Service at Heart of GAA's Recognition of Two Young Alumni

Two entrepreneurs who tackle issues such as hunger, poverty and diversity – and engage others in service projects – have been honored as the GAA’s 2008 Distinguished Young Alumni.

Sindhura Citineni ’04 of Morrisville and Tony Deifell ’91 of San Francisco received the awards at a banquet Friday evening for bringing credit to the University through their achievements.

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Sindhura Citineni ’04 and Tony Deifell ’91. (Photo by Keith King ’82)

“The remarkable accomplishments of many of Carolina’s younger alumni are truly inspiring,” said GAA President Douglas Dibbert ’70. “The GAA delights in presenting each year the Distinguished Young Alumni Awards to those who have made our alumni and our University so proud.”

Citineni is now a Carolina dental student. As an undergraduate, she was moved by images of starving people in her native India to found Hunger Lunch, a program that serves lunches of beans and rice weekly on campus to drive home the food plight of many of the world’s poor.

With support from UNC’s APPLES (Assisting People in Planning Learning Experiences in Service) program, the Carolina Center for Public Service and the Campus Y, Hunger Lunch became the first undergraduate international hunger-relief organization on campus.

In its first year, the project raised more than $7,500. Citineni and another student used that money to set up a Nutrition House in her native city, Hyderabad, India, where a high-protein, high-calcium drink was served to children.

Through the UNC business-plan competition Carolina Challenge – a student-led program that is part of the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative – Citineni and other students expanded Hunger Lunch into the nonprofit Nourish International. They took second place in the challenge’s social-enterprise category and developed their ideas through the Kenan-Flagler Business School’s “Launch the Venture” course. The business school presented Citineni with its Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2007.

Nourish International has established nine long-term, sustainable development projects in impoverished communities, including a micro-irrigation project in the Bolivian Andes and community food plots at elementary schools in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Headquartered in Chapel Hill, the organization has 23 chapters at universities across the U.S. and plans to expand. This year, the N.C. Peace Corps honored Nourish International with the N.C. Peace Prize for excellence in cross-cultural solutions and sustainable development.

Deifell, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, helped found the APPLES service-learning program at UNC when he was a student. The program helps students and faculty combine classroom work with community service projects.

Twice named N.C. Student Photographer of the Year, Deifell went on after graduation to start arts-based public-service organizations. One, the Institute for Public Media Arts in Durham, involved youths in public service through media arts – photography, video, radio and the Internet. The nonprofit generated user-generated content long before new media such as YouTube.

Other Deifell initiatives included the -ISM (N.) Curricula and Faculty Development Project, which helps colleges explore diversity through video and multimedia. He was on the national advisory board of Rock the Vote and was a fellow of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Group.

As chief strategist for KaBOOM!, a leader in community-built playgrounds and skate parks, Deifell applied his Harvard master’s degree in business administration skills to developing play areas in underserved neighborhoods. He designed a national city-based advocacy program called “America’s Most Playful Cities,” which Harvard Business School featured as a best practice and a learning case study.

Last year, Deifell published Seeing Beyond Sight: Photographs by Blind Teenagers, showcasing work by students at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh. The students participated in a photography club he started there.

A current project was inspired by a child’s question: “Why do you do what you do?” Deifell created an interactive Web site on which users may answer the question, submit photos and more. The site has drawn more than half a million viewers to see the self-expressive works posted by thousands of participants.

Since 1989, the GAA’s Distinguished Young Alumni Awards have recognized alumni aged 40 or younger whose accomplishments have brought credit to the university.

Related coverage is available online:

  • The Long Lunch: Great ideas for chipping away at the daunting impact of poverty are in plentiful supply. Some UNC students explored how to sustain the ideal, and now they’re asking other schools to give their approach a try.
    The Way It Works Here: Roadblocks, and the Seeds of a Solution
    Feature coverage of Nourish International from the September/October 2008 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to Carolina Alumni members.
  • Take a Chance on Me: Sometimes great ideas about how to teach and learn come from the paying customers. Carolina’s leadership in the service-learning arena started with a small group of students who asked the University to offer more.
    Feature coverage of the APPLES service-learning program from the September/October 2007 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to Carolina Alumni members.

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