It was her grandmother’s dying wish for young Shreya Mantha to do more to help girls who have less.
Already introduced by her parents to charities helping homeless families and young survivors of human trafficking in Charlotte, Mantha wanted to help these children learn important life skills.
“It was definitely eye-opening to me,” said Mantha, who is 16. “I never thought there could be so many underprivileged kids in the community we live in.”
To honor her grandmother’s wish, Mantha in 2014 formally registered with the state an idea she had been tossing around for several years — the creation of a nonprofit organization to empower disadvantaged girls by providing them training, skills and resources.
The Foundation for Girls was born.
“I always tell people that, first of all, I love volunteering for the foundation and working for these kids because I tell everybody there’s a magic in giving,” Mantha said.
Mantha, a sophomore at Providence Day School, serves as executive director of the foundation while her younger sister, Sahana, 10, serves as co-founder and chief technology officer.
The foundation’s goal is to reach 2,500 underprivileged girls in the Charlotte area by 2020, Mantha said. The foundation has already reached nearly a quarter of that goal, she said.
Mantha and Sahana live in south Charlotte with their father, Sailesh, who works in the technology field for Wells Fargo, and mother, Anu, a homemaker who left behind the fast-paced world of Bank of America to be home with her daughters.
Anu Mantha taught her daughters to realize there was more to life than the comfortable areas of Charlotte they frequented.
While the foundation initially performanced services such as delivering donated loaves of bread from Great Harvest Bread Co. to local shelters, Mantha said she realized she wanted to develop hands-on programs the girls could excel at by “learning through doing.”
Today, the foundation has a network of more than 15 volunteers who bring these programs to children assisted through local charities and nonprofit organizations.
The “Personal Finance and Financial Well-Being” workshop, taught by former Bank of America executive Liz Mockler, teaches older clients about opening a bank account and saving money; the “Express Yourself” workshop, a self-confidence building series includes lessons on art, cooking, jewelry and yoga; the “Tutor a Passion” program involves tutoring underprivileged students; and the “Mentor a Dream” program offers professional training and career choices.
What she has produced has been nothing short of amazing. The ‘Express-Yourself’ series for at-risk youth to help build self-confidence is absolutely delightful.
Curtis Joe, executive director of The Relatives
The Foundation for Girl’s most recent launch is a mobile technology lab designed to teach children about computer science, digital literacy and coding.
Mantha said she developed the program’s curriculum with her father and the head of technology at Providence Day School.
Using a $4,000 grant awarded by Speedway Children’s Charities last year, Mantha purchased software and laptops for the mobile technology lab. Mantha was also awarded $6,000 in grant monies from other programs last year, she said.
She and her sister and father bring this equipment to the Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte, The Relatives Crisis Center and OurBRIDGE for Kids to teach refugees, homeless children and victims of human trafficking about computer skills.
Speedway Children’s Charities “never had a grant application from a foundation or any charity come to us for money that was started and run by someone at her age,” said Speedway Children’s Charities board member Mary-Margaret Gressette.
“The way she came up with her plan for her foundation, the fact that she did all this on her own at the age of 15, that impressed me,” said Gressette.
Eventually, Mantha hopes to outfit a special van equipped with technology and room to host the mobile technology lab and other programs inside instead of using her family’s car for transportation.
Mantha said she will seek grants and scholarships to cover the cost of the van’s $90,000 price tag, she said.
Curtis Joe, executive director of The Relatives, said he was introduced to Mantha through a mutual community partner. Joe said he was “blown away” by how well Mantha carried herself professionally as well as her passion for helping youth.
“What she has produced has been nothing short of amazing,” said Joe. “The ‘Express-Yourself’ series for at-risk youth to help build self-confidence is absolutely delightful.”
“Foundation for Girls are seen as partners in our service delivery,” said Joe. “They are what The Relatives’ mission is all about by meeting kids where they are at that current time. Shreya has been able to adjust to what is needed in our organization and that is why we are so grateful to have her around.”
In addition to her devotion to the foundation, Mantha also plays on her school’s varsity volleyball team and earns straight A’s.
Mantha says her volunteer work gives her enough energy and happiness to continue on even when she is tired.
“I feel like when you work with these kids, it makes me feel so good and so happy that I’m happy they learn,” said Mantha.
When she graduates high school, Mantha plans to attend college and study engineering, business and computer science. She hopes to establish a start-up company as well as expand the Foundation for Girls.
Kate Stevens is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.foundationforgirls.org for information.
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