Bryan Social Innovation Fellow continues to create community

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By Carly Swain

Reena-Gupta-spotlightReena Gupta, who will graduate Sunday with a degree in Public Policy from the College of Arts and Sciences, not only immersed herself in the Carolina community over the past four years, she helped create one — through Healthy Girls Save the World.

During her freshman year, Gupta joined the nonprofit when it was in its infant stage. After the first few meetings, she jumped in to help create what is now a thriving organization by using three pillars: healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy relationships.

She served on the board of directors and as campus chapter president of the organization, and has attained the goal she set for herself four years ago: to inspire women.

“I’ve always been really big on women’s empowerment, women’s issues, and really advocating social justice issues surrounding women’s rights,” she said. “As a woman of color, it’s something that I’ve always been passionate about. I have seen a few of the struggles, as I’m sure every woman has, and I wanted to learn more about it.”

When she first arrived at Carolina, Gupta considered studying political science and economics. But the daughter of two teachers from Belmont, North Carolina, had a passion for education. And after a little more exploring, she got a taste of public policy.

“For me personally, that public policy major at UNC was the perfect collaboration of political science and economics,” she said.

During her time at Carolina, Gupta earned a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, the Bryan Social Innovation Fellowship and she was a Resolution Project Fellow – all while also joining a few dance troupes on campus.

But one of her main focuses was Healthy Girls Save The World.

“It actually took me a while to understand my place and how I could help,” she said of her beginnings with the non-profit. “I remember the first time it clicked for me: we went to a business competition in Atlanta and we had to present. Once I presented, made the pitch and received the feedback, the wheels just started turning for me.”

With a pool of local sixth- to ninth-grade applicants from schools near UNC-Chapel Hill to choose from, Healthy Girls Save The World leaders select 40 to mentor through the academic year.

“We bring these girls on campus, introduce them to female role models, rely on School of Public Health to bring in subject matter experts and do all sorts of fun things with them,” Gupta said. “Our last event was focused on healthy relationships- team building- and after lunch we did healthy relationships with themselves.”

Once her tassel is turned Sunday, Gupta will head to San Francisco where she will complete the New Sector Alliance Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) Fellowship. There, Gupta will be placed in a non-profit to work one-on-one with a mentor learning project management, finance and communication skills.

Part of the commitment means 1,700 hours of service with AmeriCorps. But Gupta will still serve on the board of advisors for Healthy Girls Save The World.

In that role, she hopes to continue to contribute to different communities.

“There are so many aspects of Carolina, so many communities and personalities and diverse communities,” she said. “So, somewhere there is something for you.”

By Carly Swain, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Published May 7, 2015