Making a Lasting Impact

Tenley Rooney
A student's act of selflessness inspires a program

Throughout the Spring Term, a silver shuttle bus pulled up to the entryway at the Lindsay Center for Mathematics and Science several times a week to leave students from the Broken Ground School on the grounds for academic enrichment opportunities. The journey the vehicle took to get there is a far greater distance than the 15-minute drive from the Concord elementary school to Millville. It began thousands of miles away and a decade ago in Hyderabad, India.
 
Fourth Former Shreya Kavuru vividly remembers a visit to her grandparents’ home in the metropolis situated in south-central India, when she was six years old. On this trip, and subsequent journeys, the New Jersey-raised child visited a nearby girls orphanage, home to 30 youngsters her age and slightly older. “We developed this strong connection,” recalls Kavuru. “I taught them some dance. I put on some music, and I danced with them. They showed me their rooms and dancing." The group formed a bond through these shared interests, and by the time she left, the girls honored her as “Akka,” or sister in Telugu, one of the languages spoken in the region. This interaction laid the groundwork for the two passions in Kavuru’s life: dance and community outreach.
 
The two interests connected again last summer when Kavuru performed her Kuchipudi Raprangaram, one of several forms of classical Indian dance. The moment was years in the making – she has practiced the centuries-old art form since first grade. In a performance that lasted hours and involved multiple wardrobe changes, Kavuru displayed her mastery of movement in nine intricate routines, each telling a story about an Indian god and goddess. The recital marked a significant milestone for Kavuru; it was the completion of a long-held goal.
 
Her achievement also provided the opportunity to enhance the lives of others. Kavuru is active in the School’s Outreach Program. Though all students must volunteer during their time at SPS, Kavuru went beyond. She saved the monetary gifts she received from the more than 600 family and friends who attended her Kuchipudi Raprangaram and awarded it to the School for use in the Outreach Program’s Community Engagement Program. Those funds totaled upwards of $25,000 and funded the purchase of a silver 2019 Ford transit passenger van to help transport children from Broken Ground School to the School for a student-led mentorship program focused on reading, math, and science.

“We are grateful for donations such as the one from our very own Shreya Kavuru as it has allowed us to address transportation concerns,” said Community Outreach Director Kathy Taylor. “Now, we have a vehicle that is dedicated to Community Engagement, giving us the ability to bring community children to St. Paul’s and partake in the resources we have here.”

The gesture honors the bond Kavuru made years before at the orphanage while also supporting the School’s mission to serve the greater good. Many of the students from Broken Ground who participate in the program are from new immigrant or refugee families.
 
“Community service or just helping out is something that's been a part of my life since I was young, along with dance. So I guess since I've grown up with both things as part of my life, it just made sense to me to do something that combined them,” says Kavuru. “If I have the power to do something, then why can't I?”

Kavuru’s next endeavor will involve serving as a Fifth Form officer for the Missionary Society, the School’s oldest club while also rooted in community service, in the fall. She will also launch a student club for Indian dance that will introduce her SPS peers to the multifaceted culture’s various steps and rhythms.
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