Neha Devineni, 17, of Atlanta, Georgia, a senior at Riverwood International Charter School, founded a nonprofit organization in 2017 that now encompasses more than 100 young people in several states and overseas who are working to improve the lives of children in need, particularly in the areas of nutrition, sanitation and education. On a trip to India, Neha saw unimaginable poverty. “What I witnessed was heartbreaking,” she said. “Children younger than me were going to work in fields and factories and living in makeshift tents on the sides of the street.” She returned home determined to help youth living in poverty and began by traveling around Georgia to assess the needs of children there. Two things stood out: the number of children living in poverty, and the lack of effort being made to improve their lives.
Envisioning an organization run by young people for young people, Neha founded ASA (for “Aspire, Serve, Achieve”). She spoke at schools and local events to challenge students to get involved and organized events for students to talk about poverty-related issues such as nutrition, sanitation and education. Gradually, students from other communities in Georgia, Michigan, Texas and as far away as India applied to open chapters and launch their own projects. One local project that Neha likes to highlight was her group’s efforts to pay for the funeral expenses of a classmate’s mother, and to start an education fund so the classmate could attend school in Atlanta. Another was an initiative to raise funds to buy a car and provide money for food and other expenses for a teenager who was trying to keep her young siblings from being sent to foster homes.