You could call her supergirl, but really Sara Li is just an incredibly strong female advocate bettering the world for the rest of us. After years of struggling with anxiety and depression, she had the idea for Project Consent at 17-years-old. Now, her vision is a global, non-profit movement that helps survivors of sexual assault and brings attention to the cause. Sara has a staff of 40+ people, has been asked to speak at conferences around the country and is one of the leading partners in the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign. She channeled her pain into motivation––and it paid off.
Name: Sara Li
College: University of Kansas
Major: Journalism, Minor: Creative Writing
Graduation Year: 2019
Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Sara Li: On paper, it would have to be Project Consent. It’s my pride and joy to see so many people respond so positively to something that I started; it makes me feel like I’m actively doing something to help others and that’s an inexplicable feeling to describe. But on a personal note, I think Project Consent just falls under the umbrella of finding my true purpose. I know the type of person I want to be and I know what brings me true happiness; I want to inspire others, be a positive figure and follow all of my dreams. I spent a good portion of my adolescence feeling lost, angry and alone. To know that I’ve come so far since then and to have this newfound sense of self and belief is something that I’m extremely proud of. I like who I am, I like knowing what I want to do and I love Project Consent for showing me that this is something I’m meant to do.
HC: What was the hardest part of starting Project Consent?
SL: Everything. I was 17-years-old when I started Project Consent and I remember just sitting in my bedroom, asking myself, “How am I going to change the world?” I wanted people to take action against sexual violence and to raise awareness that assault isn’t just a scary myth; it’s a cruel reality for many and the lack of conversation around it prevents survivors from getting the help and care they deserve. I wanted to be part of the dialogue that changes that. I took on the “it takes a village to raise a child” philosophy and eventually built a global community dedicated to making that change. I myself couldn’t do it alone, but a group could, and from there, we wanted to inspire others to take up the call. It was hard starting Project Consent because at 17, you’re still just a kid. I had no idea how to start an organization, how to make others listen or how to even balance the idea of running such a controversial project on top of being just a regular teenager. But you learn through trial and error and you do it with the help of friends. It was difficult starting Project Consent, yes, but not impossible. Going through the hard parts just made me realize how much I needed Project Consent to exist.
HC: Why has your participation with Project Consent been so instrumental in your life?
SL: The first time that I became acutely aware that Project Consent was something was when I got an email from someone at my school. We had never spoken, but she messaged our account thanking us for the work that we did. She felt like she had found a group of people who understood, who listened and who wanted to help – in her entire life since her assault, she’s never found that anywhere but through us. Reading that email was life-changing. I cried for hours because the thought of Project Consent meaning that much to someone––anyone––was just mind blowing. Project Consent means so much more to me than I could ever express, but most of all, it’s shown me the power and strength and goodwill of mankind when we need it most. Through my work at PC, I get to hear so many stories about survivors reclaiming their lives and empowering others. To be part of that process and be the reason why someone feels supported and loved and respected? That’s irreplaceable.
HC: Who in your life most inspires you?
SL: There are so many people in my life that I adore and strive to be like, so it’s hard to pick just one. My mom, for immigrating to the United States and adjusting to a whole new culture just to give her family a better life. My friend Julie Zysk for being the type of person to offer a hand when someone needs it the most. Taylor Swift for being Taylor Swift. My high school teachers for always believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. I’m just lucky to be surrounded by great people who make me want to be a better me.
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
SL: Start now. If I had to wait for permission every time I got an idea, I’d never get anywhere. No matter how unrealistic or bold or insane your goal is, go now. There’s never going to be a perfect time to pursue your dream so it’s up to you to create your own opportunities and open your own windows.
HC: What are your top goals and priorities post-graduation?
SL: To get a stable paycheck and a dog named Buffy (after the vampire slayer, obviously). Kidding, kind of. I want to start establishing my work in the creative industry and expand my skills and knowledge through experience and travel. I have a thousand projects and ideas that I want to see come to life, so that’s what I see myself doing for the next however many decades: relentlessly pursuing every dream I’ve had and making people smile along the way. And if Nick Jonas wants to date at any point in my life, I wouldn’t say no.
HC: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
SL: I don’t know if this is considered a traditional, inspirational quote but Elle Woods's “What, like it’s hard?” in Legally Blonde. It’s actually an art print in my room, too. It’s my favorite movie because I remember being 10-years-old and seeing this girly college woman put her mind to something, never mind the odds, and just completely shattering everybody’s expectations. I don’t know what I want more: her wardrobe or work ethic. If Elle Woods says that nothing is impossible, I believe her.
HC: How would you describe yourself in five words?
SL: Optimistic, Sentimental, Basic™, Motivated, Thoughtful