Shreeya Arora is a junior at the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky. She believes in driving positive outcomes through technology. From increasing the efficiency of the response to natural disasters to developing a sustainable transportation service for new refugees at no cost, her love for computer science has allowed her to make a change in her community. Along with coding and graphic design, civic engagement is also important to Shreeya as it allows her to learn more about the communities she serves.
We talk with Shreeya about the awesome ways that she is using technology to change the world, and her involvement in the #Digital4Good conference which is focused on empowering positive tech and media use. You can check out #Digital4Good live from Facebook HQ on 9.16.19 at icanhelpdeletenegativity.org
“... it's really important that teachers encourage students once they find something interesting in class to do more about it. So at the end of the day, if a lesson got someone really motivated, and an issue, they shouldn't just go home and not worry about it anymore, but maybe research more about it so then they can learn more because they want to learn more”
— Shreeya Arora
- John: Welcome to the CharacterStrong Podcast, where we have conversations on school culture and leadership. Today, we're talking with Shreeya Arora. Shreeya is a junior at the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky. She believes in driving positive outcomes through technology.
- John: From increasing the efficiency of the response to natural disasters to developing a sustainable transportation service for new refugees at no cost, her love for computer science has allowed her to make a change in her community. Along with coding and graphic design, civic engagement is also important to Shreeya as it allows her to learn more about the communities she serves. Are you ready? Let's get CharacterStrong with Shreeya Arora.
- John: All right. It is so exciting to have Shreeya Arora on the CharacterStrong Podcast with us today. Thank you for taking the time to be with us.
- Shreeya: Of course. Good afternoon.
- John: So first of all, Shreeya, where are you? Where are you talking today? Where are you calling from?
- Shreeya: I'm from Louisville, Kentucky.
- John: Nice. I saw that you're a junior at the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky. So tell me a little bit about the academy.
- Shreeya: So, it's a residential STEM high school that takes place at Western Kentucky University. So as we're completing high school, we're also enrolled as college students.
- John: That's awesome. Super exciting. Well, we were connected to you through #ICanHelp, good friends of ours. They do amazing work supporting schools and communities. And maybe tell us a little bit about how you are connected to them.
- Shreeya: So, #ICanHelp is a movement to decrease negativity online. And so one of my friends actually saw their profile come up on Instagram, and she shared it with me, because they were having, they had a competition this year called Digital for Good, which empowers positive technology use. So she knew that I'm really interested in technology and using it to drive positive outcomes. So she sent it to me, and then I just looked more into it and got super into it.
- John: That's exciting. So then, you're obviously doing some great work in that space, and then were recognized by them. So maybe talk to me a little about, I mean, you were recognized for this work, and it was related to, connected to increasing the efficiency of the response to natural disasters. Is that correct? Is that what your recognition was for?
- Shreeya: Correct.
- John: So, tell me more about that. That sounds obviously not only a huge need, but super exciting. What is the work that you've been doing and were recognized for?
- Shreeya: So, in fifth grade, for a science fair, I created this mobile app solution called Tracking Our Heroes. So it's all about saving lives and getting help faster when it's needed most. It reduces their time that is spent to get first responders on site at the time of a natural disaster, because the current process takes too long. So first responders can pre-register on the app and emergency managers can solicit certified users with just a click of a button.
- John: Wow. So tell me, then, where did this idea first come about? Right? And what did it take to put that together?
- Shreeya: So as I was saying, in fifth grade, we have the science fair, and I was kind of stuck on what to do until they had these prompts for us. And they were like, "Why don't you look into natural disasters?" And I got so interested about hurricanes like Katrina, for example, and how inefficient the current process was to increasing the number of responders on site, and the problems with getting out of state first responders to be able to volunteer.
- Shreeya: And currently, it can take up to two weeks for first responders to even be allowed to start working, because the identification process takes so long. So I then wanted to create a solution to help this, but I didn't know how to code. So I taught myself, watching YouTube videos and reading articles and books, and I just got so into it, and I worked the hardest I've ever worked, because over time, I just became so passionate about the problem and my solution.
- John: It's pretty powerful. And I just want to zero in on this last part that you shared, because many educators listen to this podcast. Thousands across the country. And there's something that I just want to make sure that we don't miss. And it was that last line, right? I didn't know how to code and so I started to teach myself. I started watching YouTube videos. You started doing all the different things that you needed to do to learn this piece, and zero in for me.
