A quarterly-published, topically-based newsmagazine


A quarterly-published, topically-based newsmagazine


A quarterly-published, topically-based newsmagazine


Compassion Through Charities

Students, youth group advisor explore challenges, benefits of event, nonprofit organizing

At age 16, junior Sophia Fu is the founder of the Indianapolis chapter of INTEGIRLS, a teen-led organization hosting annual math competitions for female and non-binary students. 

Fu said, “When I was in middle school, I participated in a lot of math competitions. I think for a lot of them, there wasn’t a lot of female representation, and I guess, that can kind of make you feel isolated especially if you’re a female in STEM.

“I also participated in a lot of INTEGIRLS competitions when I was in middle and elementary school, and I really liked the environment that INTEGIRLS provided,” she added. “I felt like when I got into high school, it was a good opportunity to bring that sense of community to Indianapolis.”

Fu’s initiative reflects the growing number of people from the younger generation involved in the community. According to a survey by Medium, approximately 50% of Gen Zers have taken action to support a community they care about.

However, Fu said hosting events as a high schooler has not been easy.


“I think the biggest challenge that I encountered in the very beginning was getting people to support us financially,” she said. “When you’re trying to host a math competition, especially for events that you’re doing in-person, there is a lot of need for financial support, and lot of people were kind of hesitant to provide us with that support and with good reason because we didn’t really have a background.”

Along those lines, senior Nancy Zhang said it was difficult to contact businesses to provide food samples for her plant-based exploration event. The event, which occurred Oct. 7, featured plant-based food samples, a film screening and educational booths.

“One of the major challenges was just contacting and communicating with people. With each business on a different schedule, it was really difficult to maintain contact and make sure everyone got all the details,” she said. “I feel like organizing an event has so many different aspects that you often don’t think about until you experience it yourself.”

Jessie Wang, Tzu Chi Youth Group advisor, said parents can help support some of these challenges. The Tzu Chi Youth Group has hosted multiple charity events, most recently to fundraise for the Maui wildfires.

“One student kind of text-messaged me and said, ‘I’m concerned. I’m worried. I don’t know (if I have the) materials. I don’t know if I have the vacuum cleaner (for the car cleaning fundraiser).’ I think (that’s when) I started to realize that the team was actually falling apart,” Wang said. “So, we actually called a meeting in the evening (the day before the event). Of course, you know, I also invite parents to join.

“(The) parents’ role is to support,” she added. “When kids say, ‘Oh, we need this tool; we need that,’ parents will jump in and say, ‘No problem, I will take my kid to go shopping after the conversation.’”

Fu said she agreed with Wang.

She said, “When we were trying to get a venue (for the competition), people were like, ‘Oh, sorry we can’t rent to you because you’re under 18.’ So, there are challenges because you’re not over 18 and stuff, but obviously, my parents are pretty supportive of this and there are a lot of adults at Carmel High School who try to support us in ways that they can.”

At the same time, Wang said the challenges of event organizing has benefits for teens. 

“I think that (event organizing) helps students to really prepare them for adulthood because…you’re going to go to college. In college, you do everything on your own,” Wang said. “There (are) no parents to check with you (and ask), ‘Have you done this? Have you done (that)?’ (Through event organizing), (the kids) learn how to plan an event, and they learn how to coordinate with their team members. Nobody is going to naturally become a leader. Nobody is going to learn how to be a teammate, right?”

Fu said she agreed with Wang. She said INTEGIRLS has also taught her to be a self-advocate.

“Sometimes, people and businesses and stuff try to take advantage of you because you’re a high schooler and they won’t really take you seriously. I think being able to advocate for yourself and knowing what you deserve is important,” Fu said. “In the very beginning, there were a lot of people who supported INTEGIRLS but then as it grew bigger, they would go behind your back and say mean things. So, I think being able to live through the criticism and advocating for yourself are probably two of the most important things I’ve learned.”

Despite the benefits, Fu said she cautions against starting nonprofits and hosting events for extrinsic motivations.

Fu said, “For me, I really like to do math problems, so I think writing problems even if I knew that people weren’t going to participate in the competitions or, you know, just asking sponsors for financial support or something, I think that stuff has just appealed to me as a person. I think just finding something that you really enjoy doing even if it doesn’t have the potential of success connected to it is kind of important. If you want to make a difference or get volunteer hours and stuff, I think there are different means of doing so.”

Ultimately, Zhang said her passion for nutrition and reducing the stigma around veganism has encouraged her to persevere.

I haven’t thought about giving up, but I’ve definitely thought about if this event would be worth the time or if it would be beneficial enough to the community,” Zhang said. “Whenever I had some of these doubts, I reminded myself how much education and learning from others in the plant-based community helped me understand how important reducing consumption of animal products was. If I’m able to help just one person want to learn more about the benefits of a vegan (or) vegetarian lifestyle, I’d consider this event to be successful.”

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