Priya: Lessons in Perseverance


D.R.E.A.M.S. for Youth Scholarship RecipientPriya

While most Columbia University freshmen began their college experience virtually this past year, Priya was one of the few on campus in Manhattan. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, students were forced to apply for the limited space offered in the dorms this past year. Priya’s ability to live on campus gave her the freedom she lacked at home, and with the help of United Way of Long Island’s D.R.E.A.M.S. for Youth Scholarship Program, she was able to pursue her interest in the medical field.

Priya hasn’t yet declared a major, but she’s leaning towards studying Medical Humanities with a concentration in Public Health. After sharing a room with all her siblings while growing up, Priya experienced living Priya independently for the first time this past year. Even though Columbia isn’t far from her hometown of Port Washington, she believes having a space of her own created an atmosphere where she was able to excel academically and socially. That freedom allowed Priya to be especially productive while taking first-year classes such as Literature Humanities, Fronters of Science, Chemistry and University Writing.

Despite the strict COVID-19 guidelines on campus, Priya still found ways to get involved with extracurriculars. She became an editor at the school’s Neuroscience Magazine and joined the Public Health Club, combining her passions for science and medicine. This upcoming year, she’s set to serve on the school’s Student Council. Outside the classroom, Priya is also looking to begin her own research with her professor as a mentor. She’s aiming to explore whether victims of nuclear radiation could be impacted by COVID-19 differently.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t the only force working against Priya this past year. She was the victim of a robbery that resulted in her backpack getting stolen, and she needed hand surgery after a bad fall. But with the help of the D.R.E.A.M.S. for Youth Scholarship, Priya was able to get back on her feet.

“It’s easy for people to fall behind and for things like this to get in the way,” Priya said. “Having such a crazy year, I only bounced back from all those things despite the challenges. I think being at a school like Columbia, there’s ways to learn from challenges and be resilient.”

Priya’s perseverance can be a lesson to all of us. Despite the difficulties of her freshman year, she maintained an impressive GPA and built relationships that will last beyond college. She leveraged the experiences of her first year to earn a job at a doctor’s office in Bayside this summer, giving her a peek behind the curtain at the field she hopes to someday enter. With the help of the D.R.E.A.M.S. for Youth Scholarship, United Way of Long Island is eager to see Priya succeed.