Senior Coppell’s nonprofit serves more than 23,000 people

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At the start of the pandemic, Shraavya Pydisetti worked with students in her neighborhood and organized a service project to create 1,000 care packages to give to frontline workers.

The care packages contained hand sanitizers, handwritten cards, mugs, art, masks and gloves.

“It was important for them to know that there are people who recognize them and care about what they do,” Pydisetti said. “We could put a smile on their face, even if it was just for a day.”

It was then that she discovered that she loved serving her community. So she founded Project Querencia, a non-profit organization that allows students to create their own service projects.

Now, two years later, the Querencia project has impacted 23,000 people with 130 service projects. And Pydisetti, 17, a senior at Coppell High School, is making more than a little difference.

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For the coming year, Pydisetti is creating a foundation for low-income students to submit service ideas and will award a $1,500 scholarship to each of the top five ideas. The foundation is still thinking and Pydisetti hopes to fund the scholarships with sponsorships.

The Querencia project takes its name from the Spanish word “querencia”, which means “a place where one feels at home”. It all started with a group of 10 people in Coppell. Shraavya’s mother, Rasmita Pydisetti, said she remembers hearing negative comments at first. People would say “you’re just a girl” or “you’re just a sophomore”.

“She was firm, she had an answer to everything,” Rasmita Pydisetti said. “She didn’t lose her temper or anything. I wouldn’t say it was easy. She had some difficulties, but she got through it and she did very well.

Shraavya Pydisetti, a Coppell High School senior who founded Project Querencia, speaks during a board meeting Monday, August 8, 2022 at the Coppell Cozby Library in Coppell, TX. The organization allows high school students to create service projects.(Juan Figueroa / personal photographer)

Over the next five months, the organization grew to 150 people. “I was shocked,” Shraavya Pydisetti said. “And I was like, ‘Is this really happening? Or am I imagining it? I’m really happy that this is happening. I can’t say it was my dream from the start. It wasn’t, but it is now.

Students in North Texas began contacting Pydisetti and asking how they could help. The Querencia project created separate chapters, including those of Frisco and Prosper.

Khushi Patel, a senior at Prosper High School, opened a local chapter in the spring of this year. “I just saw this Instagram story that Shraavya posted that said, ‘We’re looking to open more chapters,’ so I texted her and she responded right away,” Patel said. “She’s super nice.”

The Prosper Chapter opened with Care Packages for Teacher Appreciation Week.

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Now Project Querencia has seven chapters, including one in the California Bay Area and one in Edison, NJ. The management consists of an executive council, with Pydisetti as chairman, and separate councils for each chapter.

Roma Jani, vice president of Project Querencia and junior at Coppell High School, got involved with the organization after seeing her on Instagram. “We are all passionate about the same thing: community service,” she said. “In this goal of making the world a better place, I have found friends that I have not found anywhere else.”

Erika Chavez, a life skills teacher in special education at Coppell High School, met Pydisetti three years ago

“She was always very driven, she always had big visions to serve her community,” Chavez said. “She is really fulfilled. I’ve seen her mature and I’m really proud of her. I think she’s going to move mountains at the rate she’s going.

About a year ago, Project Querencia was providing 2,000 books to children in need in South Irving when a 7-year-old girl came to Pydisetti with a cardboard box and asked her to fill it with books. Twenty minutes later, she returned with that same box – now empty – and asked for more books.

When Pydisetti asked her why she needed so many books, the little girl told her that the books were for her friends and classmates, because her school didn’t have a library. She was trying to make a difference in her community.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, and this girl is doing it on her own,” Pydisetti said. “She is taking this initiative. And that’s when I realized there was so much to be grateful for, and that people make a difference at this age. Just think of how much more this girl could do, or how many girls like her could do if they had the resources.

For the start of this school year, Project Querencia has created 1,375 care packages for teachers at ISD Dallas. They made 1,300 teacher care kits containing cards, chocolates, snacks and mini charts. They also made 70 additional packages for Spanish teachers containing maps, mini chalkboards, personalized mugs, Dallas brochures and gift cards.

Pydisetti is also in the process of legalizing an international chapter in India and plans to move on to the college level after graduating next year. Pydisetti hopes to study pre-med while learning about business in order to learn more about nonprofits.

“I want to keep growing and I want to keep making a difference,” Pydisetti said. “Because with every project we do, we help more people. This is a reason for me to continue. It’s something I can look forward to every day.

For more information and donations, visit https://www.projectquerencia.org/.

Amanda Hare is a graduate of Prosper High School and will be attending Texas A&M University in the fall. She is an intern at the Scripps Howard Foundation Emerging Journalists Program at the University of North Texas.

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