WALTHAM, MA—INDIA New England News, the region’s oldest and largest print, online and video magazine serving the South Asian community, announced the winners of 20-Under-20 Stars for the year 2016. They were selected on the basis of their academic achievements, extracurricular activities, athletic involvement, entrepreneurship, participation in the community service, volunteerism or skills in writing, arts and music, among other factors.
“Like every year, this year’s list is impressive,” said Upendra Mishra, publisher of INDIA New England News and its sister publications IndUS Business Journal and Boston Real Estate Times. “One of the members of this year’s 20 Under 20 received her second patent this year and another has already given a TED talk.”
Here is the list of the 20 stars under 20 in an alphabetical order for the year 2015:
Priyanka is a very determined young woman that has accomplished many things in her high school career. She is not only an honors student who has consistently made her schools honor roll but she has always pushed her academic boundaries by taking honors and ap classes. She has maintained a stellar academic record while working three jobs and extracurricular activities. She holds several leadership positions in school clubs and also volunteers at St. Vincent’s Hospital. She hopes to help others in the future by becoming a doctor.
Priyanka inspires all those around her since he doesn’t let adversity or challenges define her. Instead she uses it as motivation and awes everyone around her with her grace and determination.
Bhatnagar has a significant grasp of number crunching and carry out large complex calculations in his head. He can solve 7X7 Rubic’s Cube (normal rubic cube’s are 3×3). In addition to number, he is deep into wrestling. He was introduced to wrestling in middle school. As never done a sport before, he found the athletic rigor to be interesting and very engaging. He also learned very quickly that he had a knack for the sport. In his very first year of wrestling in middle school his coaches had selected him for his talent and he has had success in regional and national level tournaments throughout high school. Awards: 1x Class A Champion, 1x N. New England Champion, 1x Battle of the Bay Champion, 2x Class A Finalist, 2x New England Finalist, 2x Battle of the Bay Finalist. 3x National Qualifier.
Guitar: Self-taught starting from before high-school, continued to take lessons with Mr. Squires at Exeter. He has played piano for a few years before discovering the guitar, and he fell in love with the warm of the acoustic sound and how the simplicity of its strings opened a range of different playing styles.
Social Venture Projects: New Hampshire Social Venture Innovation Challenge Finalist. This is an adult-level community challenge run by the University of New Hampshire with the goal of recognizing and rewarding an innovative social project that helped communities.
Sreya Bommaraju, a rising Junior from Sharon High School, joins 20 Under 20 list because of her well-roundedness, her academic accomplishments, and above all, her extraordinary commitment to serving others.
Sreya’s dedication to community service and philanthropy are well beyond her age. She is an active volunteer at Sharon High School and was involved in various charitable events for Bighelp. She is also very active in other community events. Sreya donated the funds raised through her Arangetram (solo dance debut) to educate 10 kids in India through Bighelp and to support the activities of Sai Chavadi temple. Further, Sreya works part time and donates part of her earnings to causes that support underprivileged children. She is an inspiration and role model for younger kids in the community. They look to her for guidance and respect her for her maturity and compassion.
Among her several other achievements, she was conferred the ‘Rising star’ award by the Bighelp organization in 2016 in recognition of her exceptional fundraising initiatives. Sreya also won awards for her score in the AMC8 and other Math events. Since her freshman year, Sreya has been involved in the Sharon Math and Science Tournament which provides opportunities for middle school students to engage and compete in math and science based events.
In addition to her excellence in academics, dance and music, she volunteers her time helping out at Balamandiram Sloka school, helping kids learn slokas and Indian Mythology. Having trained professionally in dance and music, she actively participates in cultural programs arranged by various Indian organizations such as the Indian Association of Greater Boston, the Telugu Association of Greater Boston, and the Indian American Association of Sharon.
Sreya also plays for the Sharon High School Field Hockey team and is very active in the Sharon High School Debate Club and has the honor to compete in the State Debate competition. She is also quite talented in the kitchen and uses her culinary and baking skills to sell baked goods in bake sales to raise money for various clubs at Sharon High School. She is actively involved in ‘Children Helping Children’ club that raises money for the Boston Children’s Hospital. During her summer vacation, she spends her time volunteering at hospitals, such as Milton Hospital and Women’s and Infants Hospital in Rhode Island.
