A rainy night in November of 2019 that seemed inconsequential changed the trajectory of my high school experience. My mother and I were returning home, about to reach the Ben Franklin Bridge, when something caught my eye. Under a small elevated highway, there was a homeless encampment. Watching from my car window, I was awestruck as the people gathered their belongings and quickly moved together, huddled under the protection of the elevated road. Their items were getting blown into the road and destroyed in the rain, yet no one stopped to help them. At that moment, I realized the hardships those experiencing homelessness go through every day. It was tragic. Hundreds of cars had passed by, saw what I saw, but no one was doing anything to help.
Volunteering since I was six, I knew the power of service and the difference it can make. Where were the people to assist these community members that needed the most help? Seeing a problem, I was not raised to walk by and do nothing. I wanted to positively impact my community, especially those individuals that other people often walked past and neglected. Having the empathy to connect with the homeless and the desire to affect change, I felt obligated to do something. Having paid close attention to what was happening to those suffering in the rain as I drove by that pivotal rainy night, in January of 2020, I started H.E.L.P.I.N.G. The Homeless Backpacks.
Since its founding, I have donated 1,365 backpacks to multiple homeless shelters across the Philadelphia area. As my non-profit has grown, so has the worldwide support. I have leveraged my success to secure corporate partners and sponsors such as Bombas, T.D. Bank, and The New England Patriots. Being recognized by my state's politicians and featured in various publications has also facilitated the expansion of this endeavor. In addition, I received prize money for winning the first annual, Global Youth Entrepreneurship Competition, in 2020.
I hope to be able to increase the younger generation’s level of engagement by sharing my experience of the power of service. I have been a community volunteer since I was six years old; It’s who I am today and who I will continue to be in the future.