Humans of Harker: Lending a hand

Riya Gupta gives back to friends, family and people around the world


Anika Rajamani

“I hope that I can have a significant impact on someone. I want to be remembered as the one who will be there for you through anything and everything. I want to be the person who people go to for a hug, or for advice or even just to sit silently with,” Riya Gupta (12) said.

Joking with her friends in Manzanita, Riya Gupta’s (12) sparkling eyes and bright smile radiate confidence and compassion towards everyone around her.

At a very young age, her mom instilled in her the value of gratitude and giving back. This lesson and her inherent kindness drives her to always lend a helping hand without any hesitation.

And, indeed, it was this mentality that allowed her to turn an ordinary school project into a reality. In January of her freshman year, she was given an assignment for her Principles of Business and Entrepreneurship elective to partner up and create a business plan for a company or service that could solve some relevant societal problem.

In creating PromElle, a peer-to-peer clothing rental app, she and her business partner, Nishka Ayyar (12), are working to empower girls to feel confident about their appearance.

“We were never profit-driven or solely focused on our revenue. It was simply that we wanted to help girls who couldn’t find affordable clothes find something that they could feel confident in,” Riya said. “I wanted to find some way, however small it may be, to make everyone feel like they had a place in this world.”

Her passion for helping those around her love and accept themselves stemmed from her own struggles as a teenager.

“Middle school was a very tough time for me. I had trouble finding the group of friends where I could really fit in and be myself. As difficult as it was to lose my confidence and feel like I didn’t have a place in the community, I am so grateful for it,” Riya said. “It not only taught me to love myself, but it helped me find my passion for helping other people in similar situations.

She was able to integrate her passion for helping others into her everyday interactions with her family and friends. Despite the five year age gap between Riya and her younger sister, they have maintained an extremely close. As a child, she used to try and imitate everything her mom would do with her sister—feed her, walk her into school and play with her.

“She is the most caring and kind hearted person I know. Whenever our parents are away, she stays with me and makes sure I’m safe. She keeps me well-fed and makes sure I have fun when we are alone together,” Sania Gupta, Riya’s younger sister, said. “When I need help, she’s always there for me. She makes everything more enjoyable, and she’s a great, loving friend and sibling.”

Ultimately, for her, it has been all about meeting new people and discovering unique perspectives. This has helped her expand her network and understand the everyday challenges different groups of people face.

As a volunteer at Sunday Friends, a nonprofit organization that works to enable impoverished families to break the cycle of poverty, she was able to see first hand the significance and veracity of her mother’s words.

“I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities I have had, and it means the world to work with them because I get to help them gain access to resources they didn’t previously have,” Riya said.

In addition to her desire to help improve the lives of others, Riya displays a willingness to prioritize her friends that has allowed her to develop many unbreakable bonds and create everlasting memories. Known to her friends as the one who gives the best advice, the one who is the best late night study buddy and the one who will instantly respond to a text, Riya has always made time to be there for the people she cares about.

“Riya is always there for me and ready to talk to me whenever something happens. She is my number one supporter and biggest cheerleader. Whenever I’m having a bad day, she is always the first person I look to for a smile.” Nishka said. “She can basically read my mind and tell what I’m thinking at any point.”

Riya’s care for her friends is rooted in her desire to leave an impact on others through kindness.

“I want to be remembered as the one who will be there for you through anything and everything,” Riya said. “I want to be the person who people go to for a hug, or for advice or even just to sit silently with.”