January 18, 2012 | Yvonne Lim Wilson
Kumari Samineni, originally from India, moved to a small town in Kentucky in 1971 and worked as a substitute teacher. She was struck by the inequity she saw, which left some hard-working students without resources or guidance after high school, some even ending in jail.
“I used to see some children who worked hard, but at the same time their grades were not as high,” she said. “They come from a different background -- maybe a parent was in jail or a sibling was a drug addict -- there were a lot of things going on in their life.”
Samineni wanted to do something to help these students, so she and a friend started the Paducah Immigrants for Education, Inc. (PIE Inc.) Scholarship Fund, which remains active in Kentucky.
Samineni moved to Austin, and in 2010 established IDEAYA, Inc. (Immigrants for Development and Education in Austin Youth Aid Inc. to help the youth in Austin.
The idea is to bring together the immigrant community, of all ethnicities, to get involved with the local community. The stated mission of the organization is to help inner city youth who have limited resources to gain employable skills beyond high school.
“Immigrants should feel they are a part of the community,” she said. “We are going to be here; our children and grandchildren will be here. We need to serve the needs of the community. It’s good for all of us.”
While the concept of the organization is geared towards immigrants, the scholarship is open to all students who are in need of help, regardless of ethnicity or citizenship status.
Christine Sepulveda, a 2011 Travis High School graduate and current Austin Community College student, was one of two students to receive the first IDEAYA scholarships in June 2011.
“Once in while I still talk to [Ms. Samineni]. She’d call to make sure I was studying and I let her know about my grades,” Sepulveda said. “The scholarship helped me so much; it covered my books, which would have been a lot of worry to my parents.”
IDEAYA is currently seeking board members, volunteers and donations to help the cause.
“We need to address this need and help these children. We can easily help 30 students a year, maybe more than that, with everyone’s help,” Samineni said.For more information, visit www.ideaya.org.