Student-Led Organization Has Raised $100,000 for Underserved Youth

Be the Light Youth Association’s current executive directors Alyssa Nie, Angela Wang, and Pranav Pattatathunaduvil // courtesy BTLYA
Be the Light Youth Association’s current executive directors Alyssa Nie, Angela Wang, and Pranav Pattatathunaduvil // courtesy BTLYA

Founded and run by Plano high school students, Be the Light (BTL) Youth Association offers speech and debate classes and workshops to raise money that benefits underserved youth. Any student in fourth through ninth grade can sign up for one of the classes and workshops, receive expert instruction and know that 100 percent of their payment is going toward helping a child in need.

BTL was founded in 2017 by Jacqueline Wei, Michelle Zhang, Neha Kalakuntla, Anthony Jiang, Jennifer Lin, Annie Lu and Pranay Dhondi, a group of speech and debate students who were eager to share their love for public speaking while also giving back to the community.

Over the past three years, the association has raised more than $100,000 for underserved children through classes and workshops offered. Congressman Van Taylor awarded the group a Certificate of Congressional Recognition, and the Hometown Hero for Texas’ Third Congressional District Award.

Students leading a workshop // photos courtesy Be the Light Youth Association
Students leading a workshop // photos courtesy Be the Light Youth Association

In April, the group donated $2,500 to Minnie’s Food Pantry and $2,500 to Mission Arlington’s Food Pantry. In July, it held a community book drive and collected more than 2,600 books to donate to Reading Partners of North Texas and Edufree, two nonprofits working to improve literacy rates among children. As of August, the group has provided speech and debate workshops to more than 400 students.

Though events have gone virtual during the pandemic, BTL has still found that its workshops and classes generate interest in students. A bright spot of going virtual has been the newfound ability to offer classes to students in 11 different states around the country.

“We recognize that COVID-19 has created such a tremendous crisis in the community around us, and so we thought it was our responsibility to step up and do what we could to make a difference in the lives of those in need,” BTL Executive Director Angela Wang shared.

Be the Light Youth Association workshops have moved online during the pandemic
Be the Light Youth Association workshops have moved online during the pandemic

Through the recent two-week online summer speech and debate camp, the students raised $15,000 specifically to target COVID relief. The donation was split evenly to benefit three organizations.

Hope Supply Co., a local organization that provides hygiene items, clothing and school supplies to children in need, will use the donation to provide 40,000 diapers for homeless and disadvantaged children. Educational First Steps, an organization supporting childcare centers that serve low-income children, will be able to sponsor for three months a high-need center that cares for 60 children, as well as provide emergency funding for other childcare centers. The Warren Center, an organization that serves children and families impacted by developmental disabilities, will provide virtual therapy to disabled children across North Texas.

Support BTL financially or sign up for the next workshop for your child at the link below.

Be the Light Youth Association >
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