Danush is an exceptionally great student both academically and socially. He is an honor roll student at AMSA and is a co-captain of the middle school math team. He is also member of freshman and varsity math teams. His math abilities are impeccable and has won many competitions including:
- 1st place in 2016 Intermediate Mathematics League of Eastern Massachusetts Pascal division
- 1st place in 2016 regional NSF Math Bee (Cambridge, MA)
- 2015 AMC 8 perfect score( Honor roll of Distinction)
- 4th place countdown round 2016 Mathcounts chapter competition
He is also interested in science, winning 2nd place in 2016 northeast regional middle school science bowl
He has been part of Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth for the last several years, and is awarded high honors for being among the highest scoring participants in the 2015 international talent search which recognizes excellence in mathematical, verbal and spatial abilities. He is currently pursuing AP Calculus at JHU’s CTY program.
In the community, Danush participates in many activities, including a member of India Youth Group that performs several community services. He is part of the Language school at ISW, learning Tamil and helping younger children of the language school.
Danush has played last 2 seasons in the 2015 Shrewsbury Youth Football team. His team moved to the play off in the last season. He also won the National Scholar Athlete award as part of the Youth Football organization.
Danush plays guitar and snowboards. Once he turned 14, this summer, he started to work at the Shrewsbury Kumon center – a part time career that fulfils 2 of his passions, math and helping younger children.
Nathalie Rodrigues Vaz Falcao
Nathalie Rodrigues Vaz Falcao already has Tedx Talk on “How To Be Successful” on her resume. She has received multiple academic awards in the Spanish language as well as other stellar achievement. She has been Class and School President and on the Honor Roll all three years of high school.
She is a junior at Montrose School and one of the “Founding Sisters” of her school’s MUN (Model United Nations) club. She has also participated in TyE (The Indus Young Entrepreneurs) Boston 2014.
Maya Boppana Hertz
Maya Boppana Hertz, a rising High School Junior, is a well-balanced, kind, friendly, hard-working young woman, who has a passion for social justice causes. She does well in all her Honors classes and voluntarily enrolled in a summer school history class. Maya is on the school field hockey team on which she plays with great dedication. She has a part time job at the Public Library, where she earns her own spending money; she also does occasional babysitting and pet care, and was a summer camp counselor in training.
Maya has participated in many enrichment activities, including a Teen Grantmakers program (hands on experience with philanthropy and grant making), a Hospital Junior Summer Volunteer program (for 2 summers), volunteering in the Public library, member of various book groups for a decade (a voracious reader), writing programs (competitive acceptance through writing samples), various school and community plays/musicals, and a knitting club. She has participated in local university enrichment programs including MIT Splash and Spark, Northeastern University Engineering Day, and was accepted to the Harvard Youth Lead the Change program.
Maya is involved in many social justice causes, completing a year long Racial Awareness class, volunteering for Massachusetts Association for the Visually Impaired and Blind (volunteer helper for a visually impaired woman) and DreamFlight (ground helper for an organization that provides pleasure flights to kids who are sick or underprivileged). Maya is most passionate about 2 particular organizations. She has been a volunteer tutor with the Brookline Literacy Partnership for the last 2 years, providing weekly tutoring/reading help during the school year to Boston elementary school children who learn in a less privileged environment. One of her greatest passions is her work with Hope for Humanity Maryland (test.hopeforhumanitymd.org), an organization that financially supports the education of poor and orphaned children in India. Maya spent a month in India as an assistant teacher, providing wonderful learning experiences to elementary school children at their school in Vijayawada, India (Vikas Public School). The activities included usual subjects like reading and science, but also exposure to creative activities including planting seeds, playing recorders (provided all the children with a recorder and teaching them to play), and tie-dying t-shirts.
Anusha Kulkarni became one of the Youth Ambassadors for Akshaya Patra in 2014 and was set to achieve her target of raising $1,800 and raising awareness for the cause and the organization. After meeting this target in just few months, Anusha wondered what else she could do. She decided to not stop with having met her target.
