Eagan High School student Sylesh Volla has no problem rattling off facts and statistics about the pervasive corruption in Indian politics.
The subject—and other socio-political issues facing the county—hit close to home for the teenager, whose parents were born in India. But even if he didn't have the family connection, Volla would still be concerned. The effects of globalization mean problems in one country can affect other nations, he sagely observes.
All of which is why Volla to become a member of the U.S. India Initiative, a two-year-old endeavor led by his older sister, Viroopa Volla.
Viroopa, a 20-year-old Eagan High School graduate studying economics and health at Harvard University, is the president of the initiative. The group is an international organization that uses social media and annual conferences to connects high school and college students in far-flung chapters across India and the U.S. Group members focus on issues like transportation, health, pollution and education in India.
And now, the initiative is moving to add Minnesota high schoolers to its roster.
Earlier this year, Viroopa began establishing chapters in schools across the Twin Cities suburbs, including groups in Eagan, Eden Prairie and Rosemount. Viroopa has given Minnesota those recently-recruited high schoolers, like Sylesh, a special assignment.
Together, the high school students—with help from their older peers—are producing IMPACT Magazine, a 50-page, semi-annual publication that will be distributed to chapters across the initiative.
Last week, Viroopa hosted a networking event at the Eagan Community Center to recruit volunteer writers and editors for the magazine. The publication will include a bevy of articles written by high school students, and is dedicated to the idea of social entrepreneurship, Viroopa said.
Social entrepreneurship, Viroopa explained, seeks to harvest the energy of entrepreneurs to address social issues.
Viroopa, who was initially inspired to join the U.S. India Initiative after taking a college course on southeast Asia, hopes the magazine will help the high school students involved realize their potential to inspire change.
“What I really do hope the high school students take out of this is that even though they're high school students, they can make a huge impact," Viroopa said. "It’s amazing. If you just push them and give them resources to understand what they’re capable of, they’ll take the initiative to go even further."
Sylesh Volla, who plans to serve as a co-editor of the magazine and write a handful of articles on political corruption, is equally excited to make a difference.
“It’s just one of those rare opportunities," Volla said. "Maybe someone [reading the magazine] will think they’re interested in issue and volunteer through the chapters."