WALTHAM, MA—INDIA New England News, one of the nation’s largest Indian-American news and video magazines serving the South Asian community, announced the winners of its prestigious 20-Under-20 Stars for the year 2019.
The 20-Under-20 Stars were selected on the basis of their academic achievements, extracurricular activities, athletic involvement, entrepreneurship and participation in the community service, volunteerism or skills in writing, arts and music, among other factors.
“It is humbling to see so many talented, passionate kids and young adults in our community, excelling in every area: from academics to athletics and from community service to science, technology, music, art and culture,” said Upendra Mishra, publisher of INDIA New England News and its sister publications, IndUS Business Journal, Hispanic Business Journal and Boston Real Estate Times.
On Dec. 14, INDIA New England News will host a breakfast reception for all the 20 Under 20 winners of 2019 at the Westin Hotel in Waltham, MA. To buy a ticket, please click here.
Dhriti Pitre Aiylam
Dhriti is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Student and a Johns Hopkins CTY Scholar. An honor roll student, she is part of five honors societies: National Honor Society, as well as the Spanish, Math, Social Studies, and English National Honor Societies. She was also an Advisory Board member for the English National Honor Society and a Spanish National Exam Bronze Medalist in 2017 and 2018. A passionate writer, she is the Editor-in-Chief of her school newspaper, and was selected in her sophomore year to take part in the Hanover Theatre Student Critic Program, where she wrote critical reviews on various Broadway productions that were being performed at the Hanover Theatre.
Since freshman year, she has been teaching her peers and underclassmen in dance, mathematics and Spanish. She was a private math tutor as a freshman, providing homework help, teaching concepts, and do MCAS test prep with her students. As a part of both the Spanish and Math National Honor Societies, she was also involved with peer tutoring at her school. In junior and senior year of high school, she volunteered at the India Society of Worcester as a dance teacher and assistant Hindi teacher. She has done lots of volunteering for summer camps, including for the EcoTarium as a junior counselor and for the Floral Street School Summer Enrichment program as a high school helper.
Dhriti has donated her artwork to “Art on the Line”, a fundraiser for the organization Arts Worcester.
Krishnaa has dedicated her Sundays for the last three years to teaching a Gujarati language class, creating unique ideas and lesson plans for her students. She has gone above and beyond, creating tests, homework and worksheets for her students to use for at-home language practice.
Outside of her teaching, Krishnaa is active in the Girl Scouts and is in the process of achieving her Girl Scout Gold Award. She is also active in her community, participating in the Nava Shakti dance program for Genesis Foundation for Children, the Shrewsbury Floral Street Summer Enrichment Program and the American Red Cross.
For his examplary service to the town and his excellence in academics and activities, Shiv Chandra recently received the Town Award in April 2019 from the Town of Lexington, presented by Michelle Ciccolo. Shiv has been involved since the 6th grade in peer mentoring, leadership and prevention activities for students in the town involving using drugs, alcohol and destructive decisions. He was a board member for the SADD club, represented his class in the school site council and worked on various student health projects.
He is also an accomplished singer and musician, having traveled to various parts of the US and Europe to sing in groups. He was part of auditioned chorales at the New England Conservatory and Co- President of Concert Choir and also RPS, the all-boys acappella group in his school. While in school, he worked with an economist to research the trends in Youth Risk Behavior Survey data (YRBS).
Throughout high school, Ria has maintained a high GPA while taking all honors and Advanced Placement classes. This has earned her a spot on the High and Highest Honor Roll for all eight semesters of high school. With this, she has been inducted into various honor societies, such as National Honor Society, Social Studies National Honor Society, English National Honor Society, and Tri-M Music Honors Society.
During her 10th and 11th grade years, Ria took the National Spanish Exam, and earned a silver medal in 10th grade and a gold medal in 11th grade. With all these academic achievements, Ria has also balanced both extracurricular activities and been heavily involved in the community. Ria has been a member of her school orchestra since 4th grade where she played the violin. With this involvement, she has played in various areas of her community, including her town’s senior center during the holidays.
Since 7th grade, Ria has been a member of the Speech and Debate team, where she competed both locally and nationally in Extemporaneous Speaking and Original Oratory. She qualified for the 2018 Nationals, where she competed in Washington, D.C., and her continued dedication to Speech and Debate earned her the Degree of Excellence in the National Forensics League.
Ria has also been an active and involved member of the Indian Youth Group since 8th grade and has participated in volunteering in and running numerous community events with the group such as India Day in August and Showcase India in April. With IYG, she has also participated in many charitable events, such as the Walk for Cancer, volunteering at the Little Store in Worcester to make Christmas gifts for those in need, and the Walk for Hunger. Apart from IYG, Ria actively looks for independent volunteer opportunities as well. Since 2015, she has been a camp leader at Shrewsbury’s Summer Enrichment Program for elementary school students.
Additionally, in 2018, she volunteered at Marlborough Hospital as a patient ambassador, which consisted of interacting with sick patients to make them feel more comfortable and transporting them to different parts of the hospital such as x-ray and the operating room. She has also volunteered to raise money for Big Help, an initiative to help underprivileged children in India. On top of this, Ria has been working as an assistant teacher at India Society of Worcester’s Hindi Cultural School every Sunday since 2017, sometimes single handedly managing the class and working with students to ensure their learning. The students love her and are grateful for her continuous support in their learning experience.
Ria has also been dancing both competitively and for fun since she was very young, and it has been a very important part of her life. Most recently, she participated in the Kane Malhar dance competition with her group where they won first place in their category. Additionally, every September, Ria and a group of her friends choreograph a dance for the India Society of Worcester’s Ganesh Utsav Program.
