PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — For many, the coronavirus pandemic has left them hopeless or scared of what the future might hold.
Many groups and individuals throughout the area have stepped up by making masks, delivering food to older populations or simply wearing masks to protect others.
Shruthi Ananth, an incoming senior at Westview High School in Portland, is taking it a step further. As part of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency’s youth preparedness council, the 17-year-old has raised $50,000 nationwide for COVID-19 relief funds.
“As soon as I heard about the virus, that initial fear kicked in,” said Ananth, who started the fundraising initiative back in mid-March. “I then realized that everyone is probably in the same shoes as me, so there’s probably some way I can help. And there’s a lot of people with different backgrounds not only in Oregon but across the nation. So, if I can help most of those backgrounds out, that’d be great.”
FEMA’s YPC compromises about 10 high school students who have a passion for emergency preparedness and natural disaster relief.
“They’re very prominent members in their community,” said Ananth, describing the group. “They do a lot of community service. So, these kids really stand out in that sense, and they work with national security experts in America and their community.”
Ananth first became interested in community outreach and preparedness when she learned about the Cascadia subduction zone. The mega-fault runs from Canada, through Oregon and Washington, and then into northern California. If the fault were to rupture, experts have predicted a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that would devastate the region.
The Westview High School student remembers feeling fear about the possible earthquake, but she realized she could help. She took the same approach towards the COVID-19 crisis.
“There’s a lot of people that are going to be affected by COVID-19 that don’t have the funds to take care of themselves,” explained Ananth. “Also, there are these frontline workers who are dealing with this virus on a day-to-day basis. To be able to give them supplies, you obviously need money for that.”
Ananth said it took her about three or four weeks to raise the $50,000.
“Just disbelief,” Ananth recalled about the moment she realized the dollar figure. “I didn’t know I could do that. … I was very grateful for all the help.”
How did she raise the money?
“I did a lot of safety fairs in camps (including) online,” said Ananth. “I would post on Facebook and Instagram and do online certifications. I would work with Red Cross, and we would get people certified for CPR training and first aid certification via livestreams. They would then send recordings back and through that we would fundraise.”
As for where the money is going, Ananth has some organizations in mind. Some of the money will go towards veterans’ organizations and various homeless shelters, she said.
“I had an internship last summer and I met a lot of veterans, and they were telling me about how they experienced homelessness,” Ananth said. “The places that I have a personal connection to were places that I felt that I could help the most. But obviously, I would like to help all of them but there’s so many.”
While Ananth figures out how to distribute the funds, she says it’s important for younger people to step up during a time of crisis.
“A lot of us just look up to our elders which is obviously a good thing, but I think seeing your peers do something so impactful on make other kids realize that they can do something to benefit their community as well,” she said. “And that’s pretty important.”
Ananth also has some advice for students looking to help their community.
“The first thing is just reaching out to a smaller circle, just sharing your idea,” said Ananth.
She added, “By sharing your idea with your peers and family, you can get a lot of feedback from there.”
The high school senior hopes to one day major in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania or the University of Texas at Austin.
“This pandemic has made me realize that … it’s more important now more than ever to have a career in the science field,” she said.
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