This week’s Student Feature Friday is sophomore, Nandini Mandaloju who has devoted her time, energy and passion to helping others and exploring her culture through dance and music. Since she was 6 years old, Nandini has practiced one of the classical styles of Indian dance called Kuchipudi. By her 4th or 5th year, she was developing her talent and love for dance. She describes being on stage as “acting as different characters, allowing her to express her emotions in new ways.” In addition, Nandini is an avid singer of classical Indian music. “Singing and dancing allow me to stay closer to my heritage by singing in multiple Indian languages. It’s a culture blast and lets me feel closer to my ethnicity.”
Nandini is also passionate about helping others. Last summer she volunteered at a senior center where she served food to elders. The experience was life changing for her and she describes “an inner happiness you get from working with them.” She felt that she was able to bring a little happiness into their lives through service to others and it has inspired her to pursue a career as a doctor. Although she derived inspiration from this experience, she is truly an inspiration to others by her compassion and selfless devotion to the community. She plans to explore her love of art and science by studying medicine and continuing with multiple forms of art as a hobby.
Q: During our conversation you discussed your passion for art and science. How do you see yourself incorporating both into your life for the foreseeable future?
A: Art and science are often considered as polar opposites, but I always believed that I can incorporate both together in my life. Since childhood, I have developed a passion for art. Similarly, science had been a big area of interest which I wanted to pursue when I get older. Finding a way to blend my two favorite passions, I decided to create a science integrated art camp for elementary and middle schoolers. This way, I could satisfy both areas of interest and help elementary and middle schoolers develop a love for art and science as well. Running this camp inspired me to make art my leisure pastime in which I would be able to raise money towards philanthropic purposes. I see myself making science my career and art my hobby.
Q: You were chosen to participate in the Metrowest Youth In Philanthropy and had to work with other students to identify two non-profit organizations to donate money to through fundraising and money from the organization. Can you explain what this process was like and why you wanted to be involved?
A: After an interview with Youth in Philanthropy over the summer, I was chosen to participate in a 15-week long program which lasted throughout the first semester of the school year. Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) is an experiential leadership development program designed to empower and educate local youth to become our community’s next generation of philanthropists–those who give their time, talent and treasure for the common good. The project in YIP is to award two nonprofit organizations $5,000 each. The Metrowest Foundation will provide $9,000 while as a group we have to raise $1,000. After reviewing about 7 grants, we selected and visited four potential grantees, and cut it down to two organizations. We ended up raising $1,050 to go towards Waypoint Adventure and Horizons (Dedham). As a group, we made a major board presentation to convince the Metrowest Foundation to approve our decisions. Once the decisions were approved, we went ahead and awarded two nonprofits.
I wanted to be involved in YIP because I was always in love with humanity. I always wanted to give back to my community and see how local nonprofits work. Also, I saw this as a great opportunity to develop more leadership skills, see the needs of my community, and learn to work in a professional environment by participating in the grant evaluating process. YIP was an eye-opening experience because I got to see many communities work together to make a difference. This program has inspired me to give the proceeds of the science-art camp towards a local animal shelter and possibly open a nonprofit organization when I get older. The biggest takeaway from YIP is that philanthropy comes from the heart.
Q: What leadership skills have you developed through your participation in so many different activities and what have you learned about yourself?
A: My participation in so many different activities definitely helped me improve my leadership skills. Working at Kumon with children of ages 3 to 9 expanded my knowledge on how to take initiative in order to help students achieve their highest potential while making their learning environment fun. This gave me a sense of enjoyment and connection with them. I took responsibility in making the students finish their work on time. With improved communication skills, I motivated students to do well by having them set a goal every week I see them. Spending positive time with them helped me gain more confidence.
Also, dance and music gave me a rising sense of achievement and taught me humility and grace. I learned that hard work pays off with great perseverance. Lastly, volunteering at the senior citizen center made me realize that most seniors have life experiences and a wealth of knowledge much different than other younger generations. Furthermore, I noticed that smiles are universal – a smile can make one’s day. Altogether, all the activities I participated in made me a better person.
Q: Through dance, music, and volunteerism you have clearly developed a strong sense of who you are, what you are passionate about and where you see yourself in the future. What advice do you have for students who have yet to find their passion or direction?
A: It is okay if you haven’t found your passion yet because it is never too late to start. Try to stay open-minded and savor a different experience every day because you never know when something strikes a chord within you. Also, stay true to yourself and choose activities which lead to your happiness. Finally, focus on yourself and let go of any inhibitions you have.