. “This would not have been possible without the unconditional support that I have received from Hollins’ faculty and my peers. Hollins’ innovative classes, such as ‘Social Media and Social Activism’ [taught by Associate Professor of Communication Studies Vladimir Bratic], greatly supported me in my endeavors and instilled in me the 21st century skills needed to succeed with my social enterprise.”
The WAFF is a not-for-profit organization co-founded by legendary musician Nile Rodgers. It’s dedicated to fostering a global family by creating programs that promote cultural diversity while nurturing and mentoring the vision, talents and ideas of young people who are positively changing the world.
“The world is in a very dangerous place—environmentally, economically, politically, combined with systemic inequality and injustice permeating throughout,” said Rodgers and WAFF cofounder Nancy Hunt in a statement. “We need global cooperation to effectively address these issues, and we need to look to our global youth for their ideas, solutions and actions to save our planet. They don’t believe in the word ‘no.’ They believe that anything is possible, and they act on it.”
This article has been edited and expanded from the original version appearing on the Hollins University website.