When Khushboo “Ashna” Coondiah arrives on DePauw’s campus Aug. 13, she will have traveled nearly 10,000 miles over 28 hours and rewound her clock back eight hours.
As a resident of Mauritius, a tropical island country 1,200 miles off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, Coondiah will travel farther than any other member of the Class of 2023.
She is familiar with distant travel, though the journey to DePauw will be her longest. She traveled 6,000 miles to the United Kingdom in 2009 and spent the last two years at a residential high school in Johannesburg, South Africa, almost 2,000 miles from her home.
“Having lived at the African Leadership Academy for two years was difficult initially; however, that rough journey helped me grow as a person,” she said by email. “I have become more independent and developed skills, such as time and money management. And I strongly believe that those will definitely help me during my time at DePauw University.”
Coondiah, who plans a career in mechanical or aeronautical engineering, said she applied to other universities that offered similar courses and financial aid but chose DePauw because she “was – and still am – captivated by the sense of togetherness prevailing across the campus.
“Living in a completely new environment alone is a bit of an intimidating thought,” she says. “Nonetheless, that feeling is less daunting if the atmosphere is like living in a big extended family. DePauw University shines a feeling of closeness among each and every member of the community, from which I found comfort since day one.”
Parker Black, meanwhile, will travel the shortest distance of any first-year student. His family lives just a little more than a mile from campus.
Black wanted to remain close to the many activities in which he is involved in Greencastle. He plays guitar and sings in the Dreadful Greta, a Grateful Dead cover band; recently started Second Story Studios, where musical acts can record their work; and operates Project Cultivate, a nonprofit organization that replenishes students’ lunch accounts that go negative.
One day during Black’s junior year at Greencastle High School, a cafeteria worker told him his lunch account was nearly depleted. He went to retrieve cash from his locker and, on the way, was told by another student and a teacher that he needed to replenish his account.
That troubled him; what was an oversight for him could be humiliation for a student whose inability to pay resulted in a peanut butter sandwich instead of a hot meal, served in full view of classmates.
“Lunch shaming,” Black says. “That’s a huge thing. So all these kids who can’t afford lunch, I started to feel for that. I started an alternate lunch account within the Greencastle School Corp. my first year that basically paid all those differences.” He expanded the program the next year to Cloverdale Community Schools.
Black has raised more than $6,000 by staging benefits for the last two Aprils; his band and others have performed. Project Cultivate also will benefit from LIVEstock, a music festival set for Sept. 27-28 at Willer’s Ridge, southeast of Greencastle. (DePauw students, he points out, get a discount on tickets.) In June, the Putnam County Community Foundation awarded Black its inaugural Philanthropist of the Year award and $1,000, which he plowed back into Project Cultivate.
Black plans to major in economics, an academic pursuit that will support his tentative, post-graduation plans to go into nonprofit management. He has been accepted into the Management Fellows Program.
Steve Fouty, director of the Robert C. McDermond Center for Management & Entrepreneurship, which houses the fellows program, notes that Black has accomplished much “before he even starts college. … I look forward to many conversations with Parker about entrepreneurship and business. As a singer/songwriter myself, I look forward to tapping into his creative energies.”
Says Black: “If I went somewhere else – 40 minutes to an hour away or even longer – my abilities to do anything would be shrunk a whole lot. And DePauw is a great school. I didn’t just choose it solely off of location. … It feels like the right choice so I just went with my gut feeling and went for it.”