Park Scholar Niveda Mahesh Seeks to Create Sustainable Change

Originally published by College of Natural Resources News

Niveda poses outdoors - Freshman Niveda Mahesh Makes a Lasting change in Her Community and Beyond - College of Natural Resources News NC State University

At the College of Natural Resources, NC State students work to solve urgent challenges at the intersection of the environment, economy and society.

Niveda Mahesh, Park Scholar Class of 2027, embodies this mission. When the freshman isn’t studying paper science and engineering, she’s supporting community projects as the founder and president of the nonprofit organization 4Girls 4Change.

Mahesh founded the organization with her sister and two cousins in 2021. She was a sophomore in high school at the time. The group initially focused on solving the problem of food insecurity among children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As schools were transitioning to online learning during COVID-19, it was getting harder for families to provide for their kids.”

The group built relationships with a local homeless shelter, a local food bank and a local food rescue program to identify their most needed items before seeking donations from from local grocery stores, friends and family.

A lot of stores and family members and friends donated to their fundraiser, so much so that the donations continue on a monthly basis. Eventually, Mahesh envisions the organization transitioning to become For Kids 4Change.

Since the initial fundraiser, Mahesh and her collaborators have helped to support numerous other community projects, including eight “Do Good for Do-Gooders” food drives and a “Support Afghan Refugees” clothing drive.

The organization has also since donated more than $8,000 to a local homeless shelter; more than 1,000 pounds of unused restaurant food items to feed the hungry; $5,000 to a Christian nonprofit that helps the poor and homeless in Northern Virginia; and $2,000 to support COVID-19 relief efforts in India.

“Our mission is to create long-term sustainable change, which we believe starts in our local community,” Mahesh said.

As a Park Scholar at NC State, Mahesh continues to nurture her passion for helping others. She is currently assisting with public relations as a member of the planning committee for the Krispy Kreme Challenge. The annual charity event has raised more than $2 million for the UNC Children’s Hospital since it was originally planned and executed by Park Scholars in 2004.

Being a Park Scholar lends great support to students’ academic and professional careers, especially for Mahesh.

“I really want to make sure I’m making good use of the resources that are given to me,” she said. “I’m very interested in environmental sustainability, and with Park Scholars, I hope to explore enrichment experiences outside of my major.”

Mahesh, who is pursuing a minor in environmental sciences, hopes to leverage such experiences to achieve her career goal of becoming the chief sustainability officer of a socially responsible and Earth-centric company. It would be a fitting role for a student that’s not only demonstrated a passion for helping people, but also the planet.

In August 2022, Mahesh was awarded the Girl Scout Gold Award for reducing food waste at local McDonald’s restaurants. The award allowed her the opportunity to meet with Jenny McColloch, the chief sustainability officer at McDonald’s Corporation. “She is honestly the one individual who really inspired me to go on this path.”  

While Mahesh is still in the beginning of her studies at NC State, she is already working to secure professional development opportunities that could help her achieve her career goals. She has already secured an internship in process engineering at one of International Paper’s mills in Virginia.

Mahesh offered advice from her own experience to help fellow students succeed: “Don’t get overwhelmed; I know there’s a lot of things getting thrown at you sometimes. In the College of Natural Resources, there’s so many connections that you can build. Take it in a positive way and understand how much you are gaining out of this instead of feeling overwhelmed.”