by LIZ ONUFER | photos by Spark Photography

Serving the Underserved

Kiran Mehta sees the people that many others pass by. A senior at Scripps Ranch High School, Kiran commits her extracurricular hours and energy to affect positive social change in the San Diego community. Her work includes using multiple mediums to give voice to those who are often overlooked. “I believe that writing can be used as a medium to convey messages to inspire, motivate, and empower communities to foster positive change,” Kiran shared. A photographer as well, she explained, “The photos I take are not just for the purpose of documenting lives, but also to uncover the stories and truths of an individual.” Even before she graduates high school, Kiran understands the vital role she plays in advocating for marginalized populations through her creative work. “The arts not only self-empower and heal emotional wounds, but they can also change the way we think about our communities.”

Kiran’s commitment to social change has been fostered through her work with the AjA Project, where she serves on the Youth Advisory Council. The nonprofit organization “utilizes photography as a form of social advocacy and self-expression in marginalized communities,” Kiran explained. Her latest project involved interviewing residents of City Heights about community improvement. As part of the Youth Media Team, the group focused on interviewing the homeless and transient population. Through the process, Kiran built relationships and deepened her understanding of homelessness issues. She said, “I learned that it is most important to recognize these individuals as part of our community.”

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Volunteering as an English as a Second Language instructor, Kiran connects with another group of people whose needs often go unmet. Kiran teaches English to adult refugees at the Southern Sudanese Community Center. The relationships Kiran builds as a teacher have created the opportunity for mutual learning. “The classroom became an outlet for students to express their common struggles of marginalization, and an opportunity for me to learn from them,” Kiran shared.

Kiran looks forward to continuing her service work in her career. She plans on going to college to “study in the realm of social advocacy, human services, or diversity in an American society” and working in the nonprofit sector to promote social change for marginalized communities. Not even out of high school, Kiran’s perspective can serve as a model for the potential of social change: “Rather than giving back, work with the community, together, to uplift and internalize positive change.”


AT-A-GLANCE

Name: Kiran Mehta
Profession: Student at Scripps Ranch High School
Community: Scripps Highlands since 2009
Interests: Traveling, poetry, advocacy, going to the gym daily
Favorite Spots in 92131: An open space near my house that overlooks Mira Mesa all the way up until the ocean, and the small forests of eucalyptus trees throughout Scripps Ranch