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Making a Difference

Mason students are creating new projects and initiatives to spread positivity in the community.

Dharma Patel, a rising senior at Mason High School (MHS), started a project to create a positive impact at her school by painting inspiring messages on ceiling tiles. She raised almost $2,000 to complete the project.

What inspired you to start this project?

The bathroom is where students go to be alone and get away from their peers. Escaping to the bathroom just to see hateful messages engraved on the stall doors is not something anyone wants to see. I once walked in and heard soft cries in the bathroom. I asked what was wrong and the student was heartbroken over her peers bullying her. This same thing happens to so many students and no one is aware of it. I hoped that by adding words of affirmation to the tiles, it would impact at least one person and make them smile. 

What was the process like to organize the project?

It took me months to organize. I started by painting one of my own tiles in my basement to see if it would work. Then I planned out the details of the pilot bathroom. I got it approved by my principal, Mr. Dodd. He loved the idea and helped me contact the janitors to communicate with them about the project. I gathered eight of my friends to help with the first bathroom and we spent eight hours painting tiles. We sent out a survey and got an overwhelming amount of positive responses from other students, so we decided to complete the other bathrooms in the school.

The next step was to paint the rest of the tiles. We planned to paint 100 in one day. It took two days for us to finish the whole project, and by the end, we had finished more than what we had planned: 128 tiles, 32 bathrooms, and two classrooms. 

Amidst the shortage of protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, Rising MHS senior Jiahao Guo founded the Coronavirus Relief Project ( The group has raised $10,000 to donate masks to hospitals and other organizations. Jiahao has been recognized by several media organizations, including Live with Kelly and Ryan and NPR.

What made you decide to start the Coronavirus Relief Project?

I started the project in January because the virus was skyrocketing and rapidly spreading in Wuhan. We initiated in-person fundraisers in schools to raise money for hospitals in China. Back then there were only a few cases here, so much of the American population, especially in Ohio, didn't notice. After schools were closed, however, the epicenter shifted to the United States. As China slowly recovered, masks became more available to the public, so we started buying from China to donate here in the Cincinnati area.

What challenges did you face when starting and continuing this project?

It's been incredibly stressful with a lot to consider. We’ve had to rapidly fundraise, communicate with members in China to purchase masks, and connect with the media to raise awareness. This entire operation was run by high schoolers, primarily my friends, who were inexperienced, so it was a good learning opportunity for them and for me as a leader. The situation has been very dynamic, so we’ve had to adapt to new changes. With the exception of our first donation to UC Health, all of our donations were made to organizations that explicitly reached out to us, which highlights the need for these masks.

“As China slowly recovered, masks became more available to the public, so we started buying from China to donate here in the Cincinnati area.” —Jiahao Guo

When she was just nine years old, Rishika Jeyaprakash, an incoming freshman at MHS, founded Little Helpers (, a group centered around service projects. Rishika has since raised over $12,000 for service projects,  was named Ohio's Top Middle Level Youth Volunteer by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in 2020 and received the President's Volunteer Service Gold Award in 2018 and 2019.

What made you decide to start Little Helpers?

When I was younger, I learned about the difficulties people may go through and how blessed I am. I founded Little Helpers with the motto of getting inspired and inspiring others to help. After completing more than 50 service projects, I began to focus more on donating toys to hospitals.

What challenges have you run into while serving the community and how have you overcome them?

At times, it is challenging to volunteer due to age restrictions. I love to include kids of all ages, but several organizations do not allow kids under 14. I started to plan my own service projects that anyone can participate in, such as making blankets, visiting retirement homes, making cards for first responders and hosting toy drives.

What does it mean to you to be recognized for your work with Little Helpers?

Helping the community truly comes from the bottom of my heart. Recognitions show me that my love to serve does not go unnoticed, and it is a huge motivation for me to impact more lives. More than the recognition from different organizations, simple notes of thanks touch me and remind me that this is my true calling. 

  • Rishika Jeyaprakash
  • Dharma Patel
  • Jiahao Guo