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Making an Impact

Meet 8 Chandler Teens Who Are Making the World a Better Place

Jay Jhaver, 17

“I have seen too many of our nation’s heroes on the side of the road in the hot Arizona summers, begging for something to eat or drink. Nobody who fought to protect our lives and our country should be struggling to survive,” says Jay Jhaver.

As he began looking into the numbers, he says he found “that veterans are 50% more likely to become homeless compared to other Americans. There are over 67,000 homeless veterans currently in America.”

He also found that many had mental health issues.

So, Jhaver decided to do something to help. He founded Teens4Vets.org, a nonprofit dedicated to helping veterans get back on their feet and as a way to offer them social support and interaction. The organization does everything from organize Bingo events to provide meals and clothing, and volunteer at various organizations.

“We aim to ensure these veterans know they are appreciated and to keep the legacy of their service alive,” he says. “We want to motivate and encourage teens to participate in being a solution to the crisis, as well.”

Teens4Vets.org welcomes volunteers of all ages and is always accepting donations.

Ravi Pierce, 18

Ravi Pierce was very busy over the last year. When he wasn’t in school, he spent time volunteering in the community through Boys Team Charity, a volunteer service organization—to the tune of more than 250 hours.

In fact, it was so much time that Pierce was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Gold Award, a national honor.

“I have always believed that all anyone needs to do to see the good in the world is to be the good in the world. It doesn’t matter how big or small an act of kindness is. Either way, it’s bound to make someone’s day better,” he says.

While he volunteered with a variety of organizations, including ICAN and Aris Foundation, he spent most of his time with Feed My Starving Children and United Food Bank.

Of receiving the award, Pierce, who is heading to Arizona State University in the fall, says “It honestly felt unreal.”

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Luke Johnston and His Classmates

 

Third-grader Luke Johnston recently received a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa, which is progressive vision loss. He mom shares that he is expected to be legally blind by the time he’s a teenager.

The condition is caused by Bardet-Biedl Syndrome.

When his classmates and friends found out, they wanted to do something to help. They brainstormed ideas, and that’s how a group of 9- and 10-year-olds came to hold the Lemonade for Luke lemonade stand fundraiser in June in the Fonte Al Sole community, to raise money for research for a cure. They all came together to make it happen, bringing needed items like the lemonade stand, making signs, making the lemonade, baking cookies and making rings to sell—and more. Some of the children included McKay Earl, Livienne Elder, Sebastian Jones, Lilian Chan, Jillian Light, Piper Palmer, Jordan Orchoa, Erin Larkins, and Easton Jones.

Not only did they sell out of lemonade and raise $5,000, but one of the families matched the amount, bringing the day’s total to $10,000.

“We are so grateful,” says Kristina Johnston, Luke’s mother. “Luke was so touched by all these kids coming together for him.”

Jessica Burke, 17

“The Native Health Cookbook is a project I developed for my Girl Scout Gold Award,” explains Jessica Burke. “Native Health is a resource for urban Indigenous families and others facing obstacles to health and wellness services. The cookbook not only provides recipes that utilize the common commodity foods families receive through the food pantry, but also includes evidence-based diagrams and guides to help readers make more nutritious choices.”

Burke created the cookbook after speaking with food pantry coordinators and realizing that they expressed a common issue faced by families—a lack of knowledge on how to utilize certain ingredients.

She developed and tested the recipes herself, and took inspiration from past food pantry cookbooks such as the Stockbox Cookbook.

The cookbook and the Girl Scouts aren’t the only ways Burke gives back. She is also a member of National Charity League and Chandler Service Team Flower Girls, has a food science blog (Otium), develops recipes for Taste of Homes and Food52, and more.

The cookbook is available on OtiumEats.com.

Zoya Siddiqui, 12

Zoya Siddiqui was one of just 29 kids across the nation chosen to be a Kid Reporter for the Scholastic Kids Press.

She was selected based on her attention to detail, interviewing skills, and writing proficiency.

Kid Reporters cover local, national, and world events, and have interviewed influential figures such as former First Lady and President of the United States Michelle and Barack Obama, and prima ballerina, author, and actress Misty Copeland.

The articles are published online and in select issues of Scholastic Classroom Magazines—which reach more than 25 million students nationwide.

“One of my favorite stories I covered was about Malala Yousafzai, a human rights advocate,” Siddiqui shares. “I attended an event in Phoenix where she spoke and took notes on her interview to write about in an article. She is one of the people that I look up to the most, so it was amazing.”

She also loves books and reviews them on Instagram (@bookreviewsbyzoya).

Aditya Gupta, 17

 

Both of Aditya Gupta’s grandfathers had Parkinson’s disease and dementia, he shares, and watching their journeys sparked an interest in seeing how others also handled neurodegenerative diseases.

So, when Parkland Memory Care opened near him, he reached out to them.

He began volunteering in 2019 and has been doing so ever since.

He does activities with the residents, including word games, memory recall activities, bowling, and more. He also helps the staff set up for meals and generally helps wherever he can. He performed a comedy show for the staff and residents, and even set up a concert for the residents.

 “I want to be part of a community based on cooperation and helping others unconditionally,” says Aditya, who wants to be a doctor to help others. “That is why I feel it is valuable to give back. Essentially, treating others how you want to be treated is how I like to go about my life.”

Arnav Nigam, 16

“If every young person takes a tiny initiative, we can solve [some of the world’s] problems,” says Arnav Nigam.

Nothing Nigam has done so far is tiny.

He co-founded the Arizona chapter of a nonprofit organization Fremont Debate Academy in 2022, then later launched his own organization, SpeakUpAz.

“Rather than simply teaching debate at middle schools, we wanted to found long-lasting programs, design curriculums, and most importantly, expand outside of solely catering towards speech and debate competitors,” he explains. “One of the goals of the organization is to have all youth proficient in public speaking.

The organization founds debate programs at middle schools; holds seminars regarding simplified policy discussion; and hosts speaking activities, spreading awareness around key societal issues affecting youth.

Nigam is also chairman of the Chandler Mayor’s Youth Commission, leads his debate team, and leads all the economics-related clubs at his school—among other activities.

He has big goals for the future, including establishing a central forum where Arizona's youth can voice their concerns on societal issues in safe spaces.

Aashika Dupati, 17

Aashika Dupati explains that She’s the First, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering underrepresented women and assisting with the movement of trying to provide all women with an education, is “close to her heart.”

“I've seen firsthand the educational disparities between men and women,” she says. “Where my family is from in India, many women don't get the chance to pursue an education due to low finances and housekeeping priorities, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity I was given to receive a wonderful education.”

Not only does she belong to the organization’s chapter at her school, but she is its president.

This hopeful future physician also finds time to be part of the Chandler Mayor’s Youth Commission, is co-founder and co-captain of her school’s Science Olympiad team, is a volunteer at a local cardiology clinic, and does research at ASU (with a soon-to-be-published paper). She also plays competitive tennis.

  • Photo by Lindsay Borg
  • Photo by Lindsay Borg
  • Photo by Lindsay Borg