BY ASHLEY SZATALA
Nitesh Patel, CAL. POLY.-POMOMA 2001, helps support children and families in need and encourages a pathway to education through his nonprofit, Each One Teach One
Nitesh Patel, CAL. POLY.-POMOMA 2001, remembers learning many lessons from his parents while growing up, but one was always a defining factor in how he was raised.
“My parents immigrated from India, and they worked on the farms to start building their American dream,” Patel says. “One of the biggest things to them was to get an education that will allow you to get out of poverty, and that will set the stage where you’re earning an income where you can do more with it.”
That lesson in the power of an education was always in the back of Patel’s mind as he went through high school and started college. He eventually earned his Juris Doctor and a Masters in Law and said to himself that if he ever became successful, there would be a charitable component that would go with his success.
Patel’s family often went back to India and volunteered with children there, but it was difficult for Patel to see so many intelligent and talented children missing out on an education due to being orphaned or their families lacking basic necessities due to poverty.
In 2008, Patel co-founded Each One Teach One, a nonprofit that helps pay for the health, education, housing and nourishment of orphans and poverty-stricken children in India, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Thanks to teams in India and Mexico that partner with local nonprofits, about 500 kids in India and 280 kids in Mexico are sponsored.
“At Each One Teach One, the concept is that if you get the basic necessities to help you obtain an education, then you’re going to get out of poverty,” Patel explains.
Domestically, Each One Teach One also holds about five events a year that benefit people in the Los Angeles area. In total, the nonprofit assists more than 5,000 poverty-stricken families locally and internationally. For his work supporting families and children in need and encouraging a pathway to education, Patel has been named the spring quarter Mark V. Anderson Character-in-ActionTM Leadership Award recipient.
‘MY NAME FOR HIM IS SUPERMAN’
Mortimer Jones, executive director at the Salvation Army Siemon Family Youth and Community Center in South Los Angeles, first met Patel, who now serves on the Salvation Army’s advisory board, about 10 years ago during an event to help feed community members. Patel wanted to help with a back-to-school event, and together the Salvation Army and Each One Teach One provided backpacks and school supplies to about 250 children. The men’s partnership and community events have only grown since.
Today, the August back-to-school event, called Feed LA, provides 4,000 hot meals, 5,000 backpacks full of supplies, 10,000 pieces of brand-new clothing and 90,000 pounds of fresh and canned food to families.
For the first time in September, Each One Teach One held a Kicks 4 Kids event at the Salvation Army and handed out 1,000 pairs of name-brand shoes to underprivileged children. In December, the nonprofit’s annual Christmas toy drive, in partnership with the Salvation Army and Boys and Girls Club of Greater Anaheim-Cypress, California, provides toys and a hot meal to take home for 500 children.
“He uses his nonprofit [for organizing events], but this is Nitesh. He could easily put his name on things, but he hates the recognition,” Jones says. “[Patel] is a driving force and authentic. There’s no hidden agenda. He’s a gentleman who just wants to help others.”
Jones adds that Patel is hands-on with his volunteer work and often becomes one of the Salvation Army team members when he stops by the center.
“He shows up in his T-shirt and jeans and literally starts to lift boxes, pull pallet jacks and attempts to drive the forklift in the parking lot,” Jones says. “He rents a truck, drives downtown, goes to the market, buys pallets and pallets of fresh food and drives the truck over here just to give it all away.
“My name for him is Superman. He calls me up on the phone, and I’m like, ‘Hey, Superman.’ He just jumps right in and gets it done, and he doesn’t have to. If you’re looking for reassurance that good still exists in the world today, then that’s Nitesh Patel. Just look in his direction. He gives so much back.”
Patel insists that he has the easy job and that the true recognition goes to his nonprofit’s donors and volunteers. “I just connect the dots,” he says. And although thousands are helped by Each One Teach One every year, the goal is much smaller.
“You can’t change the world, but you can change one life,” Patel says. “That’s the concept we’ve always believed in. If you bring one smile, that’s good enough. It fills your soul for a lifetime.”
LESSONS THAT LAST
Patel credits the Fraternity for helping him achieve professional success and for helping shape his philanthropic spirit.
“Sigma Chi played a big role in who I am and how I do things. In college, everything we did was bonding and brotherhood. But an important aspect it taught was leadership and giving back,” he says. “I was Pro Consul. When you have 100 guys in a chapter who are diverse and using their different talents, temperaments and convictions and you bring them together, you can achieve great things. It’s similar to an Each One Teach One event. When we host one, we get about 500 volunteers.”
Patel adds that lessons learned in Sigma Chi are enduring.
“[The Fraternity] really does help you prepare you for the bigger world out there. It’s something you’re going to learn and acknowledge from and be able to use forever,” he says. “Fraternities and sororities do a lot of philanthropic work, and doing that and learning from that is a big deal when you’re starting it in college and [interested in] keeping it up throughout your lifetime.”
A person with good character shows trustworthiness, respect and fairness to others, as well as responsibility and citizenship. Those members who go out of their way to help others and those who overcome obstacles and lead with integrity are good candidates for the Mark V. Anderson Character-in-ActionTM Leadership Award.
Sigma Chi introduced the award to recognize the selfless acts of brothers. A formal recognition by the Fraternity allows non-members to appreciate the scope of the organization. For information about the award, see sigmachi.org/character.