Alumni Success Story

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Photo by Vanessa Gonzalez (Northwestern University)

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Name: Saba Parvez

Country: India

Pestalozzi Scholar: 2006-2008

From rural Assam, Saba has always been aware of the impact that education has had on his life and that of his family. He went on to gain an undergraduate degree at Bates College, majoring in Chemistry, his PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from Cornell University before pursuing postdoctoral training at the University of Utah.

Saba has been the recipient of a number of awards including an American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) from the National Human Genome Research Institute. In 2024, The Parvez Lab will open, with Saba joining the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor.

“Despite being from a relatively modest family, my parents inculcated the value of education since childhood. My mother, although she didn’t go to school herself, ensured that we got the most out of our education. In grade 6, I received a scholarship for primary and secondary education at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Lakhimpur. Attending JNV helped opened many doors for me, including the Pestalozzi scholarship opportunity that changed the trajectory of my personal and professional life. Thanks to Pestalozzi, I was able to complete my two years of high school in the UK. More importantly, Pestalozzi provided the guidance and financial help to apply for college education in the US, which led me to the career I have today. I received a full scholarship to attend Bates College, and subsequently completed my PhD from Cornell University. I am now gearing up to start my own independent lab at Northwestern University in Spring 2024.”

“Without Pestalozzi’s support, it would have been difficult for my family to pay for my higher education. I would have had to pick between pursuing my dream career and financially supporting my family. My experience at Pestalozzi opened up incredible educational and subsequent career opportunities. These opportunities have allowed me to be financially independent and support my sibling’s further education. Their higher education degrees in social work, pedagogy, and rural medicine have furthered Pestalozzi’s mission of giving back to the community. Moreover, noticing the impact that education has made in my family’s life, members of my extended family as well as people in my village have started focusing on their children’s education more than ever. I often receive calls and messages from parents from my village wanting to discuss higher education opportunities for their children. Hence, Pestalozzi not only changed my personal journey, but through me has changed the lives of my family and the broader community.”

Pestalozzi alumni are encouraged to ‘pay it forward’.

“I’ve actively engaged in several initiatives to increase education access to marginalized and underserved communities. In the US, I have participated in several educational outreach programs including Expand Your Horizons to stimulate middle- and high-school girls’ interest in careers in Science, Technology, and Mathematics. During my PhD, I volunteered with the Ithaca Youth Bureau-College Discovery Program to inspire local youth from underrepresented communities to pursue a college degree. In the laboratory, I have mentored students from underrepresented minority communities providing encouragement and guidance to pursue a research career. In my home community in India, I have financially supported a student towards his college education. In addition, I have provided career counselling to several students in India looking to pursue higher education in the US.”

Saba will be starting his independent research laboratory at Northwestern University in February 2024.

“As an assistant professor in the School of Medicine, I will have the opportunity to teach and mentor students. Given my personal journey and recognizing how life-changing educational opportunities can be, I am particularly looking forward to mentoring students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  

My lab’s research is focused on understanding the fundamental pathways that control animal development. This work has implications for finding genetic basis for several developmental and congenital disorders such as heart defects, epilepsy etc. Understanding of the fundamental pathways will reveal better ways to manage/treat these disorders.

My personal and professional journey is a testament to the fact that granting access to education changes lives and uplifts communities. Increasing access to education, especially for people from underprivileged backgrounds, is a proven way of creating a more just and equitable society. Education has the power to lift individuals from cycles of poverty and empower them to forge their own paths in life. Most importantly, however, education allows one to broaden their horizons – to know all that is possible and to dream big.”

Ongoing support for the charity’s work is vital if it is to remain sustainable and continue to make an impact.

“Our lives are forever changed in positive ways because of the support we received from Pestalozzi. Please continue supporting the organization, because Pestalozzi is truly making the world a better place by educating one individual at a time.

Pestalozzi alumni can support the work of the charity by becoming more involved. This can be in many different forms, including supporting the foundations through personal donations and raising funds for the charity. Alumni can also increase awareness about Pestalozzi’s work amongst their friends, colleagues, and their respective communities. Importantly, Pestalozzi alumni should strive to ‘pay it forward’ by giving back to their communities by any means possible and by supporting other students from similarly disadvantaged backgrounds.”

December 2023

Education is the key to empowering young people to improve their lives and their community. By setting up a regular payment to Pestalozzi or giving a one-off gift, it means that we can continue to provide opportunities to people like Saba who will go on to make a difference in the world.

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