In the thick of quarantine when Woodinville High School shut its doors, one student decided to make the most out of the sudden free time she possessed.

WHS junior Arushi Choudhury felt empathic for young children in the community who were also isolated from friends without the ability to visit restaurants or other familiar places, she said. 

“I thought of ways I could help educate children, so I thought making a coloring book would be super fun,” she said. 

In the summer of 2020, Choudhury founded a nonprofit that sells coloring books to raise funds to combat gender-based violence in South Asian countries. She said the organization, which is called Color for Empowerment, also aims to protect oceans and sea life.

For Choudhury’s second book, she wanted to focus on a topic closer to home—the ocean. 

She said “How to Save the Oceans,” which released in late September, is both a coloring book and educational tool for children. The pages full of sea creatures also include crossword games as well as information on composting and recycling, she said.

“Seattle is surrounded by a lot of ocean,” Choudhury said. “This summer when we visited nearby places, I realized how polluted the oceans were. I thought of ways that I could prevent this problem, then pass that on to children so they can prevent ocean pollution in the future.”

Choudhury said she is donating all proceeds from her newest book to Oceana, one of the largest international ocean advocacy organizations. The group is active in the Puget Sound area as well, she said.

She spent the summer researching the Pacific Ocean and designed all the graphics for the book herself, Choudhury said. The “About Me” page at the end of the book shows that the author is a young person trying to make change in their community, she added.

“It's a mix of activities that are entertaining for children while also being educational and informational,” she said.

Her first coloring book “Color for Empowerment: South Area” was published last summer, she said. It features the cultures of South Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. 

“It was really fun to research more about the history of where I’m from, and to share my history to children who might not know much about Southern Asia,” Choudhury said.

Color for Empowerment donated more than $100 to the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence from sales of the book, she said.

To further her outreach, Choudhury said, she started writing blogs on topics like Asian Pacific Heritage Month, Earth Day and prominent female Muslim figures in United States politics.

Choudhury said operating a nonprofit introduced her to the world of advertising and marketing, which is pushing her toward pursuing a degree in business after high school graduation. 

It’s not always easy though, she noted. While selling her first book, Choudhury realized the financial burden posed on community members as a result of the pandemic. 

“I had to understand how difficult it was for other people to actually buy my books during quarantine with an economic crisis, but we’re slowly rebooting now,” she said. “There were times where I just felt like giving up because I wasn’t receiving as many sales as I thought I would. I persevered on because I knew it would work out in the long run.”

Choudhury hopes to produce a new coloring book each year, she said, and possibly on a seasonal basis. First, she has to relearn how to balance schoolwork and extracurriculars now that school is back in session.

“It’s been a hit in the face with things going back to normal super quickly,” she said. “It was surprising for me and most of my classmates. But overall, I’ve slowly started to get used to the feeling of what it’s like to be a student again.”

Outside of the nonprofit, Choudhury also is interested in the WHS Model United Nations group and Debate Club. During Model U.N. debates, she said, the topic of environmental issues and ocean pollution is a constant topic.

“Model U.N. definitely helped me find my passion of solving community-related, economic and social-related issues,” Choudhury said.

“How to Save the Oceans” can be purchased for $6.99 and “Color for Empowerment: South Asia” is available for $5 at www.colorforempowerment.com

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