For Santa Clara High School junior Rhea Jain, volunteering is essential to being a responsible community member.
“Take time out to volunteer,” said Jain. “The same community that’s going to help you grow, you should help them grow as well.”
In November 2020, Jain received a 2019 – 2020 President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) for her community service at the Jain Center of Northern California in Milpitas. It is a certifying organization with the PVSA, founded in 2003.
Jain volunteered 100 hours of community service, 70 within one year. She pitched in wherever needed in pre-pandemic activities, including senior mixers and food and clothing donation drives for the homeless.
She credits volunteering with showing her that she can be a positive force in the community.
“Volunteering helped [me] cultivate a sense of empathy and understanding of the individuals [I met]. It helped me realize how I can make an impact on the environment and community around me and make it a better place…,” said the 16-year-old, who came to Santa Clara with her parents and younger sister in 2013.
Her family traveled a circuitous route that began in India and led them to Ohio and Michigan before arriving in California. Jain is bilingual in English and Hindi and studies Spanish.
Jain’s interest in computer programming, encouraged by her parents, was ignited in the sixth and seventh grades when she participated in the Girls Who Code program at Central Park Library.
She was chosen to be part of the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute at Cabrillo Middle School and continuing into high school.
In the summer of 2020, Jain was looking for pandemic-compatible volunteer opportunities and reactivated the Coder Dojo Club at Northside Branch Library.
Now chapter director, she and half a dozen fellow techies teach coding classes via Zoom to middle through high schoolers. They write the curriculum for workshops, such as a Python workshop. Watch the Northside Branch Library’s events calendar for class dates. Contact event coordinator Rachel Hughes (email@example.com) for information.
“Since the seventh grade, a lot of my life has been about volunteering,” said Jain. “It’s my hobby.”
“Grades and sports are important but are not everything. Taking out time of my busy schedule to volunteer and bring change to the local community, matters the most in the long run.”
She aspires to be a data scientist and create simple solutions for complex world problems.
Jain’s proud father and mother, Sachin and Ruchi Jain, point out that their daughter is the first “girl” child in their family, including extended family, determined to make a career in Computer Science.
“Getting recognition for her academic achievements and the PVSA award is motivating her even further to volunteer and inspire other young students to pursue their dreams in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math],” said Jain’s parents.
“As Kamala Harris said, ‘You may be the first to do many things, but make sure you are not the last one.'”