Scottsdale students complete international service project

Four Youth Ambassadors from Scottsdale are greeted by teachers and officials of the elementary school in India. (submitted photo)

Four Scottsdale students have returned from an international service project in Trivandrum, India, where they delivered over $3,000 of needed school supplies to a rural elementary school one hour outside the town.

Diane Sterner, faculty advisor to the Interact Club of Scottsdale Prep, reports, “This was a purely student-initiated and conducted project.”

Adway Gopakumar with four students in their new uniforms with the Liberation Through Education patch. (submitted photo)

Adway Gopakumar, president of the Scottsdale Prep Interact Club, conceived the idea of organizing an international service project of the club. He identified the needy elementary school in southwest India.

Through international communications, Gopakumar conducted a needs assessment of the school.  The school has 135 students in grades one through four and needed items such as backpacks, umbrellas, a water drinking fountain, new uniforms, pencils and other school supplies.

His Interact Club members approved the project as its international project.  With that, Gopakumar then approached contacts he had with international club leaders at the five Scottsdale Unified School District high schools.  They agreed to assist in the fundraising.

He then approached the Rotary Club of Scottsdale to seek its approval and support.  Within 24 hours, the Rotarians raised $1,500 for the project.  The Interact Clubs and international clubs at the six Scottsdale high schools then raised $5,100 in three months.

Gopakumar designed special patches for his project, which he calls, “Liberation Through Education.” With the assistance of family members he then ordered high quality uniforms and backpacks with the patches applied on them.  He also ordered a water cooler and other items to arrive in Trivandrum in time for his arrival in early June.  Other supplies which were easy to carry and of higher quality were purchased in the USA.

Gopakumar, then invited the Scottsdale area student-leaders who had helped raise the money, to accompany him to India to deliver the school supplies.  Molly Opheim of Desert Mountain High School, Pierce Gardner of Chaparral High School, and Kassidy Gardner, also of Chaparral accepted his invitation. With parent support, tickets were bought for the trip to the other side of the world.  Gopakumar’s mother served as the chaperone, and in early June they left for India.

Four Youth Ambassadors are recognized by the Rotary Club of Trivandrum South. (submitted photo)

The day they arrived, even though suffering from severe jet lag, they immediately left for the school where all the students and senior school officials were awaiting them with an elaborate welcoming party. During their time at the school, the students delivered the supplies, read stories, played games and felt the warm feelings of the young students towards them.

The local Trivandrum newspaper carried a story about the four youth ambassadors who traveled half-way around the world and brought not only school supplies but also personal messages of friendship and caring from America.

The four students were also invited to attend the meeting of Rotary Club of Trivandrum South.  The youth ambassadors had prepared a short Powerpoint presentation about Scottsdale, the United States and their schools.  The club president, Sudhakaran Pillai, presented each student with a plaque of recognition for their international service to the school.

The Scottsdale youth ambassadors have returned home and begun making plans to continue their international service to help needy students get a good education, not just in India, but other countries.  They plan to establish a nonprofit organization entitled Liberation Through Education as an ongoing means for their international service projects.

Through careful fiscal management, there remains about $3,600 unspent dollars.   While visiting the school, the students learned of plans to expand the school next year to include four more grades to be available for local students.  The plan is to use the remaining funds to assure the expansion is possible.

David Bertelli, Rotary advisor to the Scottsdale Prep Interact Club, observed, “The initiative and leadership these students demonstrated in the conduct of this project, is extremely unique for high school students, and reflects the quality of young people we have in Scottsdale.”

The Scottsdale Prep Interact Club is a junior Rotary Club sponsored by the Rotary Club of Scottsdale.  For more information about Scottsdale Rotary or Interact Clubs, contact or visit

The international clubs at the Scottsdale Unified School District are sponsored by the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association. For more information contact: or visit

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