Student fundraises $3,497 to overcome family struggles
Jasmeet Bawa was in high school when she realized that living with her family at home was becoming a daily struggle.
Bawa, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, wanted to leave her parent’s house in Jersey City after she was humiliated, blamed and verbally abused for disclosing she was sexually abused by a cousin, she said on gofundme.com.
Bawa, whose initial plan was to take a year off between high school and college, decided to come to Rutgers after she realized taking a year off entailed living with her parents.
Bawa chose to come to Rutgers for its in-state benefits and diverse opportunities, she said. It also allowed her to escape the abusive conditions she left at her former home in Jersey City.
During her first semester, Bawa experienced success in academics, in her social life and in other aspects that she was isolated from due to her controlling and abusive home life, she said. Going home for winter break, however, brought back emotional and physical trauma she thought she left behind.
“I didn’t have the support necessary to build that strength and faltered. Leaving was the only way I could survive, so I did,” Bawa said. “What pushed me to leave was the intense discord of living two lives.”
Since then, she said she made several accomplishments, such as becoming editor-in-chief of The Anthologist, Rutgers’ Literary Arts Magazine, webmaster for the National Women’s Political Caucus and a Rutgers tutor.
One major setback last semester pushed Bawa to the edge when Rutgers charged her an extra $3,000 due to lack of documentation from her parents, according to gofundme.com, the website she later used to fundraise this money.
Bawa said the fundraising started a year after she realized she could not stay with her family any longer and decided to move out.
She would have lost access to health insurance and psychiatric help if she was not able to return to Rutgers, Bawa said on the website. This would expose her once again to the abusive atmosphere at home or make her homeless.
She did not expect such a large turnout of supporters, and she said she successfully met her goal to pay for the overcharge while continuing to excel in her work, academics and friendships.
“It’s difficult working, going to classes, paying attention to my mental and physical health, attending to my friendships ... but it’s worth it to take it a day at a time,” Bawa said.
So far she has raised $3,497 through gofundme.com.
While being a full-time student and working various part-time jobs, Bawa is also paying for all of her expenses such as tuition, groceries, phone bills and rent.
Yet she found time to work for an exhibit on the history of Guantanamo Bay last year, and exceled in the job, said Andy Urban, assistant professor in the Departments of History and American Studies.
He chose Bawa for an Aresty research program in fall 2012, and assigned her as a tour guide for the exhibit. Over the course of the semester she helped about 500 students around the Mabel Smith Douglass Library on Douglass campus.
Beyond her assigned work, she volunteered to organize a spoken-word performance with classmates and created a mini-film from media clips and Guantanamo references.
“She’s a talented and bright young woman. It’s inspiring to work with people who have such a personal mission of what they can accomplish despite personal odds,” he said.
Philip Wythe, copy editor for The Anthologist and a close friend of Bawa, has played a supporting role throughout her journey, Bawa said.
“Jasmeet is, in many ways, the sort of person you meet once in a lifetime,” said Wythe, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “Her determination and passion for everything she works on, from The Anthologist to schoolwork, is a regular motivation for me.”
Bawa said her goal is to go to graduate school and be fully present in everything she chooses to do. Tutoring has given her the motivation to promote external peace by teaching and instilling creative skills.
With all of this in mind, she still has time to enjoy other interests such as poetry, music and painting, Bawa said. Her interest in human and social rights is what pushes her to be open to trying new things.
Bawa said she feels fulfilled and motivated to become a better student and a more considerate individual, she said.
“[In the future], I want to teach at a [Knowledge Is Power Program]-like setting in urban cities and collaborate with artists, researchers and scholars on projects that drive social reform,” she said.