TOP 30: Nithin Jilla

Nithin Jilla
Major: Computer Science, Planning to Double in Business Administration
Age: 19
Year: 2nd
Hometown: Cupertino
In One Word: Passionate

MEET NITHIN
From talks with his locker partner about leaving a legacy at his high school, Nithin Jilla has brought that legacy here to UC Irvine and established a second branch of Kenya Dream as a freshman. His love for giving back fueled his extensive work for Kenya Dream, and he was able to address another one of his passions, technology, through helping start TEDxUCIrvine. However, his leadership skills aside, as Sandra Jones, M.Ed., Executive Director of Student Government, Student Affairs, explains, “it is who he is as a person that makes him amazing.  Aside from his many accomplishments that have greatly impressed many University administrators, he also shows leadership in small ways that go unnoticed to many. He is a mature, articulate, direct, hard-working, and analytical – attributes that make him a stand-out leader at UCI.”

KS: What have you accomplished here on campus, and what do you hope to accomplish?

NJ: One of the biggest things I have accomplished on campus is I was able to start a second branch of Kenya Dream. We have a branch in Norcal in Cupertino, but our goal is to start as many branches as possible and really expand this to be as big as Red Cross one day, where we would have different high schools, universities, and districts as well, all leading up to the same cause. I’ve laid out the foundation for a new branch at UC Irvine, and we had our first successful event last year, our Ken-Ya Dance event, in Southern California. Ken-Ya Dance is such a big thing in Southern California, especially because dance is so popular here – there’s already 7 crews or so at UCI, so it’s a pretty well established audience. Also, in my first two years here I helped bring a new program to campus called TED x UC Irvine. TED is a national non-profit that’s all about ideas worth spreading, and TED x is an extension of TED, which basically allows you to organize a conference, where you bring in the leading thought makers and the people who have ideas on campus, and you have them give talks that are inspiring and educational. I helped bring TED x UC Irvine, which was about a month ago, and we had a successful event with great speakers that brought out about 150 people.

KS: What do you hope to do with your major, and after college?

NJ: I’m part of the ICS student council, and our mission is to help students in the ICS school academically, socially, and professionally. Currently I’m the Corporate Outreach Chair, so I help go out and make relationships with employers, network with them, and really try to build relationships with employers for the students, and help provide them opportunities for jobs and internships. I love my major, computer science – I love the problem solving behind it and it’s something that is my passion, like technology is something that I’m big on. I love the application of technology, and how it’s changing – it’s one of the next big things. My ultimate goal is to use technology to create change and a better world. Non-profits and Kenya Dream is something on the side – it’s my passion. I love helping others, I love giving back, so that’s something I do on the side.

KS: Who or what do you feel is the biggest influence on you?

NJ: I look up to my parents a lot. When my dad came here, he didn’t know that he had opportunity, but he worked hard. He brought me here and gave me an opportunity to do something, and here I am trying to make the most of it. So my dad is definitely someone I look up to, along with my mom. They support me a lot, and I’m thankful for that. In terms of people I look up to… living in Cupertino, obviously Apple is where it is. Steve Jobs is the one that’s pioneering new technology. He’s someone that’s taken Apple from way down there and brought it all the way up here. I know he recently passed away, but I’ve read his books and I’ve kept in touch with what he’s doing. I love the way he presents his new products – he lets the products speak for themselves, rather than himself explaining. I think one of the biggest things that I’ve learned from these leaders is to let your actions speak for yourself. Don’t just stay stuff. Giving back and just doing work… I love work; people think that’s weird but I’m pretty good with work, and it’s something that keeps me going. If I don’t have anything, I feel guilty that I’m not doing something.

KS: What are you passionate about, or what is your passion?

NJ: My passions are technology, non-profits, and giving back to the community. And my goal is to bring all those together. So far with Kenya Dream, I’ve brought two of my passions in – non-profits and giving back. In Kenya where we’re actually doing projects, we’re installing computers and providing them with internet access. That’s where technology comes in, but I want to do more than that. I want to actually have people there, teaching them the technology, how to apply it, and how to use it in their daily lives, as we do here. Technology is a big part of everything we do, and people fail to realize it, or they take it for granted, and the same goes for giving back to the community. Everything that we do, there’s going to be something out there that’s changing, so just finding a way to fit all these together, is one of my biggest things and that’s how it all brings things together.”

KS: If you were stranded on an island, what 3 things would you bring, and why?

NJ: First, I’m going to go with my phone. I have a calendar to keep track of everything, if I’m on an island, I’m hoping I’ll have internet access. My phone is very resourceful. Now that we have internet these days, you can do a lot with just one small piece of technology. Second thing, a sleeping bag, and third, I’d probably take matches. I think a sleeping bag and matches are things to fulfill basic needs. And with a phone, you can figure out how to do stuff with those things.

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