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### Soulmates in the Classroom: Navigating Love Among Peers

This narrative is part of a series of graduate profiles leading up to Commencement.

Alria and Vyankatesh Kharage crossed paths during their undergraduate years at Mumbai University, where their love story began. Their mutual dedication to education eventually led them to Harvard.

Both Kharages are currently pursuing their master’s degrees in education at Harvard, with Alria enrolled in the Education Leadership, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship program, and Vyankatesh in another program within the same domain. It’s uncommon for married couples to embark on graduate studies together due to the complexities of school admissions. To celebrate their unique situation, the Ed School featured them in a Valentine’s special on Instagram.

Reflecting on their journey at the Ed School, the Kharages, who tied the knot three years ago, fondly recalled their experiences as partners in both life and academia. From sharing household responsibilities to witnessing snowfall for the first time, their time together has been filled with cherished moments.

“It’s been an enriching year. We’ve encountered numerous extraordinary experiences together, and being in the same academic environment allows us to empathize with each other’s challenges. I cherish having a permanent study companion.”

Alria Kharage

“Living and learning together has doubled our joy,” Vyankatesh remarked.

Alria expressed, “It’s been a beautiful year. There are many remarkable things we have experienced together, and because we are in the same School, we can understand what the other one is going through. And I love that I have a permanent study buddy.”

Their passion for education predates their relationship. Alria’s inspiration stems from her mother’s journey, who, despite stopping formal education in the 10th grade, climbed the ranks to hold a high administrative position at a university.

“My mother played a pivotal role in shaping my passion and commitment to education,” shared Alria, who serves as an Adrian Cheng Fellow in the Social Innovation Change Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School. “My educational voyage would be incomplete without her influence.”

Following college, Alria felt unfulfilled working at an IT firm in Mumbai until she ventured into Teach for India, a transformative experience that ignited her desire to guide students towards educational opportunities.

Vyankatesh, son of a civil service officer, initially aspired to be a sports instructor after attending multiple schools due to his family’s relocations. Transitioning from a brief stint in finance, he discovered his inclination towards program design in education, particularly after exploring diverse educational systems, including Buddhist monasteries across India.

Their shared experiences during the pandemic inspired them to establish [ppp1], a nonprofit offering career awareness and life skills programs to underprivileged 9th- and 10th-grade students in India. Recognized as a [ppp2] in the Social Impact category at Harvard iLab’s President’s Innovation Challenge, their organization has expanded from four to 72 schools, benefitting nearly 15,000 students with aspirations for broader impact.

Karen Brennan, faculty co-chair of Vyankatesh’s master’s program, commended his qualities as a prospective educator, highlighting his inquisitive nature, creative approach to learning, and collaborative spirit.

Alria’s distinctive attributes, including pragmatism, gratitude, and altruism, were noted by Ebony N. Bridwell-Mitchell, Herbert A. Simon Professor in Education, Management, and Organizational Behavior at the Ed School. Bridwell-Mitchell emphasized Alria’s potential to influence the world positively and serve as a role model for others.

Upon graduation, the Kharages intend to return to India to focus on their foundation. For Alria, this endeavor signifies an opportunity to provide young students with the educational pathways her mother was deprived of.

Vyankatesh echoes this sentiment, viewing privilege as both a blessing and a responsibility. Drawing from his humble background, he aims to pay forward the opportunities afforded to him by empowering those who lack similar advantages.

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