Empathy Scientist: How one teenager can change the world

With Featured Guest

Dhruv Pai


Blog divider

Empathy Scientist: How one teenager can change the world

With Featured Guest

Dhruv Pai


Blog divider

Top Takeaways From This Episode

  • Nothing we do is completely selfless, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve your life through service  
  • Changing your mindset can change your life.
  • The universe rewards those who go into an endeavor with the intention to serve.  
  • Mentors are the heroes of the entrepreneurial world. 

Greatest Love of All

The call to serve can come from anywhere, but college-bound high schoolers hear it loudest from a college admissions office. Sixteen-year-old Dhruv Pai was already a member of his school’s community service club when the COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic compelled him to help his community in an extraordinary way. Last spring, Dhruv began a nonprofit called Teens Helping Seniors. The service, local to his hometown in Maryland, offers contactless delivery of groceries and medications for seniors, veterans, and the immunocompromised. 

Dhruv is a junior enrolled in his high school’s STEM magnet program. Before the pandemic, Dhruv got involved in the school’s volunteering club. He did it to make new friends, he says. Dhruv likes service—Since eighth grade, he’s volunteered at the local military hospital through the Red Cross during the summer. Being in the volunteering club allowed Dhruv to kill two birds with one stone: He could meet new people and do something he already likes doing. 

Through the club, Dhruv volunteered at established service centers. But when COVID-19 hit, he stopped doing much of anything. The pandemic ushered in a profound sense of loneliness, hopelessness, and perhaps uselessness. Dhruv says that he and his friends wanted to help out, but they didn’t know how. When his parents suggested that elderly people might need help getting groceries and medicine, Dhruv decided that he could fill that need. 

Empathy Scientist: How one teenager can change the world. Youth Activism

All Right, Stop: Collaborate and Listen

The idea of starting a non-profit at sixteen was daunting. But youth activism is a powerful source and Dhruv understands that community service is most impactful when it’s a consistent, intentional commitment. That requires a level of responsibility and accountability that isn’t doesn't come naturally to teenagers (or even most people, period). But Dhruv wasn’t alone. The first thing he did was phone his mentor, Amy Yontef-McGrath (We interviewed Amy last August!). She helped him figure out the logistics of organizing and executing a nonprofit service. 

Media attention helped evolve Teens Helping Seniors into something bigger than Dhruv and his friends could’ve dreamed. When the service was featured by places like CNN, NPR, and The Washington Post, they got messages from people from other communities who expressed interest in beginning their own regional chapter. Now, Teens Helping Seniors offers services across North America. Dhruv doesn’t oversee much of what the other chapters do, however. He believes that local leaders understand their community’s specific needs better than he could. 

Empathy and Celebration

Dhruv speaks about Teens Helping Seniors with humility. His achievements aren’t because he’s intrinsically special, he insists, just that he’s diligent. He believes empathy is a learned trait that demands practice. Helping out in the community is one way to flex our empathy muscles. When asked what he’d like to do professionally, Dhruv says he wants to help design systems for community aid—In his words, an “empathy scientist.” We think he might do well in the burgeoning field of human-centered engineering

Celebration doesn’t come easy to Dhruv. As a college-bound high school student in a competitive STEM magnet program, Dhruv finds himself constantly comparing his achievements to others’. He’s working on unlearning that with the help of his two cats, Kit Kat and Snickers. 

Giving is Good

Be sure to follow Teens Helping Seniors on Instagram, and find your local branch on their website. If you have any questions or feedback, shoot them an email at teenshelpingseniors@gmail.com

Dhruv also supports the American Red Cross, an organization that offers a breadth of relief and education services across the country. Learn how you can volunteer for them here, and how to donate here Check them out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

"I've transformed from someone who didn't even know what public service meant to someone who loves public service and is willing to do it in his free time."

- Dhruv Pai

Meet your Host, <em style="color:teal">Heather Vickery<em>

Meet your Host, Heather Vickery

Heather Vickery is an award-winning business owner and global leader with over 20 years as an entrepreneur. She leverages her entrepreneurial skills and expertise to coach individuals towards greater personal and professional fulfillment by helping them leverage their fear into intentional bravery. Heather says “When we choose bravely, on purpose, we choose bigger, have bigger successes and it’s contagious” A celebrated public speaker, Heather inspires audiences and empowers attendees with the tools they need to live bold and successful lives through creating balance, time management, mindfulness, as well as countless systems, strategies, and boundaries. She’s the author of Gratitude Journal: Shift Your Focus and Grow Grateful: A Gratitude Journal for Kids and Families. Heather is also the host and executive producer of The Brave Files Podcast.

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