Visually challenged since birth, MIT junior Srikanth Bolla is going to make a difference for disabled people everywhere. The native of Hyderabad, India, already has. But, ask the Course 15 major, who received a fellowship from the MIT Public Service Center, what he’s most proud of, and he simply says, “I’m not proud ... I have to do much, much more.”
Last year, Bolla launched a computer research and training center and digital library for visually challenged students at Samanvai, an India-based nonprofit that provides support services to children with multiple disabilities. Bolla is a board member, and is in charge of Samanvai’s web development and fundraising. He also oversees the design of new projects. “By providing computer education and accessible educational material, we can create self-confidence, increase academic potential and reduce the educational gap between mainstream and special learning,” he says.
As the son of an illiterate rice farmer and his wife, Bolla had a difficult start to life, and he faced an uncertain future as he started work in the rice paddy fields alongside his father. An uncle suggested he attend the Devnar School for the Blind, hundreds of miles away from his hometown. At the school, he struggled, but soon applied himself, learned English and went on to score high grades, and eventually acceptance to MIT.
Bolla has chosen to focus on management studies even though he has a keen aptitude for computer science. He plans to be an entrepreneur and a future leader. In fact, one of his many ambitions is to be president of India. “With management, it’s in my hands. I can use management skills however I like. If my ideas work out in the business world, I can make a lot of money and I can help others with that money,” he says. One of his ideas is to start a company that will manufacture assistive technology devices.
Once he graduates, he will pursue an MBA and a PhD in education. “I like the philosophies of MIT Sloan, which prepare students to go out into the world to solve problems. I would love to do that,” he says. “My dream is to inspire, create awareness, improve accessibility and have an inclusive society.”
His academic advisor, Lori Breslow, director of the MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory and senior lecturer at MIT Sloan, said she is impressed with Bolla’s inspiring goals. “Srikanth combines tenacity with a commitment to excellence. He isn’t afraid to take on big challenges and he doesn’t shy away from working hard. His dedication to helping others fuels everything he does,” she said.