With Virtual Afterschool Programs, High School Teen Creates a Sense of Family During the Pandemic

Daily Point of Light # 7255 Mar 24, 2022

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Dhruv Girish. Read his story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.  

When he was just in eighth grade, Dhruv Girish possessed a spirit to make a change for those around him. He created the Scholarly Program in 2019 to enrich the learning experience of his fellow students, and the virtual tutoring program was just what they needed once the COVID-19 pandemic spread.  

Dhruv’s volunteer service has not gone unnoticed. This year marks his second term representing Frederick County on the Maryland Youth Advisory Council after being appointed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.  

Now, the 16-year-old sophomore student works to ensure that youth voices are a part of important conversations in Frederick, Maryland and beyond.  

Describe the school program you created, and why you started it. 

I started the Scholarly Program as an affiliate to Urbana Stem, a community organization dedicated to bringing awareness to the community about academics and well being. The Scholarly Program started out very small before COVID-19, but as everything slowed down during the pandemic, our program just started blowing up.  

With the help of my advisors and support from my community, I created this program with a mindset of helping students with their schoolwork. There wasn’t much one-on-one tutoring going on during the pandemic, which we would have received if we were in a physical setting. As the program progressed, it expanded to include community outreach events, food drives, book drives and a candy drive that supported the armed forces. We also focused on creating equity within the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and art community since COVID-19 halted all of our after school STEM activities.  

We saw a huge interest in the program, and it has reached over 1100 people across the country with a group of 23 amazing volunteers.  

How has COVID-19 impacted you and the learning environment for your classmates?  

COVID-19 really messed us up for a while, but it also made education a priority. We just realized how school has been such a big part of our lives while we were all stuck at home. As we were ripped away from all of these educational programs and after-school activities, we realized that they really had a big impact on our lives. The pandemic created the need for the Scholarly Program and I think it helped create a sense of togetherness.  

What’s your vision for the Scholarly Program’s Future?  

I want to make sure that there is sustainability, that I’m not the only one running it and that students younger than me can also run it one day. I hope it will stay with the community even after I graduate high school.  

Group of people in a large room seated around folding tables
As Dhruv Girish’s Scholarly Program progressed, it expanded to include community outreach events, food drives, book drives and a candy drive that supported the armed forces./Courtesy Dhruv Girish

What inspires you to volunteer? 

The most rewarding part of my work is the kindness and the impact the program has on these individuals. We’re a family, we stick together and support each other no matter the situation. I  love the kindness and support the community has given me. I have the satisfaction of making a difference. It’s definitely astounding. 

What have you learned through your experience as a volunteer? 

Everyone has a story. You can learn from anyone, really, and you can also give people a chance to show you what they’re capable of. Kindness and compassion are the only ways to unlock those hidden talents. 

Why is it important for others to give back, especially young people and students?  

Helping others is important, and if you can’t help others, then what’s the point? We want to make sure that we’re creating sustainability. It’s important that we talk about that in our daily lives. Children are the future of our world, and a lot of children don’t have the same opportunities as I do. Giving back helps us make sure that everyone has an equal chance of opportunity and support.  

What would you want others to learn from your service story? 

Whatever you do, do what you love. Make sure that it makes an impact on you and that you’re happy. When you do what makes you happy, you’re going to make a difference in the world.  

Are there any partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about? 

The Scholarly Program is starting a community garden this year where we’ll bring the community together to grow vegetables and produce for our local food shelter. All of the produce that we grow will be donated to homeless shelters, which is exciting for us and our community.  

I’m also really excited about our recent partnership with EKAL Youth Vidyalaya, which supports building schools and eradicating illiteracy in rural and tribal India.  

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Dhruv? Find local volunteer opportunities. 

Madi Donham