Anusha is a talented singer and had held concerts at her home to raise money for Akshaya Patra’s school meal program in India. She says: “Feeding millions of children everyday seems like an impossible task, but when you break it down, and work together, it’s possible. I was able to get five Power of One($15 monthly recurring) members by writing individual handwritten letters. What is exciting for me is that all these donors are new to Akshaya Patra. I then thought: why not organize and perform in another music concert to raise more funds for Akshaya Patra. When I visit Hubli this summer to see my family, I want to visit the kitchen there and also the schools and know that I can play a small part in this noble and heart warming cause.”
After Anusha set this goal, she actualized it by going to Hubli with her family, organizing and preforming in a concert in which she performed for hundreds and raised over $3,000 for mid-day meals.
Anusha believes that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. She does not stop herself when she reaches a target. She reaches higher. She puts her actions behind these words and works for the children of India.
Minocha is a sophomore at Boston University, intending to do a major in Communications with a minor in Hospitality. Nikita is an accomplished Bharatnatyam dancer. She finished her Arangetram in 2013, not only with a scintillating performance but dedicating the event to Vision-Aid, a non-profit organization bringing a ray of hope for the visually challenged in India.
She continues to use her art, participating in the magnificent Annual Vision-Aid fundraising events, for five consecutive years, displaying her passion for dance and community service. She brings so much energy and warmth to the group, bonding with the dance teachers and her buddies. A creative writer, she has been writing for Lokvani, highlighting the extraordinary among the ordinary. She also launched her video blog recently, ‘hang out with Nikita’, where she interviews people, bringing their inspirational stories to the front. Her exceptional photography was at display in the Astronomy gallery at BU.
She is also an Ekal Vidyalaya Youth leader, working tirelessly to bring education to children in rural India. She also visited Ekal schools in rural India, brought back inspirational stories and shared with her peers in US. With her knack at communications, she teamed up Ekal staff in Houston and created training videos, working in scripts/recording/interviewing/editing. She continues to cover stories of local youth contributing to the Ekal cause.
Nikita graduated with distinction from Brooks High School in North Andover. In her high school days, she volunteered for the Lawrence Boys and Girls club & the Squashbusters program, helping young people develop their potential. She also cared for the senior citizens, often times playing card games with them or singing for them. A Karate Black belt from Academy of Traditional Arts in Wilmington, she is now in the Leadership group, helping out aspiring youngsters at the Dojo. Practicing positive leadership, she works gently with the kids, striking a chord with them.
Nikita continues to pursue her passion for dance at BU besides strong academics. She is the Secretary for BU classical Indian dance team, Dheem. A gentle, caring individual, she has earned the wealth of friendship, from the many hearts she has touched in and around the community. She believes in ‘being-there-for-friends’.
Neeharika has throughout excelled in her academic achievements and has been repeatedly honored in her school for academic excellence.
Neeharika has been very actively involved in Community Service. She is the Youth Leader for the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation and helps them in their mission. She strongly believes in sharing her privileges with the not so fortunate and giving back to the community. Last year, she donated $5,000 from her pocket money that she had collected over the years to Ekal Vidyalaya and adopted a remote village in Radhai, district of Mathura in India, for life. This year, she again donated money to adopt three more Ekal schools in India. She believes that education is an essential right that is a factor in the growth of children, communities and even countries and no one should be deprived of that privilege. She has received certificates of appreciation recognizing her leadership skills, service and contributions.
Neeharika has been actively volunteering her time and doing community services for over five years. She has been very actively involved as a volunteer at Wingate Nursing and Rehab Facility in Andover, MA where she works very closely with the elderly residents and leads them to do exercises, reads books and writes letters for them, plays games with them and discusses her travel experiences, office work routines, etc. She has been highly appreciated for her work and services by the Director of Activities of the facility. Neeharika has also been volunteering at the Lawrence General Hospital in the Radiology Department for the last two years. She loves working with and helping people in need.
Recently, on August 10, 2016, Neeharika was invited by the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya to give a talk on “Youth of USA presents Life: Past, Present and Future to the Youth of Kenya in Africa”. She performed exceedingly well and was highly appreciated by her audience and the Embassy Management. They are asking her for more personal branding classes and help to inspire the face of Kenyans as to how they can better their lives and those of others. Her audience was particularly impressed with her detailed research, top notch public speaking skills, respect and the knowledge that she demonstrated during her presentation.
