Meet Ria, Be Strong’s January 2024 Student of the Month!

If there were a way to major in volunteerism in high school, Ria, a 9th-grader from Clarksburg, Maryland, would surely graduate summa cum laude. Ria began volunteering in elementary school and has honed her skills ever since. Before her work as a Student Representative for Be Strong, Ria served as a volunteer for NEST4US. In this community outreach program that was founded by Esha Venkat, a Be Strong Student Rep alum, Ria fed the homeless, tutored kids, and created care packages for those who were less fortunate. She also volunteers within weekend food security for low-income families, makes bracelets for cancer patients, and helps inspire hope through music. In addition to her community service, Ria is an academic honor roll student, an amazing Bollywood dancer, and a self-taught artist. In all, Ria has clocked more than 350 hours of community service and is still going strong!

While Ria is so amazingly selfless for those around her and her community, she has not been able to escape bullying or the effects of social isolation. “Seeing the impact it had on me and my mental health made me realize how important it is to speak up and advocate for change. I don’t want any other students to feel the same way I did,” she said. “We have to work together to create a culture of kindness, empathy, and respect in our schools and communities, where individuals are valued for their differences and accepted for who they are.”

Ria is working hard to bring her community outreach into the school space. She has started a Be Strong peer group at her school that consists of 7 members. “Being a part of the peer group has been a wonderful experience, to say the least. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about this program as I share insights with the members. I value that everyone can share their experiences, emphasizing the importance of these meetings,” she said.

Although it might seem that Ria is burning the candle at both ends, she is very attuned to what she is capable of, but she can’t take care of others if she doesn’t take care of herself. “In addition to being there for my friends, I also make sure to take care of my own mental health. This involves practicing self-care activities such as reading, journaling, and doing breathing exercises. By taking care of myself, I am better able to support those around me and be a positive presence in their lives,” she said.

As a leader in her school, her community, and likely the world one day, Ria wants to remind us that we have the power within us to overcome the challenges we will inevitably face in life. “Every obstacle that we encounter is an opportunity for us to learn and grow, and we should always strive to be better versions of ourselves. It is also important to remember that we are not alone in our struggles,” she said. “We can always reach out to our friends, family, and community for support and guidance. We should never feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help when we need it.”

“We are all in this together, and by supporting each other, we can create a world filled with kindness, empathy, and compassion.” Ria certainly knows about compassion, and we should all take a page from her book!

To learn more about Be Strong’s free programs, email To nominate a student to lead change with Be Strong’s innovative student volunteer program, visit today.

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