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Teen Spotlight: Teen Heroes

By Bhavana Kunnath Email By Bhavana Kunnath
January 2021
Teen Spotlight: Teen Heroes

High schoolers around Atlanta are using the pandemic downtime to serve their communities. Khabar brings the third article of this series highlighting their work.

Aesha Shah

The financial and social burdens of the pandemic shut down many educational programs, leaving students on their own this past summer, but Aesha Shah, a sophomore at Northview High School, and her team of high school volunteers rose to the occasion with their new program, Discovery Circle.

As the number of Covid-19 cases continued rising, Aesha noticed the financial impact the pandemic was having on working parents in her community who were already struggling to find adequate childcare when summer programs shut down. “I felt there was a need for a platform where younger students can try out new activities or explore the ones that they may be interested in without having any financial burden,” Aesha says. “I wanted to give students an opportunity to use this time to explore new interests they wanted to pursue and at the same time help working parents by virtually keeping their kids busy throughout summer. So I created Discovery Circle.”

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Aesha worked with Vibha Youth and Student Leadership Johns Creek to organize a team of high school tutors, and with her sister Aanya Shah to create an online platform to provide free lessons to elementary and middle school students. Referring to Discovery Circle’s focus on younger students, Aesha explains, “Since they’re able to start off early in exploring different passions and interests, they may have a better idea of what they want to do before they get into high school so that they’re prepared.”

Discovery Circle was overwhelmingly successful with over 200 registrations across the 13 activities offered this past summer and an outpouring of positive feedback from parents. “Parents and students came to us and told us that it made a huge impact in their lives. We were able to make them excited about learning new things and they were able to interact in the classes—they didn’t just have to listen,” Aesha says.

Revealing her plans to expand the program next summer, she adds, “Right now I’m trying to figure out how we can expand Discovery Circle so we can cover students from all around the country. We had quite a few students from different states, and now my intention is for us to cover the entire United States and not just the metro Atlanta area.”

“Whether it be some small act, every act of kindness can go a long way and can impact someone greatly,” Aesha notes. “That’s what I’ve learned from Discovery Circle—even just helping one student made their life so much easier and they were able to open up different pathways in their life that could contribute later on.”

Isha Uppalpati

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Even as the pandemic has presented huge setbacks for many young girls aiming for leadership roles, Isha Uppalpati, a senior at Walton High School in Marietta, is giving these future leaders the guidance they need to realize those aspirations through her nonprofit, A Girl’s Frontier.

Isha has already established herself as an author and an inspiration for young girls with her book, Her Toolbox, which is a compilation of advice from seven women leaders, many of whom are leaving their mark in male-dominated fields such as banking, law, and healthcare. “I compiled their stories and their advice to show young girls that even though you have gone through hardships and challenges, it’s possible to overcome them. In fact, it’s possible to overcome anything along the way as long as you put in the hard work,” Isha explains.

The encouragement of her friends and family to pursue her own entrepreneurial aspirations early on inspired Isha to provide a similar supportive community environment for other young girls who share her interest but lack the same resources. Through A Girl’s Frontier, Isha is able to create this community for girls in metro Atlanta and abroad. “We are looking to break boundaries. Our goal is to shatter the glass ceiling and to show young girls everywhere that they can be leaders and entrepreneurs,” Isha says. “At A Girl’s Frontier, we are dedicated to helping all young girls become leaders. Being an entrepreneur is also a very male-dominated field as of now, but we hope to change that. As a young girl who has had so many entrepreneurial aspirations in her life, I’ve realized that giving that opportunity for young girls—to learn how to be an entrepreneur, learn how to develop their ideas and their creative thoughts—is something that I really want to do.”

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A Girl’s Frontier has three main missions: providing mentorship, distributing books, and distributing iPads to students in the Atlanta metro area. Through its mentorship program, A Girl’s Frontier connects young girls with like-minded mentors who guide them towards the fulfillment of their entrepreneurial goals. Through its book drives, the nonprofit shares Isha’s passion for reading and educating herself with other students in her community. Through its iPad donation program, A Girl’s Frontier collects iPads donated by local businesses and donates them to students in need. “The main reason we do that is because most schools are virtual now because of the pandemic and a lot of young girls don’t have access to the technology that they need,” she notes. “Even if they do, they’re sharing it with all of their siblings, and they’re not able to get the education that they deserve. In such a virtual age, we believe that kids should have access to technology and it’s these iPads that give them a way to have that continuous learning ability. I believe that education is the foundation to be successful.”

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Isha is also spreading her influence abroad in India and Honduras where she sponsors the education of young girls through her nonprofit. “By doing this we’re trying to build the foundation these girls deserve to be whoever they want to be. It has been amazing and meeting these young girls has been so wholesome,” Isha says. “They’ve inspired me probably more than I’ve inspired them. There’s a group of girls in Honduras that we sponsor, and they are the sweetest little girls I have ever met. A lot of them have been rescued from really terrible situations. When I was talking to them over the weekend, they had the biggest smiles on their faces—they’re the happiest people that I’ve ever met. Knowing their resilience has inspired me to keep doing what I do.”

Isha also revealed that she plans to set down new roots for A Girl’s Frontier when she goes to college. She offered one last piece of advice for young women: saying, “I had a ton of support from family and friends and with that support I realized that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I’m not saying it doesn’t take time or that it doesn’t take energy, but for me, it really paid off. So, take the leap and go for it instead of thinking it’s something that you can’t do. Think of all of your obstacles as challenges that you can overcome.”

 


Viren Mayani was a contributing writer for the profile of Isha Uppalpati.

Bhavana Kunnath, a senior at Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology, is the editor-in-chief of Infinitas, the school’s literary magazine. She is currently an intern with Khabar magazine, and can be reached at kunnathbhavana@gmail.com. To comment on this article, please write to letters@khabar.com.

 



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