Visali and Thulasi’s #countdowntocollege
This story received so much love on Facebook, we decided to blog about it too!
For those of you who are new, Meet Visali and Thulasi!
These two young women are among Shanti Bhavan’s star achievers who make us proud by their will to grow and excel. Visali has secured an admission for further studies at Grinnell College, and Thulasi is going to The College of Idaho! Here’s their story so far:
EPISODE 1/ 2 : VISALI
Excerpts from the speech Visali gave during her welcome event in Seattle.
“Sometimes something happens that changes the course of your life.”
It was uncommon for a girl to attend school in my community, as is the case, unfortunately, in most of India.
I was three-and-a-half. On that day, a distant relative mentioned a school called Shanti Bhavan; they said there was work to be had there. Immediately, my father and some of my uncles went to see the place. Soon after, they were working at the banana plantation owned by the school, and I found myself attending my first day of school.
“I had never been to Disneyland, but this was how would have imagined it.”
I clearly remember the day that I arrived. The bright colors, the lush greenery, and smiling faces made Shanti Bhavan seem magical. I had never been to Disneyland, but this was how would have imagined it. My mother told me she was surprised by the way I responded to everything. She said that I was without fear; I ran to a bed, picked up the doll that was laying there, and looked back to show her, smiling. She and my father watched as I met my classmates for the first time, uncertain but excited. Little did we know, we were about to embark on a fourteen-year journey – an experience that was going to change our lives forever.
“Dance and soccer became my passions, a way to express myself and work together with my classmates.”
Growing up at Shanti Bhavan meant loving dorm caretakers, understanding teachers, and meeting fascinating volunteers. Our classes were equal parts challenging and engaging, an environment that allowed us to thrive academically. I loved all of my subjects, but I was especially drawn to biology. In addition to academics, Shanti Bhavan emphasizes extracurricular activities. Dance and soccer became my passions, a way to express myself and work together with my classmates, whether choreographing a new move or testing a new offensive strategy.
“I was inspired to dream bigger, hoping to make a positive impact not only in my village but in many other communities around the world.”
Being an “SB kid,” as we affectionately called ourselves, also opened up many opportunities for us. One of my opportunities came when I got to visit the US to receive Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year Award. In 2014, I was honored along with nine other young women from around the world who are fighting for a good education through extreme adversity. I spoke not only for the girls present but for all girls around the world when I accepted the award on their behalf. While the award ceremony itself was an amazing experience, the best part was the new hunger it awoke in me. After visiting the US I knew there was more of the world I wanted to see and I was inspired to dream bigger, hoping to make a positive impact not only in my village but in many other communities around the world.
“I’d been accepted into Grinnell!”
A few years later, a representative from Grinnell College came to campus and spoke about studying in the US. The selection process for an elite school like Grinnell is rigorous. I wasn’t certain whether or not I would be accepted. But I knew I had to try.
This spring, Ajit, the Director of Operations for Shanti Bhavan, called me into his office, saying he had something he wanted to show me. I was expecting him to share a news article, or maybe something on Facebook. As I glanced at his laptop screen, reading the first sentence of the letter he’d pulled up, I let out a shriek. I’d been accepted into Grinnell! I was shocked and excited but continued reading. Other staff members began trickling into the room, congratulating me. The news spread like wildfire and the whole school buzzed with electricity.
It wasn’t until later, when I was alone, that I began to process the overwhelming news. I knew what an accomplishment this acceptance was, but it also began to sink in that going to Grinnell would mean leaving behind everything I knew and loved. More importantly, I felt in that moment that I didn’t deserve this opportunity. I thought of my family and whether they would be happy or proud to hear the news. This was the chance I’d been waiting for, but I was afraid of taking it.
“The values they ( at Shanti Bhavan) emphasized all my life would guide me on this new adventure.”
As I continued to process the news, I realized an important truth. Shanti Bhavan has equipped me to take on the world. They made sure that I was ready to face any challenge. The values they emphasized all my life would guide me on this new adventure. More importantly, they helped me find my identity and voice, and the self-confidence to believe that I could excel at Grinnell.
Graduation solidified that I was about to end a chapter of my life and start another. Everything that I had learnt would finally be put to the test, as I left my Disneyland for an unknown world.
“I stand before you today, excited and a little nervous to take on the world, starting with this next chapter at Grinnell.”
The reality is, I am here today in an unfamiliar country, and I will soon be heading to an unfamiliar school, to start a journey that no one in my family even dared to dream of. But Shanti Bhavan has empowered me to believe in my own potential. As supporters of our school, you have helped to make this a reality. I stand before you today, excited and a little nervous to take on the world, starting with this next chapter at Grinnell.
WE ARE SO PROUD OF YOU VISALI!
IT’S STORIES LIKE YOURS THAT KEEP US GOING AT SHANTI BHAVAN.
Would you like to be a part of many more success stories like Visali’s?
Next Blog article : EPISODE 2 /2 : Thulasi