17-year-old Srilekha Cherukuvada believes that finding your voice is about finding your passion. “I was always a bubbly person, always talking and laughing, but finding your voice isn't about being an extrovert," she said. “[It is] that one thing that sparks your mind, and all you want to do is spread positivity and shed light around its importance.”
"I learned that I have the potential to make a difference and all I had to do was speak.”
Shrileka started her journey to find her voice in 8th grade when she discovered her passion for journalism. But soon afterward, she felt the impact of her mental health on her life. “In 8th grade, I learned about the beauty of words, and in high school, I learned about the disastrous world of mental health,” she said. “I constantly felt like I was drowning, that I didn't fit in anywhere and like I didn't need to be in this world. High school was when I realized that I could be more than that. I learned that I have the potential to make a difference and all I had to do was speak.”
Now, Srilekha is drawing from her experience and using her voice to make the world a better place. "I found my voice through strife and difficulty, but now I hope to use my voice to make the world a more positive place so that strife and difficulty are rarely felt," she said.
She is the Founder of Plannr Consulting, a youth-led international nonprofit organization providing free personalized peer mentorship sessions to enhance student health. The organization focuses on spreading mental health awareness through monthly interactive campaigns where attendees collaborate with international workshop hosts, speakers, and organizations. She is also a freelance writer, covering health, business, and lifestyle topics. Srilekha uses her voice to speak about mental health equity and the brutal deep-rooted stigma around mental illness within our society. "The vision of a better future drives me," she said. "Mental health is something that everyone has, and I connect deeply with many of the issues students go through every day. I spent many of my days in high school drowning in anxiety and stress, and I want to ensure that no other student has to go through those stressful experiences without proper support."
"I spent many of my days in high school drowning in anxiety and stress, and I want to ensure that no other student has to go through those stressful experiences without proper support."
As an exceptional Gen Z'er making an impact, she was honored for her work in the Mental Health space through The ConversationaLIST. "Through my writing, I was able to express my frustration surrounding society as a whole, and I slowly funneled into the mental health category specifically as time went on,” she said.
Srilekha also seeks to help other young people find their voices and talk about significant issues. She wants everyone to know that their voices are essential, even if they don't feel ready to speak up."Your voice is worthy and valuable,” she said. “Your thoughts are insightful. You may not be ready yet, and that's okay, but when you are ready to use your voice, you will be making a spectacular positive impact.”
Sriliekha plans to conquer the world with Plannr Consulting. Over the next five years, she hopes to organize local mental health rallies for students, introduce new chapters of Plannr across the globe, grow its ambassador program of mental health activists, and more. She also hopes to continue with freelance writing. "Of course, all of the brilliant mental health advocates in the world inspire me every day to continue with my work," she said. "They remind me of all the good we could be doing together."
Srilekha believes in Gen Z's power to come together to build a more unified world. She's grateful to TC for creating a space that amplifies their voices and encourages its community to break open their echo chambers. "In the mental health sector especially, we find a lot of open echo chambers where the stigma seems to cover up all the voices, like a curtain," she said. "There's no light. As a mental health advocate, I hope to shed light on the people who are struggling. I want to reveal the darkness underneath, and I want people to know that mental health is a real thing."
"I hope to shed light on the people who are struggling. I want to reveal the darkness underneath, and I want people to know that mental health is a real thing."
She hopes to see Gen Z use what they learn in difficult conversations to take action around the issues that matter. “It starts with a conversation, but it shouldn't end there,” she said. “We need to sign those petitions, build awareness, take our issues to the government, and create new policies. We need to rebuild our society ground up, ripping out those roots of all of the systemic issues that continue to destroy our world today.”
TC couldn’t be more excited to cheer on Srilekha Cherukuvada as she takes over the world. Keep up with her on Instagram, and follow Plannr Consulting to learn more about its mission and how you can get involved in your community.
Come hang out with Srilekha and all of our LIST honorees! Join us in Geneva and follow The Conversationalist on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to stay up to date with all of our future events.