AUSTIN (KXAN) — In May 2020, social justice protests emerged across the United States following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police officers. It was during that movement that a group of Austin high school students said they wanted to tackle disparities non-white and lower-income communities face.
Westwood High School students Vishnu Sreenivasan and Jonah Malinger launched Teens Who Care in May 2020, a nonprofit organization aimed at providing free school supplies to students from lower-income and predominantly non-white backgrounds. In an interview with KXAN Sunday, Sreenivasan said the nonprofit hopes to address funding disparities that particularly affect economically disadvantaged students.
Since its launch two years ago, Teens Who Care has provided school supplies to more than 11,000 students at approximately six schools in the Central Texas region.
“I think that’s it’s really important for students to be involved themselves, because we see what other people might be missing out on, and so we might have more privileged backgrounds by going to schools that are funded properly,” Sreenivasan said. “That’s the whole mission of Teens Who Care: it’s to get teens across America involved in basically ending the injustice that economically disadvantaged people face.”
Currently, approximately 30 student volunteer with Teens Who Care. As he prepares to start his senior year next month, Sreenivasan said he’s set his sights on building out the nonprofit’s volunteer network so it can continue long after his high school career ends.
Alongside that, he’s established some benchmark goals for the number of students Teens Who Care serves: He said he hopes the nonprofit can hit 25,000 students assisted in the next year, and a million students served within the next five.
Teens Who Care have provided supplies to students in one out-of-state school, located in Fayette, Mississippi. In addition to increasing the number of kids served, Sreenivasan said he wants to expand the nonprofit’s geographic footprint.
For Kaitlin Propes, Teens Who Care’s logistics coordinator, she said being a part of this organization has opened her eyes to the privilege of being able to access school supplies and how that impacts a student’s education.
“We’ve donated to a lot of early college high schools, and seeing them with not as much supplies as we have in our community right now? It really just makes me look at life in a different perspective,” she said.
When looking at achievement gaps and student success, Sreenivasan said a quality education sets the stage for many people’s adult and professional careers. He said his hope is that by removing barriers of access from school supplies, students can more readily focus on their learning and future plans.
“I think one of the most important things in closing the achievement gap in socioeconomic status groups is education. And I think it’s key to more opportunities,” he said. “And so we really want to help students across America, regardless of the color of their skin, or their socioeconomic status, to have those opportunities that other people have.”
To learn more about Teens Who Care or to donate, visit www.teenagerswhocare.org.