Branch Out

Fairfax County, Virginia

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Christina Paladeau,
Editor, Branch Out

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Shining a Spotlight on Teen Volunteers

 

Three cousins' ingenuity and altruism help the community stay healthy.


By Amy Chenaille, Youth Services Manager, Pohick Regional Library


Being a teen and a high schooler can be tough, let alone being one during a pandemic. But amid the upheaval and stress felt by people of all ages throughout 2020 and 2021, three local teens focused on helping others. Cousins Tarun Nandamudi (a senior at Centerville High School), Bhavya Pulugujju (a senior at Westfield High School), and Sreeja Gudiseva (a sophomore at Oakton High School) saw a need and took it upon themselves to fill it. Here they tell us about how they decided to build their own no-touch hand sanitizer dispensers to share with local nonprofits and public spaces.

Q: Why did you decide to do this project?

All: “To give back to the community. We noticed that a lot of community and nonprofit organizations, such as libraries and shelters, had hand sanitizer dispensers, but [those can] cost a lot of money. So, we wanted to try to create our own to donate. We raised $200 and have donated 5 or 6 hand sanitizer dispensers so far. We are working to donate more to other places like soup kitchens.”

Q: Where did you find the design?

Tarun and Bhavya with one of the hands-free, foot pedal-operated hand sanitizer stations they designed and constructed.All: “We saw a video and did research by looking at other designs, and we put together the best ones we saw to create it.”

Q: Why did you think to donate them to the library?

All: “We thought about heavily crowded places and where people touch a lot of stuff. Since we all share library books, that came to mind as a good place to have them [dispensers]. We thought this would increase our efforts in [helping everyone] stay safe.”

Q: Did working on this project inspire any future plans for you?

Taurn: “I was thinking about going to college for either medicine or engineering, but this made me realize I could combine the two. I am now looking at bio-engineering." 

Bhavya: “I always knew I wanted to go into medicine, and this emphasized that desire and [how] I find joy in helping other people.”

Sreeja: “While I still have a lot more time in high school, I think this helped me really see how much I enjoy community service and want to continue with it."

Thank you to Tarun, Bhavya, and Sreeja for working so hard on this great project and helping out your community!

Fairfax Virtual Assistant