Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

Through the knowledge and leadership skills developed at UT Austin, Himchand Persad is changing the lives of children in his native home of Trinidad and Tobago.

Persad, a UT PGE sophomore, believes innovation knows no boundaries as long as a person is offered the proper education and tools. He recently launched a foundation that provides tutoring services to orphans with a focus on building their entrepreneurial skills. He hopes his abilities as a petroleum engineer will help close the energy and economic gaps in his country, fueling more opportunities for all citizens.

opportunity foundation persad

How did you get involved with helping children in orphanages?

Trinidad and Tobago is a gem nestled in the Caribbean Sea, but elements of its society are inherently fractured and riddled with poverty. Changing this environment begins with spreading hope, recognizing potential and developing new ideas.

As a child my parents always encouraged charity. Being directly involved with assisting those in need has cultivated an appreciation for the opportunities we often take for granted. During high school and college, I became especially intrigued with perceiving and solving problems differently. I saw value in diversity of thought, and I recognized this wealth of potential in orphans.

How are you addressing the current lack of educational resources for orphans?

I understand that education is instrumental in uplifting a society plagued with social ills. This knowledge inspired me to create a charity called Opportunity Foundation, which is a volunteer organization focused on assisting impoverished children through tutoring services. I am currently expanding the program to incorporate a curriculum that not only helps students with homework, but fosters innovation and entrepreneurship.

I aim to nationalize the foundation by creating student chapters across the country, effectively impacting more lives. Several students, professors and student organizations at The University of Texas at Austin have expressed interest in being a part of the initiative, and I am excited about the possibilities.

As a future petroleum engineer and a philanthropist, what are your goals?

Disparities between the rich and poor of the developing world are significant; many often lack access to basic amenities, including electricity. Energy fuels development and is necessary to maintain a reasonable standard of living. The global energy mix is changing, but oil and gas remains an important part of the equation. As an aspiring petroleum engineer, I intend to use energy to stimulate the development of these vulnerable communities.

The future of the world is in the hands of today’s youth. My core ambitions are cultivating, as well as recognizing the potential of individuals. I aspire to provide opportunities for others to develop their talents, thereby promoting their success, especially those who may lack educational resources and family support systems. By embracing diverse perspectives, a myriad of innovative solutions can be derived; solutions that have the potential to increase our quality of life and empower others to excel. The developing world needs energy, innovation and entrepreneurship. I aspire to be a part of the solution.

What inspires you to give back to your community?

A wealth of untapped potential is nestled in the developing world. There are individuals with ideas and talents, worthy of being the next Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey. However, they lack the resources to capitalize on this potential. These individuals, when immersed in an innovative and entrepreneurial environment, can thrive. I believe that giving back in this way can change lives, uplift communities, develop countries, and ultimately, change the world.

What is the most important lesson you have learned along this journey?

Several challenges were faced in the establishment of Opportunity Foundation. I approached each as a chance to learn and grow as a leader. We have recognized that each individual we assist is unique and that there is no fixed method of sparking ambition or developing potential.

I have learned that the success of any venture, particularly a non-profit, hinges on a passionate team - not a single individual. The hurdles of societal entrepreneurship are genuinely exciting and I’m just getting started.

Persad is currently working on launching a website for the foundation. If you are seeking more information, please email him: