A brighter holiday for one high school senior
After our story on challenges at Garinger High School, generous Ledger readers stepped up with support for Anisha Sunuwar
Dear Ledger readers,
Now that the holidays are in full swing, I wanted to write to you today with a story that is bound to put a smile on your face.
A couple of weeks ago, The Ledger brought you a story about Garinger High School, one of Charlotte’s highest-poverty high schools, and one student in particular: a senior named Anisha Sunuwar, who was working mightily before Covid and is now facing an even tougher battle since the pandemic.
Anisha is a member of the National Honor Society, works 20 hours a week to support her family with whom she immigrated from Nepal 10 years ago, and is a frequent translator for her mom during hospital visits and doctor appointments.
Anisha and her brother came down with Covid over the summer. Then, her mom became ill with an unrelated illness. Their family, like so many across our city and the world, has seen a loss of income, mounting medical bills, and for Anisha, a struggle to stay motivated without the daily encouragement from teachers that being in school provides.
A few months ago, Anisha was on the verge of dropping out. But a visit to the poultry plant where her mother works and then seeing how nurses have cared for her mom during the last few months has strengthened her resolve: She wants to graduate and go to college to become a nurse.
Just hours after her story published in The Ledger on Dec. 11, emails of support and encouragement for Anisha from readers started stacking up in my inbox.
One incredibly generous local businessman has committed to helping pay for her college degree.
A local real estate developer met with her to offer encouragement and help to ease the family’s immediate financial burden.
Another reader sent Anisha a note and a financial gift: “I just feel strongly that you deserve a bit of a boost, and I would like to give it.”
In addition, Anisha was invited to participate in the MeckEd Career Pathways program, which provides job shadowing, career exploration, soft skills training, college tours, financial and navigational support, paid internships and more for students at Garinger, Harding, Vance, and West Charlotte High Schools.
She went to the MeckEd office and completed the paperwork and assessments for MeckEd yesterday.
Anisha gets emotional talking about the outpouring of support and concern she’s received in the last two weeks.
She went from applying only to one school that she thought she could afford, N.C. A&T University, to two more: UNC Charlotte and UNC Greensboro. She’s already been accepted to N.C. A&T.
“It’s hard to explain what this feels like,” she told me by phone on Tuesday. “I feel like my life has changed. Everybody that’s been helping me has been showing me that good things can happen, even in bad situations.”
“That college assistance was like, so God gifting. I was always worried about college, and how my family could afford it,” she said. “Getting assistance financially, it was very relieving. I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders.”
Sometimes, she says, her mind drifts into a space where she feels like it’s not fair that other students who are working just as hard as she is and who face similar challenges aren’t getting the help and encouragement she’s receiving.
“I feel bad that kids my age are having to deal with stuff like this,” she says.
But she’s decided that she’s going to use that encouragement she’s gotten to pay it forward in any way she can.
“I have told everybody that is helping me, ‘I want to help others in the future.’ They all said, ‘You’ll be able to do it.’ I believe I’ll be able to give back to the community too. Because I know how it feels to go through something like this. People are willing to help me now, and I want to do the same thing too.”
So as the Christmas and New Year’s holidays approach, I want to say thank you to our readers — whether you reached out with a helping hand for Anisha or Garinger, or simply read our story to understand more about what’s going on in one high school in Charlotte that’s filled with students facing huge challenges right now.
On a personal note, I also want to say thank you for giving your time and attention, and for many of you, your hard-earned dollars, to The Ledger this year. I came aboard this growing news outlet nine months ago and have been inspired by the community of readers we are creating — ones who crave solid journalism and good writing, and who place their trust in us to tell important stories like this one about Anisha and Garinger.
I’m grateful for the generosity of our Ledger readers. And I wish you all a warm and peaceful holiday season.
— Cristina Bolling, managing editor
Charitable giving. If you’re thinking about making an end-of-the-year gift, check out our list of local charities recommended by The Ledger’s community of paying subscribers.
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