Rania Gadnis

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When soft-spoken 12-year-old Rania Gadnis tells you she plans to be a neurosurgeon someday and also wants to found a group of international schools for poor women, it carries more weight than would another child’s announcement about being a cowboy or a basketball player. Instead, you find yourself nodding and thinking, “I can see that happening.”

Rania perhaps has a more global outlook than many her age. Her father, Ashish, is from India and her mother, Sandra, from Colombia. As a family, the Gadnis’ have traveled widely—“11 countries so far,” Rania says with a grin—and have worked on a variety of philanthropic and business-related efforts around the world.

It was this fertile background that inspired Rania to create a brand-new job title and organization at JA BizTown Summer Camp, a business simulation program she has attended twice.

“My Mom was looking for summer camps on the Internet and she came across JA BizTown,” Rania says. “I thought it would be cool to learn about how to run a business. I went to the first camp, where you have to apply for jobs, and it was the basic camp. When I went to the second one, you got to create your own business. My dream when I grow up is to create a school for girls in poor countries where they don’t have schools, and also to have a clinic with it. Malala [Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot for attending school by members of the Taliban] is one of my idols. So that’s what I put on my job application.”

Volunteers at JA BizTown helped Rania work through the particulars of her idea and suggested that she might want to form a nonprofit organization, a first for the simulation but now a permanent part of the camp.

Rania said the inspiration for her JA BizTown efforts came from her business consultant father, who also is actively involved with various nonprofit endeavors worldwide. “My Dad is doing a project in the Congo called Asili [which means ‘Foundation’ in Swahili], which also has a clinic attached to it,” Rania says. “My Dad is setting it up for them and after a few years, they’re going to run it by themselves and create their own economy where they don’t have one now.”

Using her Dad’s efforts as an outline, Rania spoke to the group of students at JA BizTown and explained what her “business” was and how it worked. Other student businesses within the community then made charitable contributions to her venture, providing a worthwhile experience for everyone involved.

A mix of philanthropic and business-minded efforts seems to come naturally to Rania. She has donated her hair twice to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces for children with medical issues. And at her school, she raised more than 1,200 pounds worth of aid materials to send to Haiti after its devastating earthquake. She believes that giving back to others should be a natural part of life, and she’s pleased that JA BizTown helped her share that message with others.

“[JA BizTown] is really a good place because you learn about a lot of skills that you’re going to use in life,” Rania says. “But it’s also really fun! You don’t even realize that you’re learning something.”