When describing Aruni Ganewatte three words come to mind; unique, ambitious and fiercely passionate. Aruni Ganewatte was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to the United States with her family twenty years later in pursuit of opportunity and the “American Dream”.
She considers this move one of the most significant and pivotal events of her life as it opened the door to a higher education in the United States. Aruni’s life has been one of perseverance and ambition. Aruni is proud to be the first member in her family to attain an advanced graduate degree, completing a Masters in Family and Consumer Sciences from California State University, Northridge.
Another life event that brings her great joy and pride is her marriage to her husband Suranga Ganewatte and the birth of her lovely children, Sahan and Savana. Family brings great joy to Aruni’s life and the role of wife and mother has been a tremendous gift and honor. Family life and values are important cornerstones in the Sri Lankan culture which Aruni believes has molded her identity in the United States. Respect for elders and revering them as teachers as well as closely knit community are essential values she will pass on to her children as they grow up in the US culture.
Aruni experienced a devastating tragedy in 2010 when her mother was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. Aruni was humbled and deeply affected by the compassion and empathy the Sri Lankan community displayed to her during this trying time. The gestures of pure love and support whether in happy or tragic times by the Sri Lankan community is an anchor that sets it apart from the rest. Aruni’s culture and heritage is a vital passion in her life and further motivates her to be a noted leader and entrepreneur in her community.
Aruni’s other accomplishments include establishing the Sri Lankan Youth Organization (“SLYO”) in 2011 and growing the organization to a global status by establishing 7 chapters in the US and aboard. Aruni’s organization has over 3000 followers on various social media outlets. SLYO was created to impact the lives of Sri Lankan youth living abroad and in Sri Lanka by providing leadership and networking opportunities. The primary goal of the organization is to provide professionally supported, one-on-one relationships between the young brothers and sisters of the community, allowing them to achieve their highest potential and become confident and competent individuals of society.
Countless immigrants and American born Sri-Lankans strive to attain the great American dream but lose sight of their roots when trying to balance the cultures. SLYO strives to create harmony among the many talented and unique individuals by creating and hosting events that build a bridge between the two cultures. “It’s all about helping young people that deserve a shot at success acquire the education and skills necessary to make their dreams a reality.” In a society that is becoming increasingly culturally ambiguous and independent, the organization provides a sense of belonging by building countless connections between the youth. The commitment of this flourishing association to create networking opportunities for the youth is to be admired. SLYO also welcomes all ethnic backgrounds setting a precedent for other organizations of it’s kind. The future of our society depends on the decisions and actions made in the present. These actions manifest through community service, public works, and many other controlled recreational projects.
The committed SLYO volunteer’s efforts earn national leadership recognition that adheres to the highest standards of excellence. The Sri-Lankan Youth Organization represents a strong union within a group of young people and has strong potential to impact not only the Sri Lankan and American community but eventually the entire globe. Aruni believes her growing up in dual cultures gives her a valuable balance of strength and independence intertwined with traditional values. These values combined give her the power to inspire youth and motivate them to reach as far as they dare to dream. Aruni is an advocate for children with special needs and has been instrumental in educating people about the plight of children with autism both in the US community and in Sri Lanka. She would like to use her role as a leader in the South East Asian community to make room for collaboration between SLYO and other immigrant communities in Southern California.
Aruni believes working through intercultural exchanges is the best way to positively influence her fellow communities. She also believes that it is instrumental in influencing reform in education, immigration policy and more. The combination of her background, ambition, strong character, accomplishments and passion for her family, culture and community makes her a true leader in our society today.