Sanya Pirani, a junior at Prior Lake High School, is what some people call a child prodigy.
At just 7-years-old, the young philanthropist started volunteering and fundraising to help children in poverty throughout the state. Pirani eventually became founder and CEO of Sanya’s Hope For Children, a nonprofit organization in her name she founded in January 2017 with a commitment to support local and global impoverished children.
Over the years, Sanya’s Hope For Children has successfully raised over $70,000 worth of goods and monetary donations for homeless and marginalized families. Pirani is also a youth ambassador for the CAP Agency in Scott, Dakota and Carver counties since 2015. According to her website, as a CAP Agency Ambassador, Pirani has also raised $8,000 to $20,000 for the CAP Agency alone.
From serving on the PLHS Student Council, to receiving countless of awards for her philanthropy efforts, Pirani shows no signs of slowing down.
The high school junior recently published her first book, “High Tide,” which she wrote when she was just in the fifth-grade.
The science fiction and fantasy novel for teens and young adults is about a young girl named Mia Lopez who discovers a long-lost letter from her deceased mother. In the letter, her mother tells her that she is destined to take part in something called the “High Tide Challenge.” A short time later, Lopez and her best friend, Spencer Campbell, find themselves transported into a magical world where they have extraordinary abilities. With the help of the information in the letter from Lopez’ mother, and a mysterious welcome note from a woman named Nerissa, Mia and Spencer try to defy the odds stacked up against them to find their way home.
Copies of the book are available for purchase at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
Prior Lake American: Tell us about your new book, “High Tide.” What is it about and when did you start writing it?
Sanya Pirani: It’s a fantasy book that I wrote with some imagination I had as a fifth-grader. I started writing it in fifth-grade and finished it around sixth-grade. It just got published now because the publishing process is a little bit long and it took a while to edit. It’s about this character (Mia Lopez) who is going through this new fantasy world where she has to experience new types of people that she encounters with and her experiences with that.
PLA: Were you always interested in writing?
SP: I was always ambitious in writing when I was younger. I think I was more interested in writing when I was younger than I am now but I’ve always been very passionate about writing. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s one of the art forms I’ve always carried with me. I wouldn’t’ say this is something I would currently write right now but it’s just something that I really wanted to get out of my head and onto paper.
PLA: Have you written any other books?
SP: I have not written any other books but I am currently in the process of writing a leadership book. It’s a long process and I’m still in the writing stage so we’ll see. The ambition is there.
PLA: Do you want to keep pursuing writing in the future?
SP: Well, for college I plan to go into higher education with a major in English and film. My main goal is to screen write. I’ve always been passionate about movies and the writing process that comes with it because I think it’s a totally different art form than writing books. I think that’s the area that I plan to go in but my ultimate goal is to become an English professor.
PLA: Speaking of college, have you looked into any colleges yet? What does that process look like right now?
SP: Currently I’m just touring a lot of colleges, it’s a little bit hefty with the work load. Other than that, it’s just the process of the junior year.
PLA: How is your nonprofit, Sanya’s Hope for Children going? Are you working on any new projects?
SP: We currently don’t have a drive or current fundraiser at the moment but we continue to take donations and continuously work with the community. It’s been kind of on my backburner with school work and everything. Other than that, Sanya’s Hope for Children is working on long-term projects with feeding an entire village in Haiti and also its yearlong process with the Christmas Bag Project where we fill bags with school supplies, toys, books, hats and mittens and give them to homeless children across Minnesota during the holiday season. Although it’s not the holiday season anymore, we still have volunteers from the team and myself sewing these bags. We use furniture stores and scrap fabrics from fabric stores. We’re still looking for people who are willing to sew. That’s what we’re looking for right now, just volunteers who are able to sew and we teach them how to sew our bags.
PLA: You’re a pretty ambitious kid. You started this nonprofit, written a book and even write a column for our newspaper. Where do you think this drive comes from?
SP: Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve never found myself as quite motivated because I do think I’m a bit of a procrastinator. Although, I just think that I do find myself with things that I’m very passionate about, that I need to get out on paper through writing or I need to get out and do something which I do through my nonprofit. I think those came from a very young age and it’s just kind of a continuation of those same passions that I’ve furthered.
PLA: What do you like to do for fun? Do you have any hobbies people don’t know about?
SP: I find writing enjoyable, so, that’s one of my hobbies. I find myself writing a lot, even if it’s not published. It’s just something that I enjoy. I also enjoy art in general in all forms, especially films. I do enjoy watching movies in my free time. I used to figure skate alot, but unfortunately that hasn’t been on my schedule. I do play the piano and also teach the piano. That’s kind of my side job. I work with little kids and teach them how to play the piano.
PLA: What’s your favorite genre of film?
SP: I really like films that engage in social critique and I think you can find that in the book that I wrote as well. I tried to make that more subtle since I really wasn’t really confident in that young age, I didn’t feel like my writing should be as intense. But I do think social critique is something that really interests me especially in an art form where you don’t really have to state what you believe in, but you can let your art form speak for you and I find that really relevant in the film industry and I also find that relevant in novel writing.
PLA: What would you say to your peers to encourage them to follow their dreams and passions?
SP: I’d say that once you find your passion and once you’re interested in it, it just kind of comes naturally. I think a lot of it is just connections with people.
I don’t think I’d be in the place now without the connections I’ve had in my life, especially with my nonprofit. Joe Vaughn, the former CEO and executive director for CAP Agency, unfortunately passed away. He was a huge supporter for my nonprofit and he was very impactful and he was the reason I was even successful with my nonprofit work. His efforts and support is really what brought me here today and I can’t say that I did it all on my own since I did have help and also with my book process. Rachel Anderson, the person who helped me publish my book, runs Sigma’s Bookshelf, which is a nonprofit organization that helps people publish their own books. I submitted the book at an early age and she went through all those years of me having to go through editing and sending feedback back and forth. It was long and draining and she was able to stand by me through that and I don’t think I would’ve been motivated to continue fixing my work and making it better if it wasn’t for her.
Editor’s note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.