February 2021

Scholar Spotlight: Harini Pootheri

A Resilient & Determined Young Woman

Harini Pootheri is one of the 17 RTE scholars from Paly Class of 2021. Harini is a freshman at California Polytechnic Institute at Pomona. She is a resilient young woman who made it to college despite difficult circumstances. Our Paly Student Representative Maya Mukherjee interviewed Harini last month.  

1. What is your major and what are you interested in studying?

I initially applied as a philosophy major but realized that job prospects would be scarce in that field, so I considered other majors. However, my interest is really in neuroscience so I’ve decided to study neuroscience. There is no neuroscience program at CalPoly so I'm applying to transfer to other schools for fall 2022. 

2. How did you get into neuroscience?

I realized that the one thing that unites people of all walks of life is our biology and our experiences. The way that we respond to things is a result of our experiences and also our biology. In addition I wanted to explore that more in the context of the criminal justice system. I also have a more personal connection: my mom experienced mental health issues. Her condition wasn't diagnosed or treated, but she passed away because of it and wasn't able to receive services. So I see myself as an advocate for mental health because of that, and also because of my own experiences with mental health. And I believe research in the area of the brain is a growing field. 

3. What class or subjects are you looking forward to next semester?

There are some classes that are categorized as general education, like advocacy and arguments, and history. I'm pretty interested in those subjects. The advocacy and argument class incorporates my interest in advocating for people who don't have a voice or are not able to do so for themselves. So I'm interested in that class in particular.

4. What has been the best part of college so far?

I think, honestly for me, just having stability and knowing that I'm going to have a place to live and learn and just exist for the next four years.  I've kind of struggled with making friends that share my values, but I continue to seek out those connections.

5. Has RTE made a difference in your decision to pursue a college degree? If so, how?

Definitely. I think the scholarship and the mentors have.  Actually, right now, they're helping me a lot. RTE mentors and some board members are helping me a lot with supporting me and my academic endeavors and also in my everyday life, and without RTE, I wouldn't have been able to come this far. RTE has definitely played a part in me pursuing my college education.

6. Has RTE helped you get to college (financially and otherwise)? If so, how?

Yes. RTE board members have provided career counseling, and also have been a support network for me during difficult times such as over the winter break when the dorms were closed. They let me stay with them. During the summer, they also helped me get things for my dorm because I didn't have anyone to support me, and they helped me with the transition from aging out of the foster care system, which is a very difficult transition. 

7. Did any adults help/support you in the process of getting to college? How?

At Paly, the College and Career Center counselors helped me with applying to schools and writing essays, finding scholarships, such as RTE and others. They also helped me with fee waivers for applying to schools. The adults in my life also encouraged me to keep pursuing my academic interests and higher education despite difficult circumstances.

8. Do you have an idea of what you want to do after college?

Long term I would like to pursue law and become a judge, that's my very long term goal. But in the meantime, I would like to work. And I'm not sure if that's going to be with neuroscience  in the technology field, or something else. However, I have a long term goal and I have intellectual curiosity. 

To meet other RTE scholars, please visit our website.


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