No endeavor is too big for Sabrina Guo of Oyster Bay Cove.
Entering into her senior year at Syosset High School, Guo has already made positive changes in the community and beyond.
At the height of the pandemic in March 2020, Guo, 14-years-old at the time, founded a student run organization called Long Island Laboring Against COVID-19 (LILAC) that received recognition from President Joseph Biden through the Presidential Gold Volunteer Service Award.
The organization provided healthcare workers with Personal Protective Equipment, which was hard to find at the time, meals and funds. LILAC also supported healthcare workers by inspiring them with art created by students and it combated all forms of hate and discrimination such as the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and violence due to COVID-19.
But her activism did not start there. Among her many projects and initiatives, in 2018, Guo founded Girl Pride International, a nonprofit that focuses on supporting displaced, refugee, and migrant girls’ with intellectual material and meeting social needs and connecting with other grassroots organizations in Long Island, New Orleans, Kenya, Jordan and Central America.
The Syosset Jericho Tribune connected with Guo to discuss her current activism and how she balances the responsibilities of a high school student with her many projects and goals.
Syosset Jericho Tribune: What inspired you to get involved with activism and
Guo: There are many things that inspire me. One of them would be Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative. She helped over 60 million girls all over the world. And I always remember this quote that she said which is; ‘Every girl, no matter where she lives, deserves the opportunity to develop the promise inside of her.’ And that’s something I hold very closely to my heart through all the work that I do…
Syosset Jericho Tribune: What was the first act of kindness that you did for the
Guo: On a family vacation trip to China to visit family, I came across what was called a welfare institute. It’s really both a refuge and school for orphans and abandoned children, and I saw that many of the staff members—teachers, social workers—were foreigners. They weren’t Chinese. They were Americans or British people from the UK or Europeans. And, so they were adults taking care of children and I was 9-years-old at the time. I was really curious. I had conversations with them. I asked questions like ‘Why were the children in this situation? And what guided you to help them?’ After talking to them, I met with the administrator there and expressed my intention to come back with toys and candy and other snacks, foods, story books and games and educational supplies for the kids. So I came back. The first donation was with family and friends and relatives. It went so well and we did not have enough for everyone. So, I went back there again and I asked my parents at the time if we could get more people involved, like local businesses. So the second time was with more community members and businesses.
Syosset Jericho Tribune: You were very involved in assisting health care workers with getting PPE during the pandemic, as well as supporting health care workers with work of art done by you and your friends. What have you learned from that
experience? Would you say it inspired you to do even more?
Guo: I’ve learned that young people have a voice and their actions can create significant impact and even spread movements. Young people not only have a voice but no matter how small their action is, they can make a difference. I started [LILAC] with just my family and close friends, and then we expanded to over 150 members and over 100 organizations and community leaders partnered with us. I think once you take that first step it’s only a matter of time before others join you in the movement. And that’s the power of our generation and the youth who are living in such a polarized time. Through that, we’ve gotten involved in so many more movements. For example, empowering girls in Kenya and working closely with our Girl Pride International Samburu chapter [Samburu is a region in Kenya]. We’re helping the children there have more access to education and providing resources. We’re actually nearing the completion of building a brand new solar paneled, WiFi-enabled classroom that will accommodate 80 students that are currently in first or second grade and have never had their own classroom.
Syosset Jericho Tribune: You’ve been helping underprivileged girls all around the world. What is the logistics of your organization, Girl Pride International?
Guo: Girl Pride International has different committees and project groups that all serve a different function. We have a fundraising committee, creative works committee. We also have a crossing borders pen pal program that’s primarily run by me because it’s four-years-old. It was our very first initiative that connected U.S. students to Syrian refugee artists. We also have the social media and tech committee that’s overseen by our chief technology officer. And she is a graduate school student at NYU. We also have an advisory board that’s made up of a dozen college med school and graduate school students from different fields and different expertise. We also have adults that sit on our board of directors that include CEOs and founders of other social enterprises.
Syosset Jericho Tribune: I’m sure you won’t stop here. What are your future goals?
Guo: We will continue to fight against gun violence. I co-organized a March for Our Lives rally in Long Island earlier this summer in front of the Supreme Court and Legislature where more than 500 people showed up, including a lot of speakers and elected officials. Another item is in light of overturning Roe V. Wade, women reproductive health has been severely attacked. And so I am engaging with lawmakers to protect reproductive rights at the federal and local level by writing letters and other forms of advocacy. However, I want to share that I am conducting research to the extent of what social and economic factors, such as race, religion, education and more affect emergency contraceptive access. That’s my current research project and I plan to share my findings with the public and especially with lawmakers and policy makers… Another is to continue combating all forms of hate and prejudice, particularly against the anti-Asian hate crimes… And also to advocate for gender equality and equal pay and for the U.S. to take on the leadership to fight climate change. I proposed and helped to draft a county resolution to memorialize Marie Colvin’s legacy by naming a local street in her name. She was a war correspondent [who grew up in East Norwich]. She died in the front lines in Syria… I’m also working with the County Legislature to commission a Nassau County Youth Poet Laureate program… Another piece of news is I am going to debut a poetry book called Catalog Of Ripening that’s going to be published around Sept. 9.
Syosset Jericho Tribune: How do you balance the responsibility of being a student and an activist?
Guo: It’s a lot of prioritizing and time management and really knowing how to delegate responsibilities to fellow key members at Girl Pride International and LILAC, and my parents who I have essentially made my secretaries. Thankfully I’ve seen a lot of support, not just from members and leaders from these two organizations, but also from school administrators and teachers and elected officials and community leaders who have provided resources and guidance and really help us to be the best version of ourselves.
Visit www.girlpride.org to learn more about Sabrina Guo and her work.