Neeharika is a world traveler and has visited six of the seven New Wonders of the World and has been to every continent in the world except Antarctica.
Avanti Shivani Nagral
Nagral is a multi-talented teenager with a passion for Music and Public Health. At a young age, Avanti has achieved a lot – be it in academics, music, global health advocacy, or student leadership.
A US National Merit Scholar, an AP Scholar, and a top student throughout her school years, Avanti has garnered several honors and awards in Science, English and Mathematics at the state and national levels. With a near perfect SAT score and perfect scores in all her SAT subject tests, Avanti was awarded the Most Promising Student trophy at her school. She has also been the recipient of her school’s Leadership Medal and a school time music trophy, specially created to honor her achievements in music.
Avanti is a Performing Artist and Singer/Songwriter. She combines her experience across various genres – Indian Classical, Broadway, Church/Gospel and Devotional – into a modern Pop-Soul sound. She recently signed up with an independent music production house from LA and Mumbai to write, sing and produce her own teen pop music. Avanti has sung in several productions of Broadway Shows, Concerts and Events.
Avanti is also passionate about Global Health Issues. Over the past 6 years, she has done work in the fields of Music Therapy (pediatric oncology department of a leading hospital), Anemia (school coordinator for an initiative from Brown University), Organ Donation models (under the guidance of a transplant surgeon from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), Cardiac Disease and CPR/Emergency Care.
Avanti has just begun her Freshman Year at Harvard University. She was accepted into Harvard as an early admit student in 2015.
Divya, a young self-motivated talented young girl, is attending Bancroft School in Worcester, MA. She is a Captain of Tennis team, treasurer for student council, member for a bake team to raise fund for unfortunate kids.
She raised funds for project bread for homeless shelter and she goes to Worcester Pantry every week to help them, she is very giving and soft have a soft corner for the unfortunate people.
She volunteers at the CARE program for her school, and every Saturday morning she works with her “buddy” named Eli who is diagnosed with autism. In addition, Divya participates in PLA, the peer leaders association, a program that is against anti-bullying.
She also works for Social Concerns, a club that organizes a blood drive, money for the Worcester Partnership, and raises over one thousand pounds of food for the Worcester Food Bank, a program she volunteered at all summer.
Divya completed a marketing internship at eClinicalWorks for the past two summers. She is an AP Scholar, has received high honor roll every semester of high school, and is a member of the Spanish National Honors Society. She has raised $7,000 for the charity Feeding America, and with her family has contributed to the Ekal Vidyalaya program.
Neil Pandit makes to the list of 20 Under 20 for his contributions to the South Asian community, his volunteer spirit, and his skills in creating a living history of the South Asian community of Greater Boston with his talent in photography. Neil is an excellent photographer and has a keen eye for color, composition and theme. He has been published many times in The Marble Collection magazine.His photographs also have been published by the Boston Globe, India New England News, Lokvani, and the Burlington Union.
Neil is always ready to volunteer and does so with great enthusiasm. He will be a 10th grader at Burlington High School in 2016, and lives in Burlington with his parents and sister. Neil photographed two Saheli 5K Walks Against Violence in the past, participated in the Saheli Open House in 2015 and Volunteer Appreciation Day, and most recently, photographed Burlington Town Day and the IAGB’s India Day event at the Hatch Shell in Boston.
Akshita is a rising senior at Reading Memorial High School. She came to US in 2006 with her parents and has since successfully assimilated into the academic and social fabric here. Despite being away from her home country for 10 years she has been able to connect well culturally with her roots. She has developed into a well-balanced person with solid entrails into academics, culture, art, community service, and work.
She aspires to pursue higher education in the field of engineering, inclined towards biology and life sciences. She has built a strong academic foundation. She was one of 10 sophomores to take AP Chemistry (a course only offered to juniors and seniors) in grade 10 as a result of her outstanding grades in freshman Honors Biology. She was recommended to take a summer pre-calculus course by the Head of the Math Department after her sophomore year so she could take AP Calculus BC as a junior, ahead of most of the seniors in her school. She was only one of two juniors to take AP Calculus BC. She intends to continue setting high standards for herself and is taking up AP level courses in Computer Science, Physics, English, Statistics, and French.
