School Supplies for Eager Students

A USF student wants to start a drive to send used textbooks and school supplies to a school in Jaipur, India.

Students at the Arpit Children's Academy outside of Jaipur, India, embrace their opportunities for education. Photos: Courtesy of Shelly Mittal.


By Peter E. Howard

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (June 11, 2013) – What Shelly Mittal remembers most are the children.

Inside the open-air classrooms at the school in a small village near Jaipur, India, they sat on a carpet as the instructor taught the day’s lesson. Dressed smartly in maroon uniforms, the children looked on, eyes wide, hungry to learn.

“The kids were so eager to learn,” recalls Mittal. “They have a commitment to learning that you don’t normally see. They just want an opportunity.”

Mittal, a senior at the University of South Florida majoring in psychology and biomedical sciences, traveled to India last December with her parents and younger brother. While the trip was a vacation to visit relatives, Mittal and her brother took time out to spend a few days at the Arpit Children’s Academy outside Jaipur, which is located about 160 miles from New Delhi.

Her uncle is friends with a headmaster at the school. About 200 children, mostly grade school age, attend. Arpit Children’s Academy is the only school in the village. Mittal and her brother, Ajay, brought a bunch of old story books and much-needed school supplies including pencils and pens. The children were extremely grateful for the new items.

Now, Mittal wants to make a stronger push for more supplies, reading books and school text books that she can send to the school or bring with her in December when her family makes a return trip to India. She wants to make the donation drive a Fall project of the USF student chapter of Doctors Without Borders, a student organization Mittal helped start in 2011 and was president of until last year.

The student chapter, which has about 35 active members, previously raised about $500 for the national Doctors Without Borders organization. Mittal also wants the USF chapter to be involved in raising awareness of educational issues in developing countries, and working to solicit books and supplies for the Arpit Children’s Academy will help do that. She hopes to set up a booth at Wednesday’s Bull Market in the fall to help spread the word.

Kelly Leach, a visiting biology instructor and faculty advisor for the student chapter, said the chapter is focused on service and raising money and supplies for donation. Mittal, she said, has been instrumental in getting the chapter up and running and being successful.

“She’s self-motivated and also very good in personal interactions with other people,” Leach said of Mittal. “I think her idea to collect books and supplies was excellent, and it's a perfect example of the type of person she is both in terms of her caring personality and also her ability to develop and implement these types of activities.”

Mittal said she thinks the school donations effort will resonate with many USF students. With a diverse student body from many countries, she said, “I think there are a lot of people who can relate to this.”

During her visit last December, Mittal and her brother took video of the school and interviewed students, teachers and parents. This summer she’s putting the video together into a mini-documentary that she hopes will help tell the story of the school and help solicit donations.

Mittal’s parents are originally from India, but Mittal and her brother were born here and grew up in Ocala. Last December’s trip, and the work at the school, has made a lasting impression.

“It really put things into perspective,” she said. “It shows you how fortunate we are to live where we live.”

Peter E. Howard can be reached at 813-974-9057.

 Shelly Mittal (in back, center) spent a few days visiting the school last December. She wants to solicit school supplies and textbooks for the students.