Lake Norman & Mooresville

Student works to raise awareness of polio

Being a leader is a huge part of Sravya Uppalapati's life but it has not come without hard work. And hard work is something she believes in.

Uppalapati, 15, a sophomore at Lake Norman Charter School in Huntersville spent close to two months organizing and planning a fundraiser for Polio Plus, a group that is part of Rotary International and is dedicated to the eradication of polio.

Her efforts, along with the efforts of her classmates and teachers earned the group $1,165 during a two week fundraiser in February. Each dollar earned will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Polio Plus will send a certificate of recognition to LNCS.

Inspired by her grandfather, a retired doctor in India who has seen polio cases, Uppalapati believes polio can be eradicated. Polio is caused by a virus and invades the nervous system. It can quickly lead to paralysis.

Cynthia Kmidowski, Spanish teacher and faculty advisor for the Interact Club at LNCS, said Uppalapati approached her with the idea to raise money for Polio Plus.

Interact Club is a group of students who focus on global awareness. Along with students from the Pre-Med Club they helped the cause by volunteering to put up posters to increase awareness as well as collect and track donations.

"To have a student spend her time, her interest, her energy putting this concept together and bringing it to the school as a whole, that's pretty motivated," Kmidowski said. "I am just delighted that Sravya took this job upon herself and said 'We can make a difference'."

Uppalapati explained that even small donations matter. It is not necessarily the dollar amount that matters, it is a change in the way people think that is important, she said.

A teacher pulled her aside one day during her fundraising efforts and told her how a student came to donate a dollar. He said he was going to buy a drink with that dollar but changed his mind when he felt it could go towards something more important. This is the awareness Uppalapati is looking for.

She said her main goals were to increase participation and awareness that polio is a widespread and prevalent disease.

"It's not here in the U.S. but that doesn't mean that it's not something we should know about," said Uppalapati. "If polio is eradicated it will be the second human disease after smallpox to be eradicated completely. It will be a global effort."

Uppalapati spends her free time volunteering at Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville where she assists doctors and nurses by stocking rooms or other duties. She also is in a job shadowing program at CMC Mercy; she is on the Tennis team at LNCS and belongs to the Pre-Med Club. She has a goal of becoming a pediatrician in her future.

"I try to stay active in clubs not just to be a part of them but to be a leader," said Uppalapati, who lives in the Highland Creek neighborhood in University City.

Uppalapati said she would like to do another fundraiser like this in the future. She said her parents and teachers have all been very encouraging and she would like to continue to be involved in activities where she can help people.

"Sometimes it's hard to see that humanity is making progress against injustice," said Uppalapati. "Ending polio would show a generation that change isn't just possible, it's real."