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"Only a handful of academic researchers study the psychological impacts of street life. With the street child population in India at nearly 20 million, I believe it is important to explore this field."
During his childhood in India, Nikhit D'Sa played cricket. When he was in the 5th grade, a friend of his invited a street boy named Ravi to play with them. A month passed, and the matches with Ravi and other youngsters from the street became a regular occurrence. Nikhit came to see these children as friends and peers, and volunteered to distribute food and clothes to them. Later, he set up a volunteer program for other high school students to teach English, math, and science at an orphanage for street children. "I collected their stories and jotted down minute details regarding how they got their last meal or where they slept the night before." Then, Nikhit and several of his school friends established a residential facility for six children from the streets.
To better understand the psychological, physical, social, and emotional issues of the children, Nikhit came to the United States to study. He won a scholarship that paid for four years of undergraduate tuition, living expenses, and travel, a level of financial support his family could not provide. He also worked as a teacher's aide, assistant to a gallery curator, and English writing tutor during his undergraduate studies.
At College of the Atlantic, Nikhit took every psychology course offered. "I found the narrative foundations of psychology fascinating and started designing my own independent studies wherein interviews with youth about issues like substance abuse were at the core."
Nikhit also took up photography and found it a useful and artistic tool. After graduating from college, he won a one-year fellowship that allowed him to travel around the world, using photography and a variety of narrative methods to collect holistic life stories of street children. This experience crystallized his academic goals. "I want to continue studying developmental psychology, focusing on the risky behaviors of street children and the resilient psychological defenses that allow them to survive without adult supervision."
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