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Meet Medha, Class of ’23

By Medha Kukkalli
May 12, 2023

OneGoal Year Two Fellow Medha Kukkalli delivered an inspiring speech at the OneGoal 10th-Anniversary Celebration in Texas. The following is a transcript of Medha’s remarks about her next journey into postsecondary education after graduating from high school with the class of 2023.

Hi everyone, my name is Medha Kukkalli, and I’m a OneGoal Year Two Fellow and soon-to-be graduate from Westside High School and a first-year student at the University of Houston. I am delighted to represent the OneGoal Fellows on this momentous occasion, celebrating ten years of OneGoal in Texas.

It’s a surreal moment for me to have the opportunity to stand in front of you all today at one of the most critical turning points in my life. In a little over one month from now, I, the daughter of Indian immigrants raised in the great city of Houston, will don my cap and gown and walk across the stage to accept my diploma as a high school graduate.

OneGoal Year Two Fellow Medha Kukkalli delivering her remarks at the OneGoal Houston 10th-Anniversary Celebration in April, 2023.

Reflecting On My K-12 education

OneGoal is all about what comes after this moment, which I will get to, I promise! But I feel like it’s worth acknowledging and naming this accomplishment. For generations of young people that came before me, this was the highest pinnacle of education achievement you could hope for, and it’s finally happening for me.

Every decision I make, every path I follow, and every impact I have on my world from here on will have been shaped and molded by the experiences contained within the last 12 years of my life in school. The internal feelings of insecurity I experienced surrounded by my classmates, the isolation I felt from remote learning, and the expectations for students from South Asian families evolved into their own weight on my shoulders, but also the opportunities to step into leadership roles in my school and the many ways I was able to volunteer – added meaning to my life. All of this has contributed to my sense of curiosity, the empathy I feel for others, and the optimism and hope I have for the future.

And thanks to OneGoal, I’m more in touch with how those experiences have shaped my values and identity, and I feel assured that I’m being true to myself in this next chapter of my life.

How I Prepared for College

So how did I get here? And by here, I mean not only ready to graduate, but I’m graduating with a plan in place to continue my education, some certainty about how it will all be paid for, and confidence in the fact that I have the tools and support to guide me in earning my degree.

It started when I heard about this postsecondary advising and support program on campus called OneGoal. I am someone who likes to plan, and I knew I wanted to go to college, but I had no idea how to go about making that happen. What schools should I consider? How do I go about applying? The bigger question: How will I afford it?

And I took to the class right away – it was such a good experience. I felt an instant connection with everyone in my class; we became fast friends, and we were all still so close. I came in expecting to get answers to my many questions, but what I didn’t expect was the confidence I would gain from being in such a fulfilling environment. My Program Director, Ms. Strickland, fostered a truly inclusive environment, encouraging us to be vulnerable about our experiences, while also sharing scholarship opportunities and helping us with our personal statements. She even helped me find a tutoring job where I fell in love with human development and teaching, pathways I intend to explore deeper when I begin college.

Building My ‘Best Fit’ List

We went through a simulation experience in one lesson, which allowed us to explore what we could end up spending for on-campus residency, tuition, textbooks, and all the many costs associated with a college education. It was part of a larger project where we took a deep dive into what’s most important when selecting a college. We were encouraged to think about personal fit, our academic match, and so on. Through this process, and this wasn’t true for all my classmates but for me, I discovered that what was most important was financial fit.

I do not want to leave college under a mountain of debt. Who Does? Through every step of personal exploration, I knew that overall cost stood far and above everything else as my number one concern. So together with Ms. Strickland, we sprang into action, researching schools that were in my price range, where I could go that offered substantial financial aid, and which schools have a high percentage of completion for students from lower-income households.

I am barely scratching the surface of everything that goes into building a ‘best fit’ list through OneGoal. It’s incredibly comprehensive. But through that process, the University of Houston came up in my search. They offer free tuition to students from families making less than $65K. It’s close to my family, so I can save by living at home for the first year, and they offer a rigorous course environment that will meet my academic needs.

I’m getting into the weeds a bit here, but I tell you all of this because I want everyone to understand what a rare and golden opportunity being part of OneGoal has been for me. I have heard the stat thrown around about how the average high school student only receives 38 minutes of postsecondary advising per year of high school. Without OneGoal, that would be me, sweating it out alone, trying desperately to find the answers to my questions in a school environment with limited resources to support me in the way that I needed.

Medha Kukkalli with high school classmates celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week.

Embracing My South Asian Heritage

I want to say again how honored I feel to be at this podium tonight, and before I close out, there’s one last thing I will share. As part of this journey of self-discovery as a OneGoal Fellow, one of the most valuable lessons has been to lean into and embrace the traditions, culture, and identity of my South Asian heritage.

Medha, pictured here with her mother, credits her mother for instilling in her the values of discipline and kindness toward others.

I think of my Ajji (my grandmother), and my mom, and the values of discipline and kindness toward others that they both instilled in me. Family is immensely important to me, and the long phone calls with my grandmother, where I sometimes read Hindu scriptures or just simply catch up, are moments I will carry with me on my journey after high school. I want my family to see me graduate from college and find a career that brings me fulfillment and stability.

When I am done here, I would love to chat with as many of you as possible to gain insight into the various career fields here tonight and maybe even talk about possible internships or job opportunities. My motto tonight is ‘network!’ I do not want to disappoint my Ajji, so I will be making my rounds. Again, thank you all so much for allowing me this time to tell my story. I truly am grateful to have the opportunity to share my voice with you all today.

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