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Ohio State students start clean water nonprofit

Some Ohio State students believe every ripple begins with a single drop.
Pure Water Access Project is a nonprofit organization started by a group of OSU students who want to make a difference through the research and implementation of clean water initiatives. They are launching the Student Thesis and Nonprofit Discovery internship and fellowship program, or STAND, in order to provide high school and OSU students a chance to gain research, study abroad and nonprofit experience in a venture they like to call a “Ramen noodle nonprofit” due to its low budget and efficiency.
Where they would be traveling would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis depending on current research.
Alex Chaitoff, a fourth-year in microbiology and political science, a co-founder and the director of educational outreach for PWAP, said the experience is intended to give students the opportunity to see that they don’t need a college degree to make an impact on the world.
“They just need to decide it’s important to them,” Chaitoff said.
The co-founders said their college experiences have completely changed since they started PWAP in their dorm in 2009 after a PowerPoint on waterborne illness they had to review for a public health class made them want to make an impact.
“It is so, so unique,” said Shuvro Roy, a fourth-year in biology, a co-founder of PWAP and the director of advocacy. “My college experience would have been completely different (without PWAP). I don’t think I would have been nearly as effective as a leader.”
PWAP has begun working with St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland to begin a pilot of the STAND internship program. Chaitoff said students should know research extends beyond labs.
“When people think of research, they think of a laboratory,” Chaitoff said. “We want people to realize that research is much broader than that.”
One OSU student thinks this program would be helpful to students who wish to gain experience in research and leadership.
“I think it would mean to other students an opportunity to, first of all, gain an experience in a leadership sense, but also it would mean for them to make a difference in their entire education from high school continued through college,” said Nick Ansara, a fourth-year in hospitality management. “Research is something that students think that can only be done in the medical field or in science, but if they could get research accessibility through this project, I think that would definitely draw students in.”
The STAND fellowship program for OSU students will also teach the fellows how to successfully start and manage a nonprofit organization.
PWAP leaders want to find students who have a passion for the clean water cause, and then provide them with the tools to make a difference now and in the future.
“We believe that, and this is a strong belief, every single person at this university, if they had the motivation to do so, if they had the belief in themselves to do so, is capable of doing whatever they want, and there is no threshold to their capabilities,” said Dheeraj Duggineni, a fourth-year in microbiology, a co-founder and the director of research for PWAP.
Sara Gannett, a first-year in food science and technology, said she thinks the concept of learning how to run a nonprofit is interesting, but she would not necessarily apply for a PWAP fellowship because she said she does not have a significant interest in clean water initiatives.
“I’ve always thought about starting a nonprofit, but the one I want to start is more like for poverty, and food and food banks,” Gannett said.
The members of PWAP want the STAND fellowship and internship program to be the drop that causes students to make ripples of impact for the rest of their lives.
“The whole purpose of STAND is to make sure that those students don’t stop after one project, but that they are given the tools and the energy and passion to do it for years to come,” Chaitoff said. “The idea that we, as a nonprofit, may influence these people for one year; that may be the drop. But in the years to come those individuals are going to ripple out and effect change, really going to make a difference in whatever initiatives they decide to pursue.”

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