Mississauga youth who spoke at United Nations summit in Paris is now up for a global student award


Published July 29, 2022 at 4:59 pm

kenisha arora
Photo by UNESCO / C. Alix

She is only 19 years old but Mississauga’s Kenisha Arora has already founded a non-profit organization, helped get free menstrual products into Ontario schools, and spoke at a UN summit in Paris.

Now, Arora is up for the Chegg.org Global Student Prize for 2022, one of 50 exceptional students shortlisted for the prize out of nearly 7,000 nominations from 150 countries.

Arora was born in New Delhi, India and her family moved to Canada, first Montreal, when she was a baby. She has lived in Mississauga since she was nine years old and graduated from Glenforest Secondary School, serving as a student trustee in her final year. She says her parents choose Canada and Mississauga to give their children a better life.

“They realized that Mississauga out of the Peel Region had really good school systems here,” Arora tells insauga. “And they really wanted us to be able to learn and have quality education.”

Dreams of becoming a doctor

Growing up in Mississauga, Arora had the opportunity to volunteer at Credit Valley Hospital getting her closer to her dream of becoming a doctor.

When she was in Grade 7, Arora’s grandmother died of cardiac complications in India. Ever since then she dreamed of becoming a doctor, particularly in the cardiac field.

She started as a volunteer in the hospital gift shop but later moved to help out in the cardiology department.

“I would work with the cardiologists to transcribe their notes, I would learn how to do readings of the heartbeat, and I would do the discharge charts, the inpatient charts,” she says.

Now she is entering her third year at Western University studying medical sciences.

Starting a non-profit

Arora’s journey with UNESCO started during the pandemic after she and her sister Alisha founded the non-profit The HopeSisters.

The HopeSisters started during the pandemic when Arora and her sister wrote cards for seniors isolated due to lockdown restrictions. They then branched out to creating “HopeBags” filled with toys, blankets and snacks for children in foster care.

Joining UNESCO

The HopeSisters work spread — there are now 50 chapters around the world — and UNESCO invited Arora to join their new Youth Network, and she was then elected to serve as youth representative on the United Nations high-level steering committee on education.

And she gave the opening speech at the United Nations transforming education pre-summit this June in Paris. It was an experience she describes as “magical.”

“When I first went up on stage, I was questioning myself, like, you know, how much really does one young person have to say,” she says. “But I think my experience of being a school board trustee, and now a senator (at Western) kind of led me up to that moment and that one speech, around sharing that one vision that us youth collectively have for what the future of education should look like.”

Before heading back to school, Arora will attend the UN General Assembly in New York this September.

What the award would mean

Chegg.org said they selected Arora for her work with The HopeSisters and UNESCO.

She is also senator at Western University and Chair of the Student Senate, enacting sustainability reform at her university.  She helped provide free menstrual hygiene products in the Peel District School Board which inspired the Minister of Education to invest in free menstrual hygiene products in all school boards across Ontario.

Kenisha also produced a TV show called “Let’s Talk Politics” with Tehlka TV, North America’s largest South Asian media network.

Winning the Chegg.org Global Student Prize “would just mean the world,” Arora says

It would help Arora with her education and support the work of The HopeSisters, she says. There are now foster children who have started their own Hope chapters.

“We really just want to create a cycle of giving, and just a movement of hope,” she says.

In all this, Arora says her parents have been very supportive. Her father drives to pick up donations and help in their work.

“My mom is always inspiring us to give back even more and more and more generally says that ‘the more you get, the more you should give,’” she says. “And that’s really the motto that me and my sister try to live by.”

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