After joining his high school’s neuroscience club, Siddhant Kumarapuram discovered a passion for the brain, and was inspired to get more involved in science. The now 19-year-old college sophomore from Basking Ridge, New Jersey is sharing his passion with other students from New Jersey to Nigeria through volunteerism.
Founding Brain Bunch in 2019, Siddhant is connecting with students in grades 2-8 to increase interest in STEM and set under resourced children up for future success. Through a hands on approach, Brain Bunch helps engage younger kids to explore the brain, hosting more than 60 free programs to date. Promoting a more equitable future in science and instilling scientific curiosity amongst more than 1,500 students thus far, Siddhant is supporting the educational growth of younger “brainiacs” just like him across the United States and internationally.
What inspires you to volunteer?
My family really values community service, and my initial experiences volunteering were with disadvantaged populations. Being able to do simple tasks for these individuals was really empowering, and it makes me really grateful I can make a difference in my community and use my skills for a good purpose.
Describe your volunteerism with Brain Bunch.
As founder and president, I am working with our volunteers, who are high school students located around the U.S., and international partners to reach students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We are currently working with partners in Guyana and Afghanistan to bring our neuroscience program to those regions. We receive donations and also rely on grants to power our programs. I’m also in charge of curriculum development for our programs. We offer different modules based around vision, sound, taste and other activities.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
We held an event at a library in Newark, New Jersey. Inner city kids often lack resources around science education, and the students were initially hesitant to participate in our program, but one student was very interested. This student kept raising his hand and asking questions. When he came up to the microscope station to look at slides, a lot of other students followed him. By involving students in STEM education through activity-based curriculum, we are helping students to really get involved in their own education. It means a lot to me to empower kids through volunteerism and show them what science is all about. There’s a huge discrepancy in diversity in different fields of science, and if we could provide opportunities to these kids in inner cities, it could really help to shape the future of the field and create a more equitable future.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Volunteerism allows individuals to really understand the needs of other people. We become overwhelmed with our own work in our daily activities, and we don’t realize people out there may have more needs that are more exhaustive than our own. Taking a step back to identify needs that are greater than our own can be a really gratifying and humbling experience.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
It’s rewarding connecting with these kids and empowering them through mentorship and education. I aspire to be a medical professional and creating a future environment with a diverse set of faces is something I aspire to.
How have you continued to volunteer throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
We shifted to virtual events. Brain Awareness Week is in March, so we hosted different online events through libraries and schools. We also expanded content to offer reasoning and awareness to address increasing mental health concerns during the pandemic.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
People should follow their passions to make a difference in the world. Even though it might seem daunting or starting an initiative might require a lot of work, changing even one person’s life is very meaningful and impactful.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
When you’re not busy in school or volunteering, what do you do for fun?
I like Formula 1 racing, so I follow that sport. If I was a racecar driver, I’d be driving a Ferrari.
How can readers help?
Please visit The Brain Bunch’s website for more information about how you can help.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Siddhant Kumarapuram? Find local volunteer opportunities.