Teen Volunteer Uses Power of Youth and Innovation to Solve Global Problems

Daily Point of Light # 7175 Nov 30, 2021
SixFeetApart founder Neha Shukla has impacted more than 50,000 students around the world as she volunteers to build the next generation of innovators and slow the spread of the pandemic./Courtesy Neha Shukla

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Neha Shukla. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

It was when Neha Shukla’s neighbors started going to the hospital and not returning, says the 17-year-old Harrisburg, Pennsylvanian, that she realized she needed to take action. 

Founding SixFeetApart at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Neha is using technology to promote social distancing and slow the spread of COVID. Inventing a wearable device that alerts users when approaching people are within the 6-foot detection range, Neha’s innovative service has impacted more than 50,000 students around the world thus far. Using the power of youth and innovation, Neha is volunteering to solve global problems.  

What inspires you to volunteer? 

I want to be that positive change in my community. Our world is facing so many problems like COVID, climate change, and inequality. Young people like me can cause this change and create a better world for all future generations. I take it upon myself every day to take action, and inspire others to do the same.  

Describe your volunteerism with SixFeetApart. 

I noticed a gap of innovation across my peers, so my volunteerism is focused on building the next generation of young innovators and problem solvers. As founder of SixFeetApart, I researched and invented the wearable social distancing device that uses the latest emerging technology including ultrasonic and AI. We’ve impacted more than 50,000 K-12 students across the globe, primarily in the United States but also including outreach in countries like India, Australia and Nigeria. I created the workshop curriculum we offer to students free of cost, host the live workshops, and also mentor our participants. In addition to my volunteerism with SixFeetApart, I founded Innovation for Everyone and am about to publish my debut book titled, “Innovation for Everyone: Solving Real World Problems with STEM.” 

Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism. 

I was running an innovation workshop for students grades 1 – 3, and teaching them my 3-step innovation process: Identify, innovate and impact. A young girl told me about her plans to tackle ocean pollution, and came up with a real, tangible solution to the problem within that short workshop. That was so amazing to me. If these young students can come up with a solution to a massive global problem like pollution in a short workshop, imagine the power they’d have if they worked on this for years. 

Why do you think it’s important for others to give back? 

The more you give back, the more the community gives back to you.  

What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?  

From running workshops and creating innovations myself, to hearing from people locally or from other countries say they’ve been following my work since day one and it’s so amazing to see what we’ve done. All of these messages are so rewarding. If I’m impacting one student or a thousand, it means a lot to me that my journey can inspire lifelong innovation.  

In one word, what does volunteering mean to you? 

Uplifting. Volunteerism is all about uplifting others and also allowing ideas from others to uplift you as well. I learn as much from these students as they learn from me. It’s a two-way street.  

When you’re not busy volunteering or in school, what do you do for fun? 

I have a lot of different hobbies. I love to play piano and guitar, spend time with my family. I love 3D printing, reading, exploring new forms of art and just having fun. 

How can readers help? 

Please visit my personal website to learn more about my work, and for more information about how you can help, visit the SixFeetApart website. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Neha Shukla? Find local volunteer opportunities. 

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