“We’re more alike than we are different, you know,” Zaen said. He peered in close to study my tri-board poster on the prime doctrines of Hinduism, which I’d created for my religious class’s end-of-the-year presentations. While Zaen was an attendee of Islamic School at the same Unitarian Church where my class took place, we’d never spoken before this moment.
From a young age, I’d absorbed the perception that Hinduism and Islam were diametrically opposed. With Zaen’s claim, everything I’d understood about my faith was turned upside-down. Instead of becoming defensive, however, I asked Zaen to elaborate. This spurred a long conversation about the overlapping tenets of our religions, including the emphasis on values like compassion and truth.
Later, looking more into Islam myself and learning about its rich traditions like hajj, my understanding of the overlaps deepened. Slowly, these connections seeped into my own life, too. As I chanted the Gayatri each day, for example, I was reminded of the Muslim prayer of Fajr. At school, I even hosted an interfaith dance during my school’s heritage night to empower the minority religious groups in my town. Over time, I realized Zaen was right: it was almost like we all prayed to the same god, just with different names.
A thirst for new perspectives and diverse ideas has enriched my life on numerous levels. As a part of my high school’s international baccalaureate (IB) program, I explored multi-faceted solutions to countless complex problems, such as mitigating an economic recession.
Founding my school’s environmental club, I observed how the hundreds of pounds of food waste produced by the cafeteria were being completely overlooked. Reflecting on the discussions in my IB classes, I decided to take a creative approach to tackle this issue. With the help of students and faculty, I implemented a program in which kids take wasted food to create compost for low-income gardens in the community. This not only diminished my school's waste output but also helped promote sustainability to my peers. In fact, with more students interested in environmentalism, the school approved my plan to construct a pocket prairie, which currently houses over 300 native plants from across 25 species.
With the support of the Forty Acres Scholarship program, I will continue to explore new horizons in the greater Austin community while also giving back.
Business Honors & Finance
Canfield Business Honors Program
Other Academic Interests
Supply Chain Management
Sierra Club, Sai Center
What drew you to the Forty Acres Scholars Program?
Attending Finalist Weekend in March, I was curious to see learn more about the program. From the first lunch I had that day, my expectation was completely blown away. Talking to current scholars and current alumni, I was inspired by their stories and backgrounds. Furthermore, I was stunned by the depth of the resources and support the program would provide us. FASP allows me to take a deep dive into my interests and also explore new fields, all the while graduating debt-free, something I couldn’t envision as possible a few months ago. So when I received the news that I had received the scholarship, I knew it was something I just couldn’t miss. I’m truly proud to be a part of this community for not only the next four years but for the rest of my life.