Social Impact

Alumni Spotlight: Shada Thykandy

When I first applied to Under A Tree at the end of my sophomore year of high school (May of 2016), I never could have imagined the everlasting impact it would have on me. And how could I have?

How could I have envisioned the countless conversations I would have, feeling angry or wronged, inspired or galvanized? How could I have predicted the dynamic perspectives I would hear and even incorporate? How could I have foreseen meeting Danny Meyer, an individual and leader who has truly changed my life and would make me want to be a better leader? How could I have seen the way my views would be challenged, doubted, shaken?

I couldn’t have.

Under A Tree is not just an extracurricular activity or even just a fellowship -– it is a community -– one that I call my own, one that champions robust, candid dialogue on issues like race, self-identity, morality, religion, and gender norms, with unique and inspirational individuals. One where I would become a mentor, guiding a new cohort of powerful and intellectual fellows.

Shada (Third from Left) & The 2018 Fellows of the House of Mazari. Two of the fellows she mentored last year, Rachel and Julian, are now mentors for the current fellowship. No other house provided more than one mentor except hers.

That’s why even as a college student, long after the program has ended for me, UAT keeps me questioning. It keeps me thinking, challenging, engaging, conversing, and believing. Believing in social change, and that our efforts are the most fundamental part of that. Under A Tree permeates my life to this day, in the best way possible.

In Under A Tree, you don’t just hear people’s perspectives – you listen to them. You develop a sense of agency, awareness, and accountability, a longing and sense of urgency for justice. And it is your generosity and donations that have allowed us to continue to reward and recognize the leaders of tomorrow as we should. UAT hasn’t just been there for me – it keeps me rooted in what really matters.

Shada Thykandy is a Freshman at the University of Florida. She was the co-valedictorian of Somerset Academy High School’s 2018 graduating class. She first joined Under A Tree in 2016 as one of its Ethical Citizenship Fellows and returned the following school year to become a member of the student leadership team, guiding and supporting the fellows of the House of Mazari.

"UnderAThree": Our Third Annual Ethical Citizens Fellowship Commences

"UnderAThree": Our Third Annual Ethical Citizens Fellowship Commences

The mentors (Tabitha Cherubin, Jhanae Douglas, Nick Mijares, Zoe Lee, and Shada Thykandy) and our leadership team (Director of Fellowship Recruitment & Experience, Andres Castillo, and Director of Development & Special Events, Donna Patricia de Castro) recently met in South Florida to build trust, share perspectives and hopes, and define individual, team, and organizational goals for the coming year.

Meet our 2017-18 Mentors and Student Leadership Team

We are proud to officially announce our student leadership team for our third annual Ethical Citizens Fellowship, beginning in September of 2017. 

As recent graduates of the UAT Ethical Citizens program, they will be responsible for recruiting, selecting, mentoring, and guiding the newest cohort of fellows. Please join us is recognizing and celebrating Shada, Jhanae, Andres Donna, Nick, Tabi, and Zoe!

2017-18 UAT Students Leaders

Photoblog: Expo & Commencement 2017

On Wednesday, June 7, 2017, Under A Tree honored 27 Ethical Citizenship Fellows and six Ethical Leadership Mentors for their successful completion of our 2016-17 Fellowship. Joined by parents, family members, community stakeholders, donors, and past Under A Tree alumni, we highlighted major accomplishments, celebrated student achievements, and awarded over $6500 in college scholarships.

We are grateful to Diana Rivera, Diana Escobar, Anaeli Mirjares, and Damaris Vila or their tireless efforts to secure and prepare such a beautiful space and provide tasty refreshments. We would also like to thank the Principal Stephanie Saban, the faculty and staff, and the PTA of Coral Cove Elementary School for so generously donating their facility for the celebration.

Check out our photoblog below to get a sense of the magic, emotion, and impact of this unforgettable evening in South Florida:

Fellowship Spotlight by Jessica Gomez, November 2016

Fellowship Spotlight by Jessica Gomez, November 2016

"...And that’s interesting because you get to see all these people you encounter maybe at school in a different light and you get to know them on a more personal level through learning about their opinions. And it helps you expand your own viewpoint. It helps be more accepting of others and gives an understanding of not always being right..." ~Daniel Roque