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Librarian honors son by helping others

Lone Star College-Tomball Reference Librarian Alpana Sarangapani has spread her cause for literacy to a small town on the other side of the world, honoring her son, Nitin, in the process.

After their son's sudden demise in 2005, Alpana and her husband, Ram wanted to make small efforts in helping others. Toward this end they established and dedicated a school library in 2006 in Nitin's honor in Assam, India, where Alpana is originally from.

In a rural town in Assam state of northeastern India, just south of the eastern Himalayas, a tiny school named Parijat Academy, provides free education for around 500 young, less fortunate children. And now this school even has a library - named Nitin B. Sarangapani Library.

"We came to know about this tiny school and realized that it didn't have a library. As a librarian I know that no school is complete without a library," says Alpana. "It is also exactly what Nitin would have wanted."

So they made it their mission to establish a small library there by building a one-room structure and filling it with books, reference materials and some educational puzzles and toys. They also plan to buy some computers with the hope of being able to provide internet access to these young children. Alpana visits regularly to help restock and organize the facility.

"We have incredible resources in our library here at Tomball and in other libraries across the United States, and in many ways we take it for granted," says Alpana. "What we have done for these children is basically opened a small window into the world of knowledge."

Alpana says that this poor rural area also suffers a high rate of illiteracy in adults in particular, and they are pleased to be able to help, but more so as the cause is literally a labor of love for their son.

"Nitin was born in Assam and we moved to the United States in 1983. We had come here as my husband wanted to pursue an MBA degree," says Alpana. "We stayed back mainly to give our son better opportunities, and a better life. Of course, that dream ended up not happening because God had other plans."

"He was a computer whiz from the time he was very young," Ram says of Nitin. He worked part time in the computer lab at the Willow Chase Center and also as a Math grader at Sam Houston State University while pursuing a bachelor's degree. Nitin began a degree in medicine in New Zealand in 2002, but put his studies on hold and came back to join the United States Marine Corps. The events of 9/11 had a profound impact on Nitin which culminated in his joining the Marines.

"He had a very kind heart, and a very soft corner for the less fortunate and those in need - whether it was the poor pulling rickshaws in India or it was his country battling terrorists," says Alpana. "He was very devoted to these causes and so to be able to have a library that provides knowledge to those who otherwise might not get it, we know that that is a tribute that is so fitting for someone who was such a wonderful young man."

"People have been so generous and have donated enough funds to help out in our library endeavor," says Ram. Both the school and the library have attracted attention even from other countries.

Alpana and Ram have also thought about other ways to honor their son and, in addition to the library, they have also established two endowment scholarships in his name through the Lone Star College System Foundation.

One of the endowments, which has already been fully funded, has already started offering scholarships to LSC-Tomball students. The second endowment is not yet fully funded. The scholarships are geared towards members (or former members) of the military, firemen, policemen, and other uniformed professionals, but, Ram says, "They are really for anyone with a strong interest in education, in case there are no military or other uniformed personnel applying."

For scholarship information or to contribute to the Nitin B. Sarangapani Endownment fund, visit the financial aid section of the LSC-Tomball website, http://tomball.lonestar.edu/3381/. Contributions may be mailed to Lone Star College Foundation, 5000 Research Forest Drive, The Woodlands, Texas 77381.

When making a contribution, please reference "Nitin B. Sarangapani Endowment Scholarship" on your check.

To make contributions for the Library in Assam, India, contact Alpana directly at absarangapani@hotmail.com.

Lone Star College-Tomball is located at 30555 Tomball Parkway in Tomball.

The Lone Star College System consists of five colleges, including Cy-Fair, Kingwood, Montgomery, North Harris, and Tomball, six centers and Lone Star College-University Center. With 49,250 students, it is the largest college system in the Houston area, and third largest community college district in Texas. To learn more, visit http://www.lonestar.edu/.