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, psychology and allergy/immunology, and currently leads a DNA Research Club at her school in collaboration with Rutgers University. Anjali also works with several student-run nonprofits. She has been recognized for her work as a Siemens Competition Semifinalist and New Jersey Winner of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award.
How did you get to where you are today?
School for a Village was inspired by my grandfather. He advocated very heavily for education because he saw in it a unique ability to lift entire communities up. He felt that education was empowering and believed that any ordinary person, when given the tools of education, could emerge as an independent citizen ready to change the world. He always credited his education for bringing his family out of poverty.
I only really began to understand the unique ability of education to completely change lives after I entered high school. I realized that education, at its core, isn’t about mathematics or history; it’s closely tied to general developmental goals such as 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. So, I made it my mission to provide these students with this opportunity.
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. 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. We are currently building a science laboratory at Vidya Mandir School in Bahjoi, India.
My dream for this organization is to continue reaching a greater number of students around the world. As a completely student-run organization, we have recently grown to include several chapters throughout the United States. One of our ultimate goals is to grow this network of chapters to an extensive international group 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.
I’ve been so lucky in the support I’ve received towards this cause – from donors to spots on TV/radio stations to sponsorships. We also have the pleasure of working with our spokesperson, Chhavi Verg (Miss New Jersey USA 2017) to gain further exposure. 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.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
At the beginning of my Junior year, I tore a ligament in my wrist while playing tennis. After trying a number of noninvasive treatments to no avail, I decided to undergo a wrist surgery. I lost much of my independence for a while, and I wasn’t able to type or write. I was also unable to do many of the activities that brought me happiness like dance and tennis, and most work and school-related endeavors took double the amount of time. To be honest, there were definitely times in the process when I really just felt like the world was against me. The treatments that we were trying weren’t working and I couldn’t find a way to bring my life back to normal.
Throughout my childhood, I’ve heard the statement: “where there is a will, there is a way.” However cliché, I learned what this means through my injury. Instead of getting down when I couldn’t do what I wanted, I tried to find some other avenue to accomplish my goal. I learned to modify plans and adapt quickly to new circumstances. I learned that there are certain things in life that can’t be changed. I can only change how I react. I realized that my injury didn’t have to be barrier for me. Sure, it made things harder, but it didn’t make them impossible. And that’s all that matters.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
Build on your successes. Each time you accomplish something, however small, use that feeling as fuel to keep going. Go one step at a time, set doable goals, and then celebrate a little each time you move forward. Most importantly, remember your overall purpose and goal. Remember that each challenge or difficulty that you encounter along the way is much smaller than YOU.
It sometimes helps me to take a step back from the minute details of what I’m doing to look at the bigger picture. It helps to remind me of why I am doing what I am doing – I truly believe that School for a Village is making for better educational environments across the world, and this is something that is more important than any setback.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
When you start something, jump into it wholeheartedly. Above all, YOU must believe in your idea and in your mission. Know that you are more than capable of changing the world – and don’t be afraid to try. Remember your mission and your purpose and success will follow.
How do we get more women leaders?
The key to getting more women leaders is showing women their power as individuals. So often, women are judged solely off of their gender and it can be discouraging. Through my position as President of a DNA Research Club at school and Treasurer of Math League, one of my biggest focuses has been encouraging my female classmates to get involved. Showing women their ability to be successful in these fields has been essential to building confidence. And this confidence is absolutely key to bringing about more women leaders.