A portrait of Avani Venkatesh standing next to a black brick wall with vines growing up the side of it
Avani Venkatesh, a member of the Honors College, is a rising senior majoring in international studies. She has plans to attend medical school. (Contributed photo)

Avani Venkatesh gives back through internship with The Giving Square

One of the senior’s primary roles at the internship, supported by the VCU Internship Funding Program, is helping the organization develop an intergenerational fellowship.

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Avani Venkatesh became involved with the nonprofit The Giving Square when she was a freshman at VCU. The organization helps students from Title I schools, which are schools in which children from low-income families make up at least 40% of enrollment, learn about philanthropy and social justice.

This summer, Venkatesh has been working remotely for the Maryland-based organization in an internship.

“Working with The Giving Square was my first formal role as an educator, and it was extremely impactful on my perception of children and philanthropy,” said Venkatesh, a rising senior majoring in international studies in the School of World Studies and a member of the Honors College. “Because of my incredible experience at The Giving Square, becoming an educator is now an important goal of mine. While working there, I learned how to formally educate disadvantaged populations and how that is different from standard education methods.”

Venkatesh worked with the organization with the help of funding from the VCU Internship Funding Program through VCU Career Services. She applied for the program because she wanted to continue her work at The Giving Square.

“It’s something I truly love,” she said.

She singles out helping The Giving Square develop and lead its first intergenerational fellowship as the most rewarding experience she has had at the organization.

“The fellowship was an opportunity for children and adults above 65 to meet weekly. I acted as a leader rather than educator and guided the group to explore their individual philanthropic projects with each other,” she said.

One of her mentors is Amy Neugebauer, executive director and founder of The Giving Square, who is Venkatesh’s current supervisor at the internship.

“She has helped me a lot on my journey through college, especially in my involvement in nonprofits and has always valued my ideas and encouraged me to explore my interests within the nonprofit world,” she said.

At VCU, Venkatesh is involved with Doctors Without Borders as well as several other organizations around Richmond, including Feed More.

Venkatesh, who is from Richmond, wanted to attend VCU because of its urban campus. She was admitted to the VCU Guaranteed Admissions Program for Medicine in the Honors College in high school.

“This granted me guaranteed acceptance into the VCU School of Medicine after graduation from VCU,” she said. “I am currently taking courses in international studies alongside my pre-med prerequisites.” 

Working at The Giving Square aligns perfectly with her long-term goals, she said.

“It relates to my desire to become an educator while pursuing medicine and after medical school,” Venkatesh said. “Most physicians end up teaching at some point in their life — either informally just through working above medical students in hospitals or formally in a professor role. I hope to do both, and I would love to teach at a medical school one day.”