Inspiring Change: Winners of the Global Perspectives Scholarship
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Inspiring Change: Winners of the Global Perspectives Scholarship

The winning entrants for our Global Perspectives Scholarship had one thing in common – small moments in their lives inspired something bigger. Each of these students encountered a situation that gave them pause.

For our grand prize winner London Allen, her moment came when she was working at a fast food restaurant. Her coworker had asked if he could take home some leftover cucumbers that were going to be thrown out. London was surprised when her manager said no. Company policies did not allow leftover food to be taken home.

It was this experience that led Allen to focus on the 1.3 billion tons of food that are wasted each year. As a current junior at the University of Baltimore, she’s looking at ways to help both businesses and individuals better manage their food consumption.

“A lot of businesses buy things in bulk, and so it doesn’t always get used,” Allen said. “So we have to think about foods that are non-perishable and ones we’ve had for a long time and realize, ‘Okay, we see that this might not be used by a certain day. What can we do with it?’”

Allen has begun tackling this issue from multiple angles. She has promoted the distribution of leftover food at a friend’s store, packed food at other businesses, and is encouraging composting.

The Global Perspectives Scholarship rewards these initiatives. The scholarship application asks students what global issue is most important to them and how they plan to help tackle that issue.

The initiative is part of Rustic Pathways mission to empower students to positively impact lives and communities around the world. In the past few years, the company has given out more than $750,000 in scholarships and financial aid to students. This summer almost 1000 students applied for the Global Perspectives scholarship, which is one of the awards given.

The two other winners of this scholarship are Mihir Gokhale and Janet Ruan. Like Allen, Gokhale is focused on food issues, while Ruan has started a nonprofit to provide support for senior citizens.

Gokhale is interested in tackling food insecurity on an international scale. He realized the problems with hunger when his parents took him to Mumbai, India when he was a child. He says he vividly remembers beggars asking his grandmother for food scraps.

“I didn’t really have a sense of the hardship and poverty that was out there in the world. I’m really grateful to my parents for exposing me to those issues so early on,” Gokhale said. “Learning about it from 8,000 miles away is one thing, but actually being in the thick of it right there, and seeing it firsthand, is a totally different experience.”

As a freshman at the University of Texas, Gokhale is working on a website project to connect small businesses with good causes, like food donations. He hopes it’ll enable both business owners and donors to see the impact of their contribution. He says seeing the problem firsthand makes a major difference.

“It’s really easy to empathize with people without fully understanding their plight, because we have food on our table every day,” Gokhale said. “I would encourage people to see for themselves if they have the opportunity. Go to places like India. Go to places like the Middle East, and even go to places within your local community because a lot of hunger issues may exist without you knowing.”

Like Gokhale, Ruan saw an issue firsthand that sparked her volunteer work. During the pandemic, her grandfather’s senior center closed. One day she saw him struggling to get on a video call. It was clear to Ruan that many older people were lacking healthy connections, so she worked with her sister to help.

“It was really evident that so many senior citizens were struggling and feeling super isolated,” Ruan said. “So we pushed an online posting onto different websites to recruit volunteers, while also contacting different senior centers.”

Eventually Ruan and her sister recruited 130 volunteers from around the world to connect with older people, providing letters and other support. They created a nonprofit called Romans 12:10 and are working on a penpal-type program so senior citizens can write back. She’s continuing her efforts as a freshman at the University of Maryland.

Gokhale pointed out that such student-led efforts are crucial for the future. He says institutions cannot be counted on to lead the way to change.

“The sad reality is that a lot of times government intervention that is warranted doesn’t necessarily get implemented. And sometimes when it does get implemented, it’s not necessarily enough,” Gokhale said. “So it’s important that people who are more fortunate help the less fortunate in any way they can.”

All three of these students are doing just that – and not just with these projects. They’re working on other initiatives as well. Allen is also interning at the Smithsonian Museum and leading up community efforts for her school’s Women of Color Student Association.

Ruan has done a lot of volunteer work with the Red Cross. And Mihir wrote about a number of international issues while serving as an intern for The Borgen Project.

That energy and impact exemplifies the Rustic Spirit that the Global Perspectives Scholarship is all about. For more information on upcoming opportunities, please visit our scholarship page.

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Content Writer

Mary is a Content Writer at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.