Akshita is part of her high school’s Robotics team and as a lead of the business team she has successfully written grants to companies like Raytheon, UTC, Teradyne, Salem Five Bank, and BAE Systems. She leads approximately 60 students on the financial side of the team. She also played an important role in winning the most prestigious award in FIRST Robotics, the Chairman’s Award, allowing her team to compete and win at the North Shore Districts, Rhode Island Districts, New England Regionals, and Worlds Nationals all the way in St. Louis! She also has given many presentations about the team to prestigious companies like Teradyne and Raytheon, and has also been on TV for her presentation to the town’s School Committee. She is also a coach for one of her town’s middle school FIRST Lego League team where she taught them computer program and presentation skills, leading them to win first place at the competition.
Shreyas Risbud is a hard-working and determined young man, whether it is with his academics or with his extra-curricular activities.
He has been taking accelerated mathematics classes, as well as all the possible Honors and AP classes since his Freshman year in 2014 at Canton High School consistently scoring ‘A’ grades. Shreyas has been a member of the ‘Century Club’ of his high school since the academic year 2014-15 signifying that he is one of the top GPA-achievers at the high school.
As a member of his High School Mathematics team, Shreyas has competed in various High School-level Mathematics competitions in Massachusetts. Recently, he was part of the team that represented high schools in Eastern Massachusetts at the ‘American Regions Mathematics League (ARML)’ — an annual national high school mathematics competition that took place at the Pennsylvania State University for the northeastern US. Shreyas has also been a member of the Robotics team during his middle school years. He chooses to stay back at the school beyond the daily school hours to not just get extra help from his teachers, but also to give assistance to other students who may need help with their homework.
He has been attending the summer camps organized by the ‘Boston Leadership Institute’ in Wellesley MA since the summer of 2015 in which he has attended sessions in Biological and Engineering research. Over the summer 2016, he built a working loudspeaker that can be attached to any mobile phone to enhance the phone’s audio output. He could come up with his own compact design to secure the phone along with this external speaker. As a child, Shreyas built the model spaceships close to the ones that he would have seen in various Star Wars movies, never keeping himself limited to the instruction manuals supplied with his LEGO sets.
He developed interest in playing basketball since his elementary school days and played as a point guard for the ‘ICE Basketball Team’ of the New England Sports Academy of Westwood MA until 2014. Shreyas loves to play the western drums in his spare time, many times the sequences composed by him. His initial training in Mridangam and his affection of mathematics come in handy in this hobby.
Shreyas has been volunteering at various event held by the Indian community organizations such as LearnQuest Academy of Music, New England Kannada Koota, New England Marathi Mandal. Also, he volunteers at the Canton town’s public library.
Sambangi is a rising junior at Pingree high school. He is also doing an internship in Stem Cell Technology at CMC, Vellore. He was the CTO of the team that won 1st place in TyE (TiE Young Entrepreneurs) Boston and 3rd place in TiE Global Young Entrepreneurship Competition. He was the chief architect in developing an easy to carry vaccine bag that decreases vaccine spoilage in the last mile of distribution for third world countries.
In addition, Sambangi was the official Invitee of 2014 White House Science Fair hosted by President Barack Obama. He was the winner of MIT Boston Brain Bee and 2nd place winner of U.S. National Brain Bee in 2015. He is 2-time Semifinalist (Scored in top 10% of Nation) in Biology Olympiad in 2015 and 2016. He is a graduate of Advanced Biotechnology Institute Program at Roxbury Latin School and he recently completed a Medical Anthropology Camp at the University of Connecticut. He assisted and worked in a Homeless Shelter, learning about drug addiction and effective methods of treating those in pain and poverty.
Elisha is an all rounder. This year, she received a second patent, which is a huge achievement. She is enrolled in 7 year medical program. Really good in academics, she received all As in her Junior year classes and in her high school.
Even with the rigorous college work, she was involved in an Indian classical group and performed around the country for various competitions. She also volunteers at a local Nashua hospital for last 5 years.
She is also involved in a research work with a physics professor at U. Mass, Dr. Stimets. She will be involved in publishing two papers with him.
Yusra is a junior at St. Mark’s school in Southborough, MA. She was recently nominated as a Peer Discussion Leader, a position chosen by the faculty to act as a mentor for younger students. She was chosen for this position from among the 120 students in her grade.
