Zo Mendis, Year 12 (also the best Deputy Head that Pymble has had!)

Hi Zohara! You seem to be one of those people who're good at everything - sports, studies, leadership, etc. - and I'm excited to get to know you a bit. What's an interesting thing that's happened to you?

Ok sure, so I always manage to get injured in the weirdest ways possible – I have been temporarily blind in one eye, temporarily deaf in one ear, nearly had my ear lobe amputated, skinned both my knees while flipping off a table, opened up a massive gash on my leg that is now a giant purple slash when climbing a wire fence and had a third degree burn on my thumb and knuckle (I do boxing so for a few days I couldn’t use both hands as I had burns on my right hand and split knuckles on my left).  That’s just off the top of my head.

Ahahah girl be careful! So you're our Deputy Head for 2017, do you remember your reaction when that got announced?

I think I just blanked once I realised that Jess and I were the final two, and then I was just so happy and stunned because I felt like I was still in Year 8/9 and wasn’t ready to be Deputy Head Prefect of the school.
And now I think it’s about trying to live up to being a Pymble girl, to set an example to all the young girls that you know you can achieve something awesome if you work at it, and the position is also just a way to give back to the school. 

Wow that's inspiring :) What's the most leader-like quality you see in yourself?

My sense of humour and ability to connect with other people. When I meet people, I will crack lame stupid jokes, make puns, obsess about the bachelorette, because I genuinely enjoy getting to meet new people. Making them laugh and smile, makes it so much easier to reach that level of comfort and finding out more about them. You can be as organised or inspiring or smart as you want, but if you aren’t able to make people relate to you, laugh and feel a sense of friendship with you, it’s very hard to lead people and ask them to listen or follow you.

What's your vision for Pymble 2017? Are you working towards something that's meaningful to you personally?

One of the most important things in my life is my belief in feminism and gender equality.
Our vision for 2017 is about getting girls to not only identify as feminists, but to really practise what it means to be a feminist. It may have negative connotations but to me, it means a Pymble community that supports each other as girls and women of intelligence and power, people who strive to be their best and beat the odds, girls who are able to make positive changes. We don’t all have to be like Emma Watson or Beyonce but we all can be feminists in our small day to day actions, and hopefully inspire friends and family beyond the Pymble community to recognise the amazing potential that women have.

Awesome. What are some challenges you've faced and how did you overcome them?

Year 10 was probably one of the most challenging years I have faced but it was the way I responded to those challenges that actually made it one of the best years of my life. It was a year where I had severely burnt my hand (by being an idiot), missed out on a few opportunities that I really wanted and generally didn’t really know which direction I was heading in.
However my main advice when you hit stumbling blocks is don’t run.
Face up to what you did wrong or could do better, and be prepared to make changes in how you approach things. I was lucky enough to have Mrs Boyd as an amazing mentor who really helped me out, and in the end I was able to look past all the negatives, and actually be able to make a positive difference in an area which I was extremely passionate about, and everything sort of fell into place for me.

Who's someone that inspires you to work?

Both the Obamas, individually and as a power couple. They’re just examples of strong and intelligent people, who have had to earn everything they have achieved, instead of it being handed to the on a silver platter. I can’t even imagine the obstacles that faced Barack’s journey to the first black President, but what we can learn from him is how to be calm and cool under pressure, and to prove the haters wrong by being the best that you can be. I love his message that while diversity matters in all areas of life and that we should celebrate these differences, ultimately we are all humans and stand together as one people. And Michelle is such a classy person and an example of a true feminist- she is such an inspiration to girls all over the world to be their best and go after their goals. Also she can do more than 30 pushups while I give up after 5.

Yeah I'd love to see Michelle run for president in 2020! Now how on earth do you balance all your commitments? Tildesley tennis, ISDA debating, piano, Gender Equality club just to name a few!

As you get older and realise the amount of school work you have to do and the responsibilities and pressures of being a leader, it can get really overwhelming.
I find that having other activities that I do just for myself like tennis and watching TV and movies are a great way to relax focus on the lighter side of life, otherwise I would be super stressed and would probably burn out. It doesn’t have to take up that much time, even just 15 minutes a day of something you love can give you enough positive energy to make it through those bad days. And especially to the younger years, you’re at a stage of life where while you should try to do well academically, it isn’t life or death if you don’t get perfect marks! Use all your free time to try out new activities and have lots of fun, because trust me, the amount of free time you have as you get older gets much much shorter.
Also definitely get into the habit of having at least 8 hours of sleep because no matter how many episodes of TV you can watch during the late hours of the night, will never make up for feeling refreshed and actually awake during the day.

Right, I love that advice! If you could sum up your high school experience and give one ultimate advice to younger girls, what would you say?

Don’t wear side ponies- I have many regrets.
Don’t be afraid to be weird and try out new things. Don’t worry about what other people think. Honestly at the end of the day, no one really cares except the people who you are closest to and even if they may disagree, they love you enough that you straying off the path a little (or a lot) won’t even matter.

This is amazing....just out of curiosity, what have you got planned for yourself later in life?

My life aspirations are to help out other people in different ways. I would love to study medicine and become a doctor, but I would also like to use those skills to volunteer at women’s domestic violence shelters to help those in need, as well as to be a part of the gender equality movement in the health workforce. On a more personal note, I would love to learn how to cook, travel the world, backpack through South America and Southeast Asia, spend a week in Disneyland, six flags and other cool theme parks, and hopefully climb the 7 peaks.

Ahahah all the best with your aspirations! Thanks for chatting.

You're welcome, good luck to you too!

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