It was the fatal shootings of Westerville police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli in 2018 that moved Dublin resident Sri Gaddam to start a scholarship fund for children whose parents work for the Dublin Police Department and Washington Township Fire Department.
Firefighters and police officers take care of their community around the clock, Gaddam said, and he wanted to involve the community in making a difference in their lives.
"That's the best way to thank them for what they do for us," he said.
Gaddam is an entrepreneur. In 2009, he founded Sponsor Kids, a nonprofit organization centered on the premise education is key for future generations.
Whereas his scholarship fund would provide money for graduating high-schoolers to further their education, Gaddam wanted to integrate Dublin high school students into his initiative to provide them real-world entepreneurial experience he said current education curriculums often don't include.
The group of Dublin Coffman and Dublin Jerome high school seniors and juniors who manage the Dublin Police and Firefighter Scholarship began with Sanjana Mangapuram, a 16-year-old junior at Jerome who was a family friend of Gaddam's.
Gaddam said he reached out to Mangapuram because he recognized her passion to learn more about business.
In turn, Mangapuram reached out to her peers and with them formed a five-student leadership team for the project. Mangapuram serves as director of operations; 17-year-old Jerome junior Raghav Kallur is director of communications; 17-year-old Jerome junior Owen Wohlers serves is director of sales; 17-year-old Jerome senior Shreya Chitikela is director of finance; and 17-year-old Coffman senior Peter Lin is director of marketing.
Gaddam said he told the students this would be their organization to run, so they could take ownership of the intitiative and mobilize the community.
This year, Gaddam said, he hopes to award 10 scholarships totaling $2,500 each.
By the end of next year, he is hoping to raise $100,000 and award 20 scholarships.
By 2025, he wants to increase that to 30 scholarships, he said.
Gaddam said the individual scholarship amounts would be a minimum of $2,500 and the amount would depend on how many contributions the fund receives.
For now, the scholarship fund will focus on students in the 11th grade through their fourth year in college, Kallur said.
Recipients can use the money to attend two- or four-year colleges or vocational schools, he said. Children of any staff members at the Dublin Police Department or Washington Township Fire Department are eligible to apply, he said.
The deadlilne for applications is Sunday, Dec. 15, Mangapuram said. By Dec. 6, 10 students had applied.
The students held a launch party for the initiative in August and presented their program to Dublin Mayor Greg Peterson, Superintendent Todd Hoadley and other community leaders, Mangapuram said.
Hoadley said he is proud of the students' efforts. First responders, he said, often are forgotten until they are needed and often put their own families on the back burner when others need them in times of crisis.
Making an effort to take care of them is only right, he said.
"I just think that is such a worthy cause," Hoadley said.
Dublin police Chief Justin Paez said he was appreciative of the group's efforts to develop, fund and award the scholarship.
"The members of the Dublin Police Department are grateful for their generosity and support," he said.
For more information, go to dublinpfs.org.