Scholarships Help Students Stay in School

For those who lost jobs and housing due to COVID, the boost from Lions keeps them going

Lion Ashok Kumar Mago knows how lonely it can be to leave one’s homeland and travel thousands of miles to a new country to pursue higher education.

The charter member of the Dallas Indian Lions Club immigrated from India to the United States in 1974, when he also learned the financial difficulties of studying in a foreign country.

That isolated feeling of leaving family and friends behind and the financial stresses have been heightened for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students lost jobs and internships that supported their studies and haven’t been able travel back to India to see sick relatives.

That’s why Mago and other members of the 37-member club decided this year to provide scholarships to students at the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The school has a large number of Indian students who’ve struggled during the pandemic. The transition to virtual-only learning has had several effects.

“Most of the students lost the jobs they used to have on campus, or they didn’t get the internships they’d usually get with local businesses,” Mago says.

Realizing that students were facing financial hardships that might harm their ability to continue their studies, the club decided to give scholarships of US$1000 each to ten students at the school.

Lions left it up to the school to decide which students were most deserving of the scholarships that were granted in early 2021.

This isn’t the first time Dallas Indian Lions provided scholarships to students who show academic promise. Throughout its history, the club, which was founded in 1985, has emphasized education by giving scholarships to graduating high school seniors in financial need.

Dallas Lions distribute food
In addition to providing scholarships to students from abroad, Dallas Indian Lions also donated more than US$15,000 in groceries to students at two Texas universities.

It continued that tradition this year and added the Naveen Jindal scholarships.

“We said, ‘We can’t help each and every student, but let’s see how many we can help,’” says Mago.

The pandemic was especially challenging for students who were far from home when India was hit hard by the illness.

“Imagine if you are a student and your family members get sick or, if unfortunately, any one of them dies. It’s going to put a lot of pressure on you,” he says.

He adds that because of COVID-19-related travel bans, it’s not possible for students to go home to be with an ill family member.

Students sent letters to express their thanks for the scholarships.

Sai Sravya Bhupathiraju, who is studying business analytics, says the scholarship eased her financial strain.

“I will be able to more fully focus on my studies and I will be able to manage both my living expenses and tuition,” she says.

In addition to the scholarships, the club also donated US$8,000 in groceries to the University of Texas at Dallas food pantry and US$7,500 in groceries to another pantry at the University of North Texas. In total, the club provided groceries for about 750 students.

“Through the campaign with the Lions Club, we not only supported 10 students but also answered the needs of hundreds of students who got a month’s worth of grocery staples through the campus food pantry,” says Gaurav Shekhar, director of the Master’s of Science in Business Analytics Flex program.

Mago says the money for the scholarships and groceries came from donations from club members. He encourages other Lions to support higher education for students in need.

“If we can help students be productive, that’s a good thing for us to do,” he says.