This is the second of 20 profiles about The Gazette's Best and Brightest Class of 2014.
Volunteering at St. Francis Medical Center had become routine for Divyanka Gupta, but one weekend shift would change her.
Gupta arrived at the hospital one Saturday morning and walked into Room 5034, where an elderly woman was recovering from having a tumor removed. Gupta offered her water and then left the room to get it.
She overheard the nurses saying the patient in Room 5034 wasn't expected to survive.
"I froze," Gupta said. "The woman I was just talking to?"
Gupta got the water, then paused.
"Brace yourself," she thought, before finally going back inside the room.
For the next three hours, the woman shared stories with Gupta, who was then a sophomore.
"She talked about her grandson, her life, her kids and her family," Gupta said. Gupta didn't think much more about the woman until a week later during her next shift when she asked about her.
"The nurse held my hand and said she had passed away a few hours after I left," Gupta said. "I could not believe it. I came in whining continuously each Saturday, but then I was part of a human being's last hours. I will never forget that sweet, elderly lady."
It was her first experience with death. "To have been talking with someone and then have that person just be gone was pretty dramatic. I was really young. I definitely took things more seriously after that," said Gupta, who has spent more than 100 hours volunteering at the hospital.
Gupta, now 17, hopes to become a pharmacist and plans to connect that education with her passion for Indian classical dance. She wants to eventually open a dance studio that includes therapy programs for children with autism or Down syndrome.
"Although dance therapy won't 'fix' these conditions, those children are pure blessings and deserve to experience happiness felt through dance and music," she said, "and I will do my best to help these children."
divyanka gupta, The Classical Academy
Parents: Rajiv and Trucmai Gupta
College plans: Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science
Other: American Chemical Society medallion for Outstanding Chemistry Student; National Honors Society Member; received several awards as a Bharatanatyam dancer, a form of Indian classical dance; Academic letter recipient; Academic Achievement Merit Award