Sunbul Zeerak

“As you navigate life, challenge your understanding of the world, and the world itself. Challenge yourself to open your world view and keep pushing to learn new things.”
-Sunbul Zeerak

Sunbul once told me she wanted to own a house somewhere remote and care for goats. For some reason that memory stands out to me when I think about Sunbul; I believe it captures the kind of person Sunbul was, and I smile.

We are deeply saddened that Sunbul passed away abruptly just months after graduating from college. My heart breaks to put that sentence into writing.

I’m not sure I could ever put into words the extraordinary impact Sunbul had on my life and so many others in her community, but at least I hope to honor her – even if it’s just a fraction of what she deserves.

I had the privilege of working closely with Sunbul as a senior in high school, and again when she participated as a Fellow in The Ganas Network. I’ve never had a student quite like Sunbul, and unfortunately, I never will again.

While working with Sunbul, I got a glimpse beyond her drive to achieve new things and her rock-solid work ethic. I got to learn about her hopes and dreams. I knew Sunbul to be incredibly kind-hearted. She could transform that kindness into power on more than one occasion when I witnessed her fight against injustices on behalf of herself and others.

She was funny. On many occasions, she would make a remark or joke that would take everyone by surprise, but soften any room with laughter.

It seems an injustice for the world to continue spinning in Sunbul’s absence, but I have no doubts that we’re all better people for having known her.

With heavy hearts and heads high, we will do our best to carry Sunbul’s legacy.

After all, I like to think she’s out there tending to her goats until we can meet again.

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If you didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Sunbul, she graduated in May 2022 with a degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology from Colorado State University – the first woman in her family to graduate with a college degree.

Although she was looking forward to continuing her education by applying for medical school, Sunbul was taking some time between chapters of her life to establish a business that would offer dog owners an eco-friendly alternative for dog toys, minimize our carbon footprint, and create a better world for generations to come. We are immensely proud of her.

As Sunbul prepared for graduation, she shared a draft of a graduation speech she wrote for her class full of wisdom. We hope that by sharing it here, we can help to immortalize her memory and the impact she had on each of us:

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Growing up I saw that boys were given the opportunity to an education over girls. Over their own sisters.

Growing up I heard that a daughter is not your own. They become strangers once they get married.

Maybe this is why boys were favored over girls. Because boys were more valuable to parents, families, and society than girls.

I was born a girl to a mother who did not have access to education due to a similar mentality. Due to the lack of access to education in marginalized and low-income communities in Pakistan.

My grandmother never received any form of education.
My mother never had the opportunity to earn a college degree.

Despite many struggles, she tried her best to send my sister and I to school. Due to many obstacles, I must confess I did not get to attend, 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade. To create the possibility of achieving higher education for my siblings and I, my parents moved to the US.
My great-grandmother never received any form of education.

1999 was the first time someone from our family received a college degree – my uncle. Today, 23 years later, I am the first woman in my family ever to graduate with a college degree.

As a first-generation college student, life was hard sometimes, but I had access to great mentors I could ask for help. These mentors are my Community for Excellence advisors, the DSF Community, and the Ganas Network. These mentors created a community where my voice can be heard, where my experiences are heard, and where I am represented.

I am not here solely because of my own hard work. I am here because of the support from my family, the DSF community, the Ganas Network, and supportive friends.

I am here today for my ancestors and for the women in my family that never had access to a college education.

I am here for my childhood girlfriends that became a victim to the “girls don’t need education” mentality.

I am here for all the girls and women who are denied the right to an education.

I speak for myself and them when I say, “We too deserve an education”

Let today be a reminder of our privilege.

Let today be the time we thank those that came before us to make college education a possibility for all of us.

And for the graduating students… Be proud of pulling through mental breakdowns before an exam and working multiple jobs to put yourself through school… and many other obstacles.

Don’t undermine your achievements. Be proud of them.

Today we have the power of education. How you use it is up to you.

We have graduated, but our fight for a better world for all of us is not over. Make higher education a possibility for those that come after you just like the people that came before us. As you navigate life, challenge your understanding of the world and your perspective of the world.

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If you would like to contribute some of your thoughts, memories, or condolences for Sunbul, we would be happy to include them here to capture a fraction of the profound impact Sunbul had in her fleeting time in this world. Please send them to to be included in this space:

“We were proud of her, and to us, she will forever be one of the most successful 22 year olds we’ve ever met” Mursal Zeerak

“Sunbul will forever be one of the strongest women I’ve had the privilege to meet. From the moment I met her in middle school until now, she’s proved to be the most capable and intelligent young woman I know, that was never afraid to speak her mind. I wish everyone shared the same memory I have of her from middle school.

After an emotional day of team building and workshops, I remember all the students were gathered in a huge classroom. Sunbul pulled out a chair, stomped her foot onto the chair, and stood up in front of the entire class. With tears in her eyes, she called out the bullies who mispronounced her name and hurt her, and I vividly remember her saying “MY NAME IS SUNBUL. I AM STRONGER THAN YOU AND YOU WILL NOT HURT ME!”

At this moment I knew she would be unstoppable against anyone who doubted her. This is a memory I hold close to my heart and I hope everyone knows that Sunbul has a heart of gold and is one of the purest humans I have ever met. I am proud to have known her, worked with her, and watch her grow up. Her smile and laugh will forever live in my memory.” -Diana Perez

“My heart breaks. I have so many fond memories of Sunbul. She had a spirit that stood out. I could always count on her to give me a good laugh out of nowhere. Her smile, kindness, ferocity, and humor will stay with me forever.” -Elliott Ross