PHS senior wins awards for volunteer work

PHS senior gains state and national recognition as advocate for organ donation
Posted on 10/17/2023
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A Piscataway High School senior has won statewide and national awards for his life-giving efforts on behalf of organ donation.

Divakaran Manimaran was chosen as one of the Youth Volunteers of the Year by NJ Sharing Network, a group dedicated to facilitating and spreading awareness of organ donation in New Jersey.

He is also the founder and president of the PHS Donate Life Club, which recently won the Excellence in Youth Education Award from Donate Life America, which recognizes one school nationally that has gone above and beyond to creatively educate their students about donation.

“Divakaran is a remarkable individual,” said Hulya Sercan, a Piscataway High School science teacher who acts as adviser for the PHS Donate Life Club. “I am continually impressed by his unwavering dedication and outstanding leadership. Divakaran possesses exceptional communication skills, which enable him to connect effortlessly with others, earning him the admiration and respect of all his friends. His awards were well-deserved!”

group of students

The Piscataway High School Donate Life Club was honored with the Donate Life America Excellence in Youth Education Award. Founder and president Divakaran Manimaran is fifth from left.

Manimaran will be going to Florida in November to accept the award from Donate Life America on behalf of the PHS Donate Life Club. He said he was thrilled when he found out about the national award.

“I did not expect that,” he said. “When they told us, we were at event in Paterson to spread awareness. I was with one of my friends, I was elated. It was really nice. My mom was there and she was really happy.”

PHS Donate Life was selected for the award because of a range of work to spread awareness in the community, as well as for raising $1,400 for the New Jersey Sharing Network annual 5K run.

Manimaran explained that he has not been personally affected by organ donation, but his mother, Kothai Perumal, is an intensive care nurse at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. She has worked with many transplant patients and also volunteers for NJ Sharing Network.

When Manimaran accompanied her to a fundraising event, he found his calling.

“I met so many people, even people my age, who had a heart transplant or their parents donated their organs, and that’s what inspired me to get more involved,” he said. “And the more I got involved the more I found myself enjoying it. It not about just doing it for the good of yourself, but for the good of others, too.”

volunteer honorees

Divakaran Manimaran, second from left, is honored by the NJ Sharing Network as a Youth Volunteer of the Year.

His work for the organization inspired him to found the Donate Life Club at PHS. He said the club has grown to a list of 80 members, with a couple dozen who are heavily active in volunteering to spread the word about organ donation. They set up information tables during lunch periods and school and community events, and have been reaching out on social media.

“We try to encourage them by telling them what organ donation is,” Manimaran said. “Even if they think they know what it is, I’ll always explain it fully so they know the facts and don’t have misconceptions.”

Sercan said the club’s membership has grown significantly because of Manamaran’s leadership.

“Students feel comfortable and motivated to join a cause he passionately advocates for,” she said. “Divakaran is a diligent student who takes his responsibilities seriously, ensuring the club runs smoothly and efficiently. His parents' unwavering support and involvement in our club are a testament to the remarkable young man that Divakaran is.”

student volunteers

Manimaran, who also has attended Quibbletown Middle School, Martin Luther King Intermediate School, and Randolphville Elementary School in Piscataway, said that the volunteers spread the word that it is easy to sign up to be an organ donor simply by checking the box when applying for or renewing a driver’s license.

“If it comes to the point where you can save someone else’s life by doing something so simple, you should do that,” Manimaran said. “One person when they pass away can donate their heart, both of their lungs, both of their kidneys, their pancreas, their intestines, and their liver. They can save eight people’s lives.

“And you can enhance the lives of 75 other people with all the tissue and skin grafts you can give.”

three volunteers

Spreading the word about organ donations to strangers also gives him experience in talking to all kinds of people.

“Some people just want to argue with you,” Manimaran said. “I’ve had people come up with blatant conspiracies and accuse me of lying to them. It’s a great learning experience. And sometimes you don’t have to tell them everything. You just need to tell them enough so they begin to understand.”

For college, Manimaran is considering Rutgers, the University of Pittsburgh, and New Jersey Institute of Technology. He wants to go into the medical field to continue to give back to his community.

“It’s not only about saving someone’s life but also about making people’s lives a little bit better,” he said. “Just to make a little bit of a difference means so much.”