HPHS Student’s Life, Death Inspires Teacher’s Fundraising

Rohan Malempati, 17, a HPHS student until last year died in February. Teacher Melissa Zientara raised $8,500 in his memory for Special Olympics.

Rohan Malempati courtesy of Melissa Zientara
Rohan Malempati courtesy of Melissa Zientara

Every night, all the officers in Highland Park High School’s Rotary Interact Club would get a message from Rohan Malempati saying, “Good night Rotary Crew.”

It was one of the ways that Rohan showed his devotion to the club and fellow members who meant so much to him.

Rohan, 17, died Feb. 19 in Atlanta, where he moved last year. He had a rare genetic disorder called Omenn Syndrome and had a massive seizure in September that left him in the ICU and then in hospice care.

When he died, Rotary Club Sponsor, special education teacher Melissa Zientara, wanted to do something to honor Rohan’s memory and his devotion to the club. So, as the club prepared for the March 2 polar plunge fundraiser for Special Olympics, Zientara did her fundraising in honor of Rohan. She raised $8,500.

“He as a young man who was passionate about Rotary Interact, and he loved volunteering for Special Olympics,” she said.

Rohan moved to Atlanta a year ago, but continued to keep up with Rotary Club by Facetiming into meetings. Zientara said he is largely responsible for making the club what it is today.

Rohan, who was often in poor health, never complained about how he was feeling, Zientara said. Instead, he focused on helping others. He was the community building chair for Rotary Interact, a service club. He was known for sending positive wishes to friends and family via text several times a day and was hoping to become a doctor.

“I will always have Rohan’s spirit in my heart and I will live a life with greater purpose because of him,” Zientara said.

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texsunstar March 14, 2014 at 08:22 AM
A wonderful tribute to an outstanding individual. We should learn something from reading this article - make the most out of our lives, no matter what hand we are dealt.
mzisook March 14, 2014 at 09:51 AM
Great job Melissa! You do a wonderful job. I remember meeting Rohan at the Rotary Walk in Long Grove a couple of years ago. Your students took turns pushing him in his wheel chair almost 2 miles and treated him like he was their own brother or even better. He was truly a remarkable young man. I know many people were touched by Rohan and he will be greatly missed.
bonjovifan75 March 14, 2014 at 06:40 PM
Thanks for your kind words! Marc--That was a great time! Wonderful memories!


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