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Elizabeth Wallace stands with a young woman at the Aarti Home in India

Elizabeth Wallace, '18

Chemistry with Kusuma

The last place I expected to use my evolving knowledge of organic chemistry was at an orphanage in rural India. Yet there I was, cross-legged on the floor of the Aarti Home dining hall trying to recall the difference between an alkene and an alkyne with a young woman named Kusuma.

"Akka, sister, it goes like this," she tells me, bending over to draw the reaction arrows on my paper.

Kusuma was in her first organic chemistry class, but her dream is to go on to get her PhD. Her spunk and spirit inspire me. She is witty, sharp, and not afraid to speak her mind.

Every girl I met at the Aarti Home in Kadapa, India, was as dedicated and determined as Kusuma. Aarti Home was set up in 1992 by the incredible vision of Sandhya Puchalapalli, who determined that girls in her community should have a safe place to live and be educated, even if their families could not afford to provide it.

I came to Aarti in the summer of 2017, a Stanford intern eager to learn more about the organization and help in any way I could. What I found was a center of female empowerment, a cradle of love and support where brilliant and strong women are molded. Aarti gave me hope that the future is undoubtedly female and because of that, indisputably bright.

Elizabeth Wallace, ’18 (English, French Literature), was part of the 2017-18 cohort of the Public Service Honor Society, a leadership program for seniors run by the Haas Center.
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