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Anjali Gupta is a high school student at the Middlesex County Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Technologies. She is the Founder of School for a Village, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that brings technology and educational resources to students across the world. Actively involved in scientific research, she has pursued independent laboratory research projects in the fields of genetics and allergy/immunology, and currently leads a DNA Research Club at her school in collaboration with Rutgers University. She has been recognized for her work as a Siemens Competition Semifinalist and New Jersey Winner of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award.
City where you’re from: Edison, NJ
Hobbies: tennis, Bharatanatyam Indian classical dance, piano
Favorite quote: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” -Milton Berle
Hey Anjali, What are you working on? How did you come up with this idea?
Anjali Gupta: Throughout my childhood, my grandfather was one of my greatest inspirations. He was a huge advocate for education, and believed very strongly in its power to lift entire communities out of poverty, as it had done for his own family. He saw education to be empowering, and felt that any person, when equipped with the unique tools offered by education, could emerge as an independent citizen ready to change the world.
Only after I entered high school, however, did I really begin to understand this unique ability of education to completely change lives. Education is a fundamental necessity. Education isn’t about mathematics or history; it is linked to general developmental goals including improving health, reducing hunger, fighting poverty, and spurring economic growth. There are so many brilliant children, who if given the opportunity, can bring immense change to their communities. It became my mission to provide these students this opportunity.
So, I founded School for a Village, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, with my amazing co-founder, Sohil Malik. The mission of our organization is to bring technology and educational resources to villages around the world. We want to equip brilliant young minds in all corners of the world with the tools to bring big change. Most currently, we are building a science laboratory at Vidya Mandir School in Bahjoi, India. We have an upcoming benefit dinner that will feature a special meet-and-greet with Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey USA 2017.
How is S4V different?
Anjali Gupta: We address the needs of each village school separately. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to improving education in underdeveloped areas. Our model is to approach each school separately and to truly understand the needs of that school. In this way, we are able to make the most direct impact, providing exactly the resources that are missing and bringing tangible change.
Additionally, School for a Village emphasizes STEM education. Today’s world is growing increasingly dependent on technology. To this end, we believe that STEM education is absolutely essential to preparing students for success in the 21st century. Many graduates of Vidya Mandir School have gone into STEM-based fields such as medicine and engineering. And this allows them to not only bring economic opportunity to their families, but also to their communities.
By creating an environment in underdeveloped areas that facilitates free, quality education, students have the opportunity to spend time learning in the classroom, rather than performing labor-heavy jobs from a young age.
What’s your dream with your company?
Anjali Gupta: My dream for School for a Village is to continue reaching a greater number of amazing students around the world. As a completely student-run organization, we have recently grown to include several chapters throughout the United States, with high school and college students working towards this cause. This expansion has really given us the opportunity to increase our audience and spread our message to a greater number of people.
One of our ultimate goals is to gather an extensive international network of young changemakers dedicated to our cause. We hope to connect this group directly with students in underdeveloped areas. This way, we will not just be providing crucial educational resources through increased fundraising, but we will also be able to work on specialized programs to help underprivileged students build the skills necessary for success in today’s world. We will be able to bring immeasurable opportunity to underprivileged students by connecting them to the world outside of their village. This is truly one of our major end goals for the organization.
How do you creatively advertise?
Anjali Gupta: When we first started School for a Village, our biggest challenge was building a brand – how could we convince others of the importance of our cause? Early on, we focused heavily on creating brochures, t-shirts, banners, and an Internet presence. From the beginning, we have been relying very heavily on the power of social media to reach vast audiences. Some of our best resources have been community groups on social media; these have included both STEM-focused groups and location-based groups.
We’ve also recently had the opportunity to speak about our cause on a few television and radio stations. This has given us the chance to spread our message to Americans nationwide. We also have the pleasure of working with our spokesperson, Chhavi Verg (Miss New Jersey USA 2017) to gain further exposure.
As we continue to expand, one of our main focuses is refining our brand, especially with the expansion of our team to include members with highly specialized expertise in technology, social media, fundraising and program development.
Who inspires you?
Anjali Gupta: My role model is Malala Yousafzai. She defied the Taliban in her quest for girls’ education. As an activist for education and women’s rights, her strength and resilience in the face of adversity is remarkable. She’s a testament to the power that each individual has to inspire change. I am inspired by her ability to motivate people regardless of age and background, and amazed that she is only three years older than me. She is the ultimate personification of a leader; a visionary and unbelievable communicator. I want to emulate her in this respect as I develop my non-profit organization, and in my day-to-day life as a leader. Beyond this, I hope to be strong and resilient as I tackle challenges in my career and strive to make a tangible difference in the world around me.
What were your biggest failure and biggest success? What did you learn from them?
Our biggest failure occurred when we were first getting this organization off of the ground. Despite being a 501(c)(3) certified organization, people often didn’t take us seriously because they didn’t believe that a team of high school students could bring change. However, we have seen a huge shift in perspective as we began to heavily market our cause. People began to believe in our dreams for this organization; we were no longer seen as JUST high school kids. The response we received was overwhelming. So many people began to support our cause through sponsorships and donations, and radio and TV stations even offered us free airtime. Within our first year, we had raised over 70% of the cost to build a science lab in the remote area of Bahjoi, India. I truly consider this as one of our greatest successes.
My journey as the founder of this organization has really taught me the power of my own voice and my strength as an individual. I am truly driven by the amazing work we do at School for a Village, the inspirational people I meet along the way, and our mission to create a better educational environment for students across the world.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
Ask. You’ll be surprised by how much you can get just by asking. Starting something can be daunting and it is okay to accept help along the way. The key to being a successful entrepreneur is not juggling hundreds of tasks at once. It’s about understanding how to best manage and use the different skills of your team to build your organization. If you believe strongly in your mission, those around you will follow. So, really find your passion and use that to make a difference.