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Pursuing All of Her Passions

Roma DesaiRoma Desai keeps herself very busy.

The Early College at Guilford (ECG) senior is passionate about serving the community and spreading her love of STEM to others in Guilford County.

“My parents took me to the temple and Greensboro Urban Ministry when I was young to volunteer,” said Desai. “Those experiences instilled in me the idea of serving others.”

When she entered high school, she combined her passions for service and STEM by volunteering in several camps that exposed younger students to computer programming, IT and coding. She also organized blood and coat drives, continued volunteering at Greensboro Urban Ministry, is a FIRST Lego League Robotics mentor at the Greensboro Science Center and, during the pandemic, she 3D printed N95 masks for healthcare workers.

“All of these experiences are very fulfilling. I love the sense that at the end of the day, I did something meaningful and made a difference in someone’s life.”

When the pandemic hit and she needed to stay home, Roma found a way to connect with her school and keep herself busy by starting the Data Analytics and Cybersecurity Club during her sophomore year.

“We had to figure out how to do everything virtually because of the pandemic,” she explained. “I started by gathering a few friends who were interested. The first year, we competed in a data analytics competition and hosted a district-wide summer camp for elementary and middle school students to teach them how to program in Python and how to do data analytics in Google Sheets. We also taught ourselves more about data analytics and cybersecurity.”

The willingness of the school’s administrative team to help her create the club is one of the many reasons Roma says she loves ECG.

“When I suggested the idea to our principal, he was so excited. He’s like that anytime we have a suggestion or idea. Having that kind of support from your school is important, because as students we have lots of ideas, but it’s hard to make them a reality if you don’t have that same level of excitement and support.”

“Roma’s leadership and academic work has enabled her to demonstrate the energy, spirit and ambition that are unrivaled in my now over 31 years in education,” said Dr. Pete Kashubara, principal of the Early College at Guilford. “I consider her to be in the top 1% of students that I have had the pleasure to work with.”

Being able to voice and advocate for your ideas is a concept important to Roma, and one she tries to instill in younger generations of girls interested in STEM.

“It can be difficult to have the confidence to put yourself out there. Watching them build that confidence at a young age is really important if you want to share your innovative ideas as you get older.”

Roma loves STEM, but she also appreciated the freedom at ECG to pursue different academic paths.

“There is a lot of freedom associated with the program. The first two years are high school courses, and the second two years are college, but you aren’t limited to one pathway,” she said. “I’ve taken STEM classes, business law and art. That’s the beauty of ECG, you’re challenged, and you have the rigor you need, but you can also choose from a variety of courses.”

Taking advantage of opportunities helped Roma to find her new passion, biomedical engineering, when she was accepted into the Draelos Science Scholars Program at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. 

“Once I started working in the lab, I found a passion in that career,” she said. “There was a lot of application-based work that I really enjoyed. I’m someone who loves doing hands-on work, and though I enjoy computers, I wouldn’t want to sit at a computer all day. The summer research work opened my eyes to a new field of study.”

She’ll be pursuing that major when she attends Johns Hopkins University next year, with several scholarships, including Johns Hopkins’ Hodson Trust Scholarship and a National Merit Scholarship. In total, she was offered more than $400,000 in merit scholarships.

“Sometimes I had to make sacrifices and put off time with friends, but overall, I just developed a routine that gave me time to do the things I enjoy,” she said. “I just take everything one step at a time, make sure I give myself time to get things done, and of course, I always have the support of my family and friends.”