16-year-old Ypsilanti student raises $15K to help other battling medical debt

A Metro Detroit high school senior is leading the way when it comes to advocating for public health issues. She has worked with a non-profit to raise enough money to eliminate more than a million dollars in medical debt -- for people across Michigan.

"Originally this started as a class assignment," said Harshini Anand. "This could be a community service effort at any level of communities.'

So Ypsilanti high school student Harshini Anand started searching for the right service project that would have the most impact in her community.

"I came across an article of a woman detailing her experience with medical debt," Harshini said. "One thing that stood out to me was that she wished she had never made it out of the hospital if she knew she’d be paying off debt the rest of her life."

That led this 16-year-old to center her service project around erasing medical debt for those in need.

"But then, unfortunately, Covid happened the requirement was no longer and were just all on lockdown," she said.

But as the COVID-19 infection rate increased in Michigan, Harshini knew that also meant hospital debt was increasing.

She decided to proceed with the project that had been canceled and make it her own mission to erase medical payments, teaming up with a non-profit called RIP Medical Debt.

"They target debt portfolios for people, old debt, or households that are under the poverty line," she said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, Harshini wrote a letter detailing her project to friends, family and business owners in hopes of raising money to donate to RIP Medical Debt.

"It took a lot of emails, calls, and back-and-forth communication," she said. "But thanks to over 100 people willing to donate and hear me out as well as local businesses and organizations, we were able to reach a goal of $15,000."

Harshini says the nonprofit will use her $15,000 donation to clear over $1.5 million in medical debt for families all across Michigan.

*I believe the campaign is finished for now, but I do see myself pursuing other campaigns like working any way that I can, whether in the field of public health or medical debt."

Harshini will be a senior at Washtenaw International High School this fall and spoke about the deep connection she felt to her work.

Harshini Anand

Harshini Anand

"I think it’s just something that I’ve been taught by my family," she said.

While preparing for the future, she shared some motivation to encourage others to make a difference.

"Just take action," she said. "I feel like, big or small, the first step is what matters. If I had not taken that first step and none of this would’ve happened."