Manojprabhakaran Thirupal, or Manoj as he is known around campus, was raised in the slums of Chennai, India. Though the caste systems were abolished decades ago, as a Dalit, he was still likely to end up in an "impure" occupation that would leave him at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
His mother, a manual scavenger responsible for cleaning human waste from latrines, streets and sewers, raised Manoj to uplift himself and those around him through education following a series of tragedies in his family. Over the course of a few short years, he lost his older sister, his uncle, and his father who had been an alcoholic most of his life. These circumstances left Manoj and his brother responsible for the family, including his other sister who nearly lost her life in an attack on her way to school that left her gravely injured and with a physical disability.
Though marginalized and facing tremendous adversity, Manoj found support and counsel in Gollapalli Israel, who runs the nonprofit Janodayam Social Education Centre to help the Dalits. Encouraged to lift himself up through education, he earned a bachelor's degree at Loyola College in Chennai. He also helped his sister get her degree in social work and she now works for women's rights and empowerment in India.
In 2014, Aaron Danowski, a student at Gonzaga, travelled to India to help evaluate the work of Gollapalli Israel as a part of Gonzaga's hosting of the Opus Prize for faith-based humanitarian work that year. Aaron was inspired to help the Dalit "untouchables" and sought to help Manoj achieve his dream of continuing his education at Gonzaga.
Aaron helped arrange scholarships, private donations and graduate assistantships to get Manoj to Gonzaga and in January of 2016 it paid off. Manoj began his first semester working toward his master's degree in Organizational Leadership. He plans to continue his education and start a non-profit that will help oppressed people around the world become leaders.
Grateful to those that helped him, Manoj is well on his way to becoming a leader that can help others lift themselves up as well.
In his own words, "Gonzaga's mission is to create men and women for others, and I want to help be a part of that, I want to help improve the lives of oppressed people in the world. I am going to give it a big try with the help of Gonzaga."