Darden | Ms. Marketing Analyst
GMAT 710, GPA 3.75
Wharton | Mr. Aspiring Leader
GMAT 750, GPA 3.38
Darden | Mr. Corporate Dev
GMAT Waived, GPA 3.8
Kellogg | Mr. Equity To IB
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Cornell Johnson | Mr. SAP SD Analyst
GMAT 660, GPA 3.60
Kellogg | Ms. Public School Teacher
GRE 325, GPA 3.93
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Military MedTech
GRE 310, GPA 3.48
Stanford GSB | Mr. Latino Healthcare
GRE 310, GPA 3.4
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Army Officer
GRE 325, GPA 3.9
INSEAD | Mr. Future In FANG
GMAT 650, GPA 3.5
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Advisory Consultant
GRE 330, GPA 2.25
INSEAD | Mr. Marketing Master
GRE 316, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Hedge Fund
GMAT 740, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. Deferred MBA
GMAT 760, GPA 3.82
Stanford GSB | Mr. Robotics
GMAT 730, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Ms. Artistic Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 9.49/10
Yale | Mr. Army Pilot
GMAT 650, GPA 2.90
Kellogg | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 7.1/10
INSEAD | Mr. Tesla Manager
GMAT 720, GPA 3.7
Darden | Mr. Tech To MBB
GMAT 710, GPA 2.4
INSEAD | Ms. Investment Officer
GMAT Not taken, GPA 16/20 (French scale)
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Startup Of You
GMAT 770, GPA 2.4
Kellogg | Mr. Hopeful Admit
GMAT Waived, GPA 4.0
UCLA Anderson | Mr. International PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.3
Harvard | Mr. Policy Development
GMAT 740, GPA Top 30%
Ross | Mr. Brazilian Sales Guy
GRE 326, GPA 77/100 (USA Avg. 3.0)
INSEAD | Mr. INSEAD Hopeful
GMAT -, GPA 2.9

Wharton MBA Wins Social Impact Award

The finalists of CommonBond's Social Impact Award. Pictured from left to right are Jonathan Sockol of DocPronto, Angie Hayden of Project Pregnancy, and Sindhura Sarikonda. Photo courtesy of CommonBond

The finalists of CommonBond’s Social Impact Award. Pictured from left to right are Jonathan Sockol of DocPronto, Angie Hayden of Project Pregnancy, and Sindhura Sarikonda. Photo courtesy of CommonBond

When Sindhura Sarikonda stepped onto the campus of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, she did so with intention and purpose. While an undergrad at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Sarikonda, 28, saw a documentary called “The Day My God Died.” The film explores and portrays some of the world’s evilest atrocities—millions of girls as young as seven being trafficked and sold as sex slaves.

Sarikonda sat in her dorm room and stewed. She wanted to help. The ensuing summer, she bought a plane ticket for India to visit a few red light districts and shelters for trafficking victims.

“There were girls lining the streets just to lure in men,” she recalls. “And in the shelters, some of the girls were five- or six-years-old. Some of them were around 13 and had babies. Some of them have tried to commit suicide and have been forced into back-alley abortions.”

INDIA’S CULTURE SWEEPS TRAFFICKING ISSUES UNDER THE RUG

What’s more, according to Sarikonda, India’s culture often sweeps the trafficking issue under the rug, resulting in some victims being hidden from the rest of society. “I’m of Indian descent and I didn’t even know there was trafficking in India until I saw the documentary,” Sarikonda points out. “And that’s incredible because I go to India a lot and my family is in India.”

But it was the shelters, which were at best, not what she was expecting, and at worst, not much more than a small step up from the streets, that ultimately pushed her to doing something about it. “When I went to the shelters, I had initially planned on volunteering with them,” she recalls. “But none of them were exactly what I was looking for. A lot of them just had 10 by 10 rooms with about eight girls in them. The girls didn’t really do anything. They weren’t allowed to leave the rooms because trafficking is such a stigmatized issue in India.”

And then Sarikonda found a shelter on the outskirts of Kolkata that had about 40 girls and a lot of land and, according to her, a lot of potential. The shelter was Sanlaap India and has been rescuing girls from the streets and brothels since 1987.

‘NO ONE WANTS TO GIVE MONEY TO A 21-YEAR-OLD’

Once back to the states, Sarikonda wasted little time filing for her own 501c3 and founded Sanlaap North America. A quick problem Sarikonda ran into was funding—for her newfangled nonprofit and herself, alike. “Our first year was kind of slow because no one wants to give a 21-year-old money to run a nonprofit,” she says.

Indeed. Also, a degree from NYU isn’t cheap. So Sarikonda spent five years doing regulatory consulting and researching development options. The first big break came in the form of a $100,000 grant. “We were able to build our first shelter in India and rescued about 50 girls,” Sarikonda says.

After the victims are rescued, they are housed and receive any needed medical attention, counseling, and education. Then they are given the opportunity to attend Zesa Academy where they learn vocational skills in jewelry and fabric design and personal finance. Upon graduating they may apply for jobs in Zesa Retail. All profits from Zesa Retail go back to the girls in the academy and each employee is offered full funding for a higher education degree if they choose to pursue it.

Sarikonda in India. Courtesy photo

Sarikonda in India. Courtesy photo

GOING TO WHARTON WAS ‘ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT DECISION’

Now lots of people want to give money to Sarikonda. The organization has taken off. It has more than 40 volunteers and 1,000 donors and despite having a bachelor’s degree in business, Sarikonda felt the need to develop better managerial and quantitative skills to properly run her company full-time. So she went to Wharton and hasn’t been disappointed.

“It was absolutely the right decision,” she says. “I’ve grown so much in this past year as a leader and I think the resources Wharton provides have been incredibly helpful for my organization.”

To date, Sanlaap North America has rescued more than 300 girls, and through Zesa, has helped educate more than 1,100, and raised about $548,000—the most recent being $10,000 from CommonBond’s 2nd Annual Social Impact Award. This year, CommonBond whittled down more than 600 nominations to three finalists who competed last Wednesday (August 5) at Project Space, a New York City-based coworking space.