Making Forever Connections
by Manavi Bajpai
My name is Manavi Bajpai and I am a freshman at the University of Southern California studying finance with a minor in music industry. When I first met Riley’s Way I was a junior in high school. My life has changed a lot in the last two years as I’ve moved across the country, learned how to live on my own, and grown as a person. A consistent force in my life through all of that change has always been Riley’s Way.
I started with Riley’s Way in the spring of my junior year of high school when I was named a 2022 Call For Kindness (C4K) Fellow for my non-profit organization, Tunes For Kidz (TFK). I started TFK my sophomore year in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. As an organization, our goal is to take instruments people don’t use and give them to kids in the foster care system or low socioeconomic status. We used the Riley’s Way C4K grant to buy new pianos and guitars for local elementary schools and foster care group homes.
In February of 2023, three of my team members and I had the amazing opportunity to fly to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Riley’s Way Call For Kindness Retreat with our cohort of C4K recipients. This is where my life changed. At the Retreat, I met the incredible Riley’s Way staff, who quite literally welcomed me with open arms. I met some of my now best friends including Elaine, Maya, Anbini, Sydney, Brayden, and so many more fellow C4K recipients and kind leaders. That first Retreat showed me what being truly genuine and kind can look like in the nonprofit industry. At the Retreat I learned the difference between being kind and nice, I learned the potential I have to truly change the world, and how no matter what, I always have the Riley’s Way community supporting me.
After the initial Retreat, RIley’s Way continued to offer me and TFK a plethora of support. Riley’s Way gave me access to lawyers to file official 501(c)(3) status, guidance as I transitioned into becoming a college student, and press opportunities to talk about my kindness project to spread our reach.
Beyond non-profit support, Riley’s Way gave me personal support. Cheyenne, the Program Director, took time out of their busy vacation schedule while in California to come visit me at my college campus. The conversation I had with them is ingrained in my head as I was going through a rough transition moving across the country. Seeing Cheynne reminded me of the support I have. Another staff member, Stephanie, put me in contact with a Riley’s Way alum in California to help with the transition process. In September of 2023 when I got to be a Team Mentor at the Riley’s Way Youth Leadership Retreat I got to bond with the other staff members, alumni, and new members of the Riley’s Way community.
I met the staff and other kind leaders a short time ago, but it feels like I’ve known them my whole life and I can’t imagine the rest of my life without them. I have so many memories, adventures, and stories I could tell about each and every one of the staff, and that’s why I love Riley’s Way and the support they’ve given me, my team, and most importantly my kindness project Tunes For Kidz.