Dear Caltech Y Friend,
My name is Rupa Kurinchi-Vendhan, and I am the current President of the Caltech Y’s Student Executive Committee (ExComm). I am also an incoming undergraduate senior majoring in Computer Science and a member of Venerable House.
Like all my peers in the Class of 2024, I began my Caltech career online, in a time riddled with unprecedented uncertainty. And while matriculating in isolation was not without its difficulties, it paved my path to the Y. Our first day of orientation as frosh featured a presentation about the RISE Program, a tutoring program for students in the Pasadena Unified School District struggling with math and science, and I knew immediately that I wanted to sign up. With students struggling to adjust to learning in an online setting, it seemed the perfect way to do my part in helping the world adapt to living with the pandemic. Working with my student on topics ranging from cellular biology to algebra was an incredible way to feel connected to the community—even when working remotely from the opposite coast! I continue to work with my tutee to this day and seeing how much her confidence and passion for learning has grown over the years has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had in my time at Caltech.
Even as we returned to campus, the Caltech Y continued to encourage me to make meaningful connections. I was introduced to Reading Partners, a nonprofit that organizes one-on-one reading instruction to elementary school students struggling with literacy. Every Monday and Wednesday, I took a break from campus to walk over to the nearby McKinley Elementary School and spent an hour reading books to the student I was paired with. Watching him draw out fictional characters and reciting facts from a picture book on paleontology has inspired me to fall in love with reading all over again.
This summer, as part of my research experience through the SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) Program, I relocated to the island of Moorea in French Polynesia to join the team at the coral restoration non-profit Coral Gardeners. Thanks to the Y’s ACT Award, I was able to expand my SURF research to incorporate additional outreach activities. In my time there, I applied computer vision to drone data to help create an enhanced map of the reef in Moorea. The results from this research will be used to monitor the reefs and inform restoration efforts by providing actionable, specific evidence of where restoration should be targeted. I also spent hours in the water seeding coral nurseries and outplanting mature corals into the reefs—making a difference in a way that felt tangible and real. I participated in community outreach efforts hosted by CG, volunteering at ocean cleanups with local surfers and freedivers, presenting information on coral restoration to tourists visiting the island, and hosting hands-on educational workshops for local students on ocean conservation. I came to see the world around me in a different light, and I will be sure to bring my newfound appreciation for nature and cultural difference back to Caltech.
I have definitely found a family and home within the Y and I am forever grateful that I decided to get involved. Since my first ExComm meeting, I’ve been challenged to become a better version of myself, going out of my comfort zone to pursue leadership and taking on responsibilities such as organizing events for our annual day of community service, Make-a-Difference Day. With all the academic rigor and intensity at Caltech, the Y has been a rare, refreshing gem centered around enhancing student life. The Caltech Y has been an essential and inspiring reminder for me to take a step back and realize that we have a role to play in our communities and that we all have the capacity to touch lives and be global with our outreach and impact.
If you have already made your annual gift to the Caltech Y, thank you! If you would like to make a Friends contribution, please click the donate button below. Your gift makes a world of difference to students like me and the community at large. Sincerely,
BS 2024, ExComm President
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