Yusra has taken on philanthropy and social entrepreneurship seriously. Yusra first learned about the Akshaya Patra Foundation during family visits to Bangalore. Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest NGO-run school meal program and currently serves school lunches to 1.5 million children across India. Yusra subsequently joined Akshaya Patra’s Youth Ambassador Program. She personally visited their kitchens, schools, and recently raised more than $2300/- on her own toward the school meal program. She is currently in India visiting Ekal’s projects in Karanjo. She is determined to provide the same opportunities to all the kids in India whether rural or urban. Yusra is also passionate about improving the lives of orphans in India. She is working on a project in Bangalore and Hyderabad where the orphans are integrated into the school with other children rather than in orphan-only schools. Yusra has also done academically well at St. Marks and enjoys coxing for her school’s crew team.
Yusra’s mission is to provide equal opportunities for all kids across the globe. She wants to eliminate child labor, poverty, crime, and terror through education to make this a peaceful world for future generations.
Upneja is a rising senior at Newton South High School. He has volunteered at hospitals and community outreach centers and has devoted a significant amount of time to Ekal Vidyalya, an organization that brings education to rural villages in India. He has raised several thousands of dollars for Ekal organization.
Upneja has also won several competitions through the World Series of Innovation by designing numerous products and applications and donated all his winnings.
Outside of his community service, Upneja excels in many extracurricular organizations in his school. He is a senator in his school’s student body and a leader in the Debate Team, recently placing in the top 20 in the country. He has played in the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, and is the concert-master of his school and chamber orchestra. He was recently a semifinalist in the Moody’s Mega Math Challenge, representing the top 1% in the nation. Finally, he conducted chemical engineering research this past summer and is the first author on a research paper.
Nikhil Vootkur is the youngest intern at New Hampshire Democratic Party. He is drafted to be a professional designer on Dribble.com. In the 5th grade, Vootkur won a competition for anti-bullying contest. He has been a political volunteer since he was nine year old.
Vootkur went to International competition for robotics (5th grade, came in 2nd for Mechanical design). He placed in 4th place for Stem Animation in Technology Student Association’s National competition. He got 1st Place Website Design in New Hampshire in 2015. He is founding team member of local education startup (KudosWall.com). He was featured on dribble’s blog as one of the youngest designer.
He loves to play tennis and in free time tries to improve his skills on Calligraphy.
Tanya epitomizes the ideal of a well-rounded young woman, and she embodies every quality that a future leader should possess. She is in the top 10% of her class academically, and additionally has a perfect ACT score (36), and a near perfect SAT score (1580/1600 on the new SAT). Over this summer, she has balanced a host of extracurricular activities with finishing the summer assignments for AP French, AP Art, AP Calculus, and AP English Literature (and she took AP Biology and AP US History last year). Moreover, Tanya understands the importance of using her intelligence to help her community. She contributes over 15 hours each week to teaching and tutoring activities in a diverse range of environments ranging from Kumon to after school homework help for a variety of age groups. She has also been awarded the Girl Scouts Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards for her dedication to community service.
Tanya’s talents do not stop there, however. She is an exceptional artist, demonstrating mastery of a variety of media such as oil painting, acrylic painting, watercolor, and sketching with pencil, ink, and charcoal. Her art has won her numerous awards and accolades over the years; her art has also been selected to represent the Girls Scout Organization’s 100 year anniversary. Again, Tanya does not keep her artistic talent to herself, but rather uses it to the betterment of her community. For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she spent over 80 hours teaching children in her community how to make hand drawn greeting cards and helped distribute these cards to local veterans. One Marine Corps veteran was so moved by this that he mentioned Tanya during his Memorial Day speech and personally called to thank her! In addition, this summer, Tanya spent over 150 hours as a teacher’s assistant at the Danforth Art Museum in Framingham.
Tanya does not only give back to her local Westborough community, but also to the Indian community here in New England. As a member of the India Society of Worcester, Tanya has been teaching Hindi and Bollywood dance to kids for almost five years. She is herself trained in Bollywood dance, modern dance, and hip hop, and has a first prize to her name in the Boston Sargam dance competition as well as a second prize at the Dhrishya dance competition. She is passionate about her Indian culture, and strives to spread that passion to everyone she meets.