The high schoolers from across the county band together to help those in need
People for Urban and Rural Education (PURE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing opportunities to economically disadvantaged children, with chapters all across the U.S. One of these chapters lies in Fairfax County, where a group of high schoolers have banded together to form PURE Youth Fairfax.
Currently, the group is gathering menstrual products for schools in the area, which member Ananya Gottumukkala said is going to help those who might not be able to afford these sanitary supplies.
She also noted that while this is taking place in the Fairfax County community, PURE Youth Fairfax does work to help people across the world — student ambassador Sneha Nandakumar said that the group is running a clothing drive in support of Afghan refugees.
A number of group members joined PURE as a result of their friends being in the organization — with some of these high schoolers having family friends in New Jersey encouraging them to join the program.
“When I know I have a PURE meeting, it just brings a smile to my face because I know I can do something to impact the world,” Nandakumar said.
From PURE, the student ambassadors have been able to gain confidence, specifically when it comes to approaching others and speaking to people they may not know.
“My experience here has been very positive. It allowed me to communicate to more people, like public speaking ... going out, asking people to donate door-to-door … It’s been very nice,” Sai Nallani, who was new to volunteering before PURE, said. He has been part of the organization for about five months now.
For many PURE Youth Fairfax members, the best part of being in the organization is getting to help other people who are in need and do not have the resources for their necessities.
“Honestly, it kind of feels like nothing like I’ve ever done before. Nothing that I’ve done before this has really had such an impact on people … It’s just stuff I’m doing here that is potentially going to help someone’s life who is so different from mine — because we’re so privileged, right? So people who don’t have that kind of privilege, we could help them like that,” member Manya Mmidi said.
Being part of a group can have its challenges — but even with the stress and the time commitment, these students all noted that it’s worth it.
“There are obstacles — as there is with everything. You know, it’s a time commitment, it sometimes gets in the way of my schoolwork. But at the end of the day it’s so worth it because, like I said, we are making a difference. And I guess that just erases like all the stress and all of the sacrifices that I’ve had to make … it’s really rewarding,” Sadhana Boppudi said.
The group’s past projects include sales to raise money for kids in St. Lucia and even donating masks during the pandemic.
On October 23, the students and their families — along with Rachna Sizemore Heizer, Hema Kanthamneni and Phyllis Simon as guests — gathered at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park Amphitheater to celebrate their accomplishments in an award ceremony.
There, each PURE member was able to speak about the work they do, specifically citing the drives over this past summer, and being sure to thank their parents for providing so much support.
“For you to take your time ... to give back to others is a real gift and it says a lot about who you are,” Sizemore Heizer said to the PURE members during the event.