“...there's so many things in our world, right, that are problems to be solved, solutions to be found, right? And part of me wonders right here is a very real world thing. We're not just talking about a scenario or roleplaying class. Here is a legitimate problem that you have taken on and are helping to solve.”
— John Norlin
- John: You said, did you say, "I've never worked so hard because I was passionate about it?"
- Shreeya: So passionate.
- John: What would you say to an educator? Because I think that connects to everything that we do. What would you want to remind teachers across our country about that specific piece? Right? Because 30 years ago, in education, it was just all about information. If I'm the teacher, I'm the keeper of the information. Right? I give you the information, you learn, right, so to speak. And that's not the same anymore.
- John: Like what you just said, right there was, you found that information. When you are passionate about it, it was there, accessible for you to then obtain, learn, start to put into action. So talk to me a little bit about the role then of teachers on how we might look at education a little bit differently, knowing what you went through with that experience.
- Shreeya: So, I think it's really important that teachers encourage students once they find something interesting in class to do more about it. So at the end of the day, if a lesson got someone really motivated, and an issue, they shouldn't just go home and not worry about it anymore, but maybe research more about it so then they can learn more because they want to learn more.
- Shreeya: So it's just that at home passion that comes, because you're interested in a topic and you don't just stop there. Because I could have just stopped this in fifth grade, but I've been working on it for five years, because I didn't give up. I didn't let that interest not turn into a passion.
- John: Yeah. And there's so many things in our world, right, that are problems to be solved, solutions to be found, right? And part of me wonders right here is a very real world thing. We're not just talking about a scenario or roleplaying class. Here is a legitimate problem that you have taken on and are helping to solve.
- John: So what has happened then from that? I mean, you've been working on this for five years. How is this being implemented now? Who are you being connected with? How are you seeing this now play out in action?
- Shreeya: So throughout the years, I've just been entering different science fairs and different competitions. And last year, I actually won a competition with the US Capitol building. So I was working with the house of representatives, and actually got my solution on display at the Capitol building for a year. So it was displayed to thousands of visitors, and I'm currently working to get connected with the federal emergency management agency or FEMA, so that the solution can be used.
- John: That's pretty impressive. I just want to applaud you, compliment you on the great work that you're doing. And here's one of the things I do know about driven people. My guess is that this isn't the only project you're working on. So as we are kind of closing down this shorter in nature of podcasts, we usually keep them around 10 minutes. Maybe talk to us about a couple of things.
- John: One, what are some of the other things that you're working on? If that's true, I'm going to bet that it is. And two, how can people connect with you? How can they learn more about the work that you're doing, right? Where would you direct them?
- Shreeya: So this past year, I've been working on a solution with some people from my school to increase the community of immigrants and refugees in our state, because we have double the national average of incoming refugees and immigrants. So we created a transportation service that allows for safe and affordable, sustainable transportation using Uber and just the community.
- John: That's fantastic.
- Shreeya: And then for Digital for Good, which is the conference that I was honored at this year, we're actually having a conference that's going to be taking place at Facebook headquarters. And so if you would like to hear more about my project as well as the other incredible honorees, you can watch a live stream of the event on Monday, September 16th at icanhelpdeletenegativity.org.
- John: Wow. Well, first of all, I'll be putting that on my calendar. Say it one more time for me. September 16th.
- Shreeya: Yes. Icanhelpdeletenegativity.org.
- John: Okay, and that's where you can find it. You can watch live. It's going to be at Facebook headquarters. Not only hear about the great work that you're doing, Shreeya, but also other people who are sharing their ideas. Right? And being recognized at that conference.
- Shreeya: Yes, definitely.
- John: That's wonderful. Well, one, thank you for the work that you're doing. I can't wait to be continuing to follow your path, and I just want to really end with that reminder to the educators listening, of what happens when we give students real world problems to be solved. Real world issues, situations to help unleash that passion.
- John: Because when we find something that we're passionate about, just as you shared so beautifully, it is amazing how much hard work that we will put in to make that difference. So thank you for the difference that you're making. We're grateful for you taking the time, and best of luck, best wishes as you continue to make a difference in our world.
- Shreeya: Thank you.
- John: Thank you for listening to the CharacterStrong Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to share on your social media. Please rate, review, and make sure to subscribe for future episodes on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play. To learn more about CharacterStrong and how we are supporting schools, visit characterstrong.com. Thanks for listening. Make it a great day.
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The CharacterStrong Team is a partnership of educators, speakers, and students who believe in creating sustainable change in schools and helping young people develop the skills of service, kindness, and empathy.