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Meet Ila Prabhuram of College Pathway in Woodstock

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ila Prabhuram.

Ila, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ve had many dreams throughout my lifetime- becoming an actress, a journalist, a lawyer, and even a political activist. However, in 2018, my dream coalesced into the actuality of empowering students to become change-makers through education. I volunteer at a local trailer park in my community and tutor elementary students, and one day, I got talking to one of the mothers who lived there. She told me that she didn’t attend college and that her son was most likely not going to college either- because they couldn’t afford it. I didn’t know what to say. I was dumbstruck at the fact that there were so many of these overlooked, financially-struggling individuals hidden among our average community members. I went home that night, wondering what I could do to help with this situation. That’s when I founded College Pathway, a 501c3 nonprofit that bridges the gap between education and students from low-income families.

I believe that every student, no matter their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background, has a right to an equal opportunity to access quality education. Many students aren’t able to afford college without financial aid and scholarships. Research says that students from low-income families tend to be less motivated in school, and less likely to graduate high school. This issue is prevalent nationwide, but many people are in the dark about the plight of these low-income students. I want to change that. I aspire to instill hope in those students when they don’t have the motivation or hope to succeed. I want these students to know how much potential they have and that they can become successful and change the world. From a young age, I have always been grateful for my education- and the fact that some students are not able to avail the same opportunities I receive urged me to do something about it. A person without an education is like a bird without wings. Like a bird, I want students to soar to new heights and reach their full potential, and I believe that every single person has inherent greatness. Through College Pathway, I want to advocate for equality in education and spread awareness about this issue that is plaguing the nation. I want to shed light on this issue and educate people on the importance of education.

Other than College Pathway, I also hope to impact students’ education in other ways. I am a two-time student representative on the Georgia Department of Education State Superintendent’s Advisory Council, where I work with educational officials and help make improvements on Georgia’s public educational system. At Etowah High School, I am a co-founder of Etowah’s peer-to-peer mentoring program, where students mentor other students on navigating through high school and assisting them with different high-school related problems. I’m also a student reporter and writer for Etowah’s newspaper, along with other organizations such as Write the World, the Odyssey. and Teen Ink, where I share stories and write about issues that mean a lot to me.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve had a lot of support, but it hasn’t been a smooth road. When I first decided I wanted to start a nonprofit organization, my parents were immediately on board. However, it took a longer time for me to convince my fellow peers and teachers to be on board as well. Eventually, I did, and with the help of my team, I was able to reach my first goal of gaining a 501(c)(3) status for College Pathway in early 2019! We had to jump through many legal barriers, but in the end, we were able to accomplish that goal. A big obstacle that I overcame was convincing people to take a fourteen-year-old high school freshman seriously. Many people didn’t think that I would be able to manage a nonprofit organization, but I told them that this was what I cared about and that I wanted to do whatever it took to be able to help spread awareness about this issue. I remember sending emails to these organizations and asking them for help on different things, and when I didn’t get any responses back, I felt deflated and was losing hope. But I continued working and I felt incredibly proud when College Pathway was finally established and registered with the IRS and state of Georgia.

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
I am the founder of College Pathway, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Woodstock, Georgia. College Pathway is dedicated to spreading awareness and campaigning about the inequality in education that many students face. We work with many people to speak on many different platforms about this issue that’s prevalent nationwide. Other than our advocacy, we work to provide financial assistance to economically-disadvantaged students in the means of need-based scholarships, among other programs. Our mission statement, “equality in education,” exemplifies what we stand for and what we advocate for- equality in education. We believe that every student deserves the opportunity to access an equal education- without any restrictions preventing them from achieving their goals. What I am most proud of about my nonprofit is our advocacy.

Through our advocacy efforts, I’ve been able to present College Pathway and meet the Georgia Department of Education State Superintendent Richard Woods, direct conduits to Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, my city Mayor, congressional representatives, district officials, and school administrators. College Pathway has also been shared on a website that has a circulation of 30,000+ readers and has received state and national recognition. We’ve been able to reach thousands of people, and this is only the beginning. I feel that what sets College Pathway apart from others is that we work on advocating for a huge cause that many people are unaware of. Not only that, but the organization is run by a student, which offers a unique perspective and allows us to be able to show what education means to students and how important it is for students to receive a quality education.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Motivation, I feel, is the most important to my success. Without my motivation to help my fellow students, College Pathway wouldn’t be here. My advice is that if you want to make an impact, I encourage you to explore your community, identify different problems that your community (or the world) is facing, and craft an innovative solution that will be able to impact as many people as possible.

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