Teen’s “Project Involve” Connects Youth to Local and World Concerns
By Edward Kim
Since her June 2021 launch of Project Involve, an online platform aimed at encouraging students to become more aware of and involved in issues around the world, 16-year-old Aashi Chandna has attracted 1,300 followers.
“People turn away from reading the news because it is associated with a lot of negativity and anger,” Chandna said. “I feel like, if you take those feelings and put them to good use … So, I wanted to create an avenue to direct those feelings and put them to good use.”
Watching and feeling the impacts of the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19 stirred her own desire to pinpoint what really matters to her, said Chandna, a rising junior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in New Jersey. Many people have their own connections to certain causes. For her own part, she was living in Japan during its tsunami and earthquake in 2011. “So, for me, natural disaster relief is very important,” she said.
Project Involve’s website lets users choose news on local and world events and set the amount of minutes they want to spend reading that news. From there, they can select from among 16 non-profit organizations — ranging from The Humane Society to The Hunger Project to Girls Who Code — to learn about and support.
“Under each news summary there’s a ‘help now’ button, which connects you with [organizations] you can directly go to and help,” Chandna said.
Dylan Gaillard, 16, a Project Involve user from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, is learning more about wildfires and climate change through the site.
“I found the article titled, ‘The Climate Change Link To More And Bigger Wildfires,’ by Nick Mott, to be particularly important, as it touches on climate change, an issue that I believe the United States and many other countries have yet to acknowledge appropriately,” Gaillard said.
Another user, Brian Li, 16, one of Chandna’s schoolmates, said, “The website compiles various articles on important topics of different lengths to best accommodate visitors, which vastly simplifies the process of learning about current issues.”
Nevertheless, creating Project Involve was not a simple task, Chandna said. “To even launch this project, I had to have partnered [organizations] to start off with. It’s difficult to convince [them] to partner with you when you don’t have something physical to show them. You are just giving them a proposal.”
Chandna plans to expand Project Involve, by connecting with more organizations and students. “Once I get to around 10,000 users, possibly I’m going to do an iOS app, but an Android app is in the works actually … I personally found it really difficult to get involved myself, so making sure other people don’t face the same issue is a great feeling to have.”