Three orphanages in India are better because of the baking skills of Gayathri Cheran of Burke, Va., a sophomore majoring in psychology and human development in the College of Science, with a minor in leadership and social change in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. It began as a leadership class fundraising project. Thousands of cupcakes and $1,500 later, Cheran visited two of the orphanages to see the outcome of her efforts. "Aside from a strong desire to make a tangible difference, I didn’t begin the project with any real expectations, but it turned out to be tremendously successful," Cheran said. "It also helped me realize my passion, and the possibilities of what I could do if I set my heart to it."
Cheran received an Aspire! Award for her dedication to service, her embodiment of the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), and her intentional efforts to impact her world positively. As a freshman, she was a member of the S.E.R.V.E. (Students Engaging and Responding through Volunteer Resources) living/learning community, a residential theme housing program that focuses on personal growth and volunteer work. It defined her experience at Virginia Tech, and involved her in service opportunities locally and internationally. Now she is committed to sustainable social change to alleviate world hunger and poverty by providing support and opportunities to orphans and underprivileged children in third world countries. Her service includes a trip to the Dominican Republic to help construct a women's center and to help paint a children’s hospital ward. During Thanksgiving break she will be part of a YMCA at VT group participating in the Student Homeless Challenge on the streets of Washington, D.C. "Also, very soon I will have the chance to work with children through the AmeriCorps Advance Program, which I am very excited for," Cheran said.
In addition to helping others, Cheran educates her peers about the needs outside of their own immediate environment. "In each person, the potentiality of mankind is reborn," she said. "As Mahatma Gandhi would say, you must be the change you wish to see in the world. Each month I put away some savings. One day when I have enough, I will return to India and open up a home of my own for orphaned children and anyone else who needs me."