Contributing to the community seems to come naturally to Aavarika Niroula, a senior at Lebanon High School and recipient of the 2023-2024 Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Good Citizens Award. But Niroula’s path to community service has been markedly different from the average American high school student.

Originally from the ancient city of Kathmandu in Nepal, Niroula and her family arrived for a visit to the U.S. in 2015, but a devastating earthquake in their home country would prevent them from returning. Reeling from the enormous loss of their home, livelihood, and Kathmandu family members, they were granted temporary protected status by the U.S. government, and they began to build a new life in America. As a result of this experience and being suddenly propelled into a strange new world, Niroula developed a passion for helping others.

Nepali New Year get-together with fellow Nepali youth. Left to right: Suvana Rai, Deepasha Giri,Aavarika Niroula, Dina Adhikari, Shreela Kadariya, and Nistha Prasai.

Nepali New Year get-together with fellow Nepali youth. Left to
right: Suvana Rai, Deepasha Giri, Aavarika Niroula, Dina
Adhikari, Shreela Kadariya, and Nistha Prasai.

Niroula credits her parents for the inspiration to become involved in community service. “My parents have been social workers ever since I can remember,” she says. “My dad, along with his business, ran a nonprofit organization that supported 96 homeless kids. His organization, Better Life Social Organization, was able to build houses and build schools with paid teachers. Now through the Rotary Club of Lebanon, he still donates and is able to send money back to the organization.”

Niroula and other area award winners were celebrated at the holiday luncheon of the Reprisal Chapter of DAR, based in Newport, New Hampshire, and named after the USS Reprisal, the first ship of the Continental Navy to reach European waters during the Revolutionary War and the vessel that transported Benjamin Franklin to his diplomatic post in France. The students shared what being a good citizen means to them within their school and broader community. For Niroula, it’s about exploring a diverse slate of interests. “I came into high school with a mindset of ‘I want to try everything and if I don’t like it then I will try something else’.  I have carried this mindset into everything as I got involved in various clubs and sports such as soccer, theater, Model UN, and such,” she says.

Known as the largest women’s service organization in the world, DAR has more than 180,000 members with approximately 3,000 chapters in all 50 states and in 13 countries. One of many awards the organization bestows, the DAR Good Citizens award recognizes and rewards high school seniors who consistently display the qualities of dependability, service, leadership, and patriotism in their homes, schools, and communities. These students are selected by their teachers and peers because they demonstrate these qualities to an outstanding degree.

Aavarika is pictured with chapter regent Pamela Lee (in hat), chapter Good Citizens Chair Pat McCabe, Aavariki as a young childCaroline McMahon from Sunapee, and Jennette Davis from Hanover.

Aavarika is pictured with chapter regent Pamela Lee (in hat), chapter Good Citizens Chair Pat McCabe, Caroline McMahon from Sunapee, and Jennette Davis from Hanover.

The local Reprisal Chapter has members not only from Newport, but also Lebanon and West Lebanon, Claremont, Sunapee, Hancock, and some as far away as Florida, Maryland, and Montana, and is one of 25 chapters throughout New Hampshire. Chapter leaders are called “regents”. To be a member of the DAR, a woman must be at least 18 years of age and be able to prove direct descent from a man or woman who served in or aided in the American Revolution,  according to Pamela Lee, the current Reprisal Chapter regent. “One of my patriots, John Knight, fought in the battle of Bennington. After the war, John received a land grant in North Hero, Vermont, now the site of Knights Point State Park,” Lee says.

The DAR is committed to historic preservation, education, and patriotic service, and provides assistance to anyone interested in discovering if they have a Revolutionary War patriot in their family tree. Lee notes, “We have people who suspect that they have a patriot ancestor, but would like to know for sure. We have a wonderful registrar who can help people trace their ancestry.” The DAR is said to have one of the largest genealogical libraries in the world.

Aavariki as a young child

Aavariki as a young child

Nationally, the DAR is trying to identify as many female and African American patriots because they haven’t been historically recognized, Lee says. In November, the New Hampshire organization will be dedicating a new marker at the American Independence Museum and the Winter Street Cemetery in Exeter to honor the brave black soldiers from New Hampshire who fought for our nation’s independence.

Kim Chandler, honorary Chapter regent and current historian, started tracing her genealogy in 2002. “My patriot is John Caverly from Strafford. John was a farmer and one of the early settlers in Dover and then Barrington,” she says, citing the overwhelming recognition of how important the revolution was to the formation of our country. “When I moved back home and joined the chapter in Newport, I was pleased to see the chapter supporting Veterans groups, patriot grave restorations, and schools with scholarships and service projects.”

American colonial history is in its infancy compared to the rich history of Kathmandu, which dates to between 167 BC and 1 AD according to archaeologists. For Niroula, maintaining a connection to her home country is important, and is reflected in her commitment to raising funds for earthquake relief among other activities. In her DAR essay, Niroula cites her motivation: “Living in a predominantly white community, I ached for youths with similar backgrounds as me. I sought out the NH Nepali Community based around Manchester and Nashua. Following that, I joined the Diversity and Inclusivity club at my own school where I was able to fully embrace my identity.” Over the past three years, Niroula has also been teaching English as a second language to students all over the world via Zoom. “I love doing this so much because I once was an English learner myself, and for me to be on the other side as an educator is so fulfilling to me,” she says. “Volunteering grounds me and is a very big part of my life.”

John Caverly gravesite, marked with a bronze marker for hisRevolutionary War service.

John Caverly gravesite, marked with a bronze marker
for his Revolutionary War service.

In addition to teaching English as part of the Global Language Learning Club, being a member of the Diversity and Inclusivity Club at Lebanon High School, and raising funds for Kathmandu earthquake survivors, Niroula’s many activities include participating as a Dartmouth Health summer intern, Rotary Youth Leadership member,  Student Council secretary, and model UN delegate. She has researched microplastics and curcumin to earn a 1st place award in chemistry at NH Science and Engineering Exposition, joined the NH Nepali Community and became a senior coordinator, served as a student representative on the Lebanon School District superintendent search committee, is currently participating as a thrower on the Lebanon High School track and field team, and is a member of Students for a Sustainable Future.

In her essay, Niroula also shares deeper insights into why community service is so important to her. “Instead of being consumed by our pending status, I decided to contribute, to give back to this community that had adopted me,” she says. “Starting off small with volunteering at community events, I familiarized myself with the people around me, their stories, and their values. I shared the lessons of my own journey, using my struggles to bridge others.”

Niroula’s diverse life experiences have shaped her decision about which career path to pursue after high school. She has been accepted at St. Anselm College and is on the waiting list at two others, planning to pursue a degree in child psychology as part of a pre-med course of study. Niroula’s youthful wisdom is evident in her DAR essay, suggesting she will be an excellent contributor and leader in whatever field she chooses.

“My journey of constantly adapting to changing environments pointed toward one direction: child psychiatry. I realized that I wanted to dive into understanding the young minds that face upheavals, to provide them the support and guidance I once sought, and, in many ways, still do,” she writes. “Today, as I stand at the edge of my next academic chapter, I carry with me the echoes of Kathmandu’s streets, the lessons from the halls of Lebanon High School, and the hopes of every child I wish to support. The uncertainty, once my opponent, has become my ally, urging me to embrace whatever life throws at me, to be the aid for many navigating their disruption, just as I navigated mine.”

Caverly House that John built in Strafford

Caverly House that John built in Strafford

For more information, visit the national organization website at dar.org.

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