La Jolla High student raising funds to build high school in India


By Ashley Mackin

Maya Lakshman, a 16-year-old La Jolla High senior, is spending her summer working with non-profit organizations to raise funds for a high school in a rural village in southern India. Lakshman also helped organize the “Passage to Bollywood” benefit set for July 19 in Balboa Park.

Before meeting Lakshman, the Rural Indian Student Education (RISE) organization built an elementary school and a middle school, but did not have money to build a high school. Lakshman, a life-long community volunteer, stepped up to help.

She’s spent the first month of her summer vacation going door-to-door to residences, hotels and restaurants for donations and sponsorships. Lakshman also enlisted the help of Room to Read and Universal Technology Outreach Community Hubs (U-TOUCH) to supplement the proposed high school with books and computers. She said she wanted to collaborate with many non-profits instead of relying on the resources of just one. Because Room to Read helps establish and fill libraries across the world, and U-TOUCH offers training in digital technologies in villages that don’t have access to computers, they seemed the perfect fit.

“The goal is to provide poor, rural children with a quality education that they deserve and that urban children already receive. I’m just happy I get to make a difference in some way,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t be up to the daunting task without the support of her family. “Even though they were common people who grew up in India, my parents alwaystaught me to strive to make the world a better place, and encouraged me to be aware of my surroundings and help people in need in any way that I could,” she said.

She is hopeful the July 19 event will raise enough money to get the project off the ground and in motion. For the fundraiser, there will be an Indo-Western fashion show, catered dinner, a comedy performance, silent and live auctions, a raffle, and Bollywood dancing.

Donations have already started coming in through the website

but Lakshman is pleading for more. Donations will continue to be accepted after the event on the website or by writing a check to the Rural India Student Education Foundation, 6846 Draper Avenue, La Jolla CA 92037

Lakshman said she would continue to support RISE and the school for which she is fundraising for years to come. She plans to go to medical school and eventually volunteer with UNICEF as a pediatrician.

“I’ve always loved children, so everything I’ve done has been centered around them,” she said.

If you go

■ What: Passage to Bollywood

■ When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 19

■ Where: Balboa Park Ballroom, 2144 Pan American Road West, San Diego

■ Tickets: From $25 at