A rising young entrepreneur, Prithika has become a pioneer and leader in her time with TiE Boston’s Young Entrepreneurs program. She helped develop a startup called Pillantics, a medicine bottle which would accurately report the frequency and dose taken by the patient to the prescribing physician. This IoT device would not only help physicians understand patient compliance but also help prevent opioid abuse. Excelling as the CFO, she mentored and supported the development of her colleagues in the program. She later volunteered to come back to the TiE Young Entrepreneurs program to mentor and support the development of the next cohort. She worked with them on helping to build out their startups and their mentoring network while always maintaining a positive outlook and youth development lens. She commuted 3 hours round trip for each of the 14 sessions during the year to give back to TYE and help the next wave of young entrepreneurs to follow in her shoes. She has volunteered at her local food pantry for the past 5 years, published a research paper in “Colloids and Interface Science Communications,” as well as competed for the last 4 years on the math team. She not only received the top score on her team during this time but also took her team to win 3rd place within their division (which includes the whole of Massachusetts and New York).
Prithika has received the Yale Award, Math Book Award, and Spanish Book Award. Not only does Prithika exhibit a commitment to academics and volunteering, she has demonstrated incredible sportsmanship as she has played varsity tennis at her high school for the last four years.
Sakshi, a third-degree senior Black Belt in karate, had experienced on her own how her self-defense classes helped her to instill values such as self-discipline, respect for self and others, and self-control. She has received her Girl Scouts Gold award using these experiences, as well as her efforts and dedication towards raising awareness. Her Gold Award project was aimed at highlighting the lack of self-defense training in our school system while emphasizing how it led to character development. To spread her message, she collaborated with the town’s public library to conduct free karate classes to motivate kids to learn and also developed a website to promote the idea of self-defense.
As a student of Shishu Bharati in Lexington, MA, she showed great interest in learning about Indian culture and Hindi language not only through classroom instruction but also through participation in extra-curricular activities such as dance, plays, essay-writing, etc. When she graduated from Shishubharati in 2015, she decided to contribute to her community by volunteering as a student-teacher. She served as a role-model for younger students while helping them learn. She received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in recognition of her community service.
Sakshi is the Founder and President of the Girls Who Code club in her high school which aimed at encouraging girls to learn coding and overcome the gender bias associated with STEM fields. She has received a National Honorable Mention award from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) in 2018. She had been a member of her school orchestra since middle school and was inducted in the Tri-M Music Honors Society in her high school.
Sakshi had also been a member of the Indian Youth Group, youth body of Indian Society of Worcester, for six years, volunteering at the Little Store in Worcester where she helped sort gifts for children belonging to needy and low-income families. She received the Citizenship award in 2016 from the India Society of Worcester in recognition of her community work.
Sakshi is currently a student at the Commonwealth Honors College at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is also a proud member of the National Honors Society since 2016 and a recipient of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship.
Bharat is a young man with exceptional talent, coupled with extraordinary work ethic, and a strong sense of compassion. A rising senior at Mass Academy, he has received the Fish & Richardson Patent award at the Massachusetts Science and Technology Fair, granting a patent for his submission, a knee brace for sports injuries.
He is also a budding entrepreneur, taking part in the TiE Boston TYE program as CEO for a company he and his cohort created. He has also helped bring chess with his chess club to low-income communities in Worchester, MA and taught English to blind students in both India and the U.S.
Excelling in academics, Raunit has been a leader in his school. He helped revive the Math Team during his sophomore year, grown it and helped the team place in multiple competitions, as well as being the president of the school’s Culture Club. Raunit worked with the Grafton Historical Society to curate an exhibit on “Unity through Diversity”, that showcased artifacts from different cultures representing the diversity of families living in Grafton, MA. He is also the president of the school’s Vex Robotics Team where in his junior year, as lead programmer for his team, helped it qualify for the regional and national level competitions. He and his team also qualified among the top ten at several international and signature events.
Outside of school, Raunit has been studying Kenpo Karate for over 11 years and has a 3rd degree Black Belt and is an instructor in his dojo. Raunit has competed in multiple state and international-level tournaments, and has won multiple first, second, and third place awards for kenpo forms at large-scale events including one international award. He is also trained in kickboxing and takes pride in his many Karate accomplishments. He is now one of the highest-ranked students at his karate school and loves teaching students of all ages. Raunit is an active member of the ISW India Youth Group (IYG), that consists of over 50 middle-to-high schoolers. He has shown leadership by being a core member of the executive council, first as member-at-large, then as Vice President and finally as President. He has helped organize the annual Walk for Hunger and Walk for Cancer activities, and gift wrapping for underprivileged children at the Urban Missionaries Church. As Vice President of IYG he chaired the annual event, Showcase India, the only cultural show completely organized, managed and run by youth in New England and attracts nearly a thousand attendees. He was responsible for reaching out to local businesses for donations and sponsorships and brought in a record $9,000 in revenue, including $2,000 in sponsorships. He helped design and edit the brochure used in the event.
Jaya is a budding social entrepreneur. At a very early age, Jaya began to recognize that, despite being so young, she had the power to make a difference in the world if she put her mind to the task. Jaya currently serves as a Youth Ambassador for the Akshaya Patra foundation, the world’s largest NGO-run mid-day meal programme serving wholesome school lunch to over 1.76 million children in 15,668 schools across 12 states in India.
In this role, she has made it her mission to promote and raise awareness for students just like her who live a world away. During her recent visit to one of the kitchens and a participating school in India, Jaya compiled her interview sessions with the head of the kitchen, school principal and school children at the school, into a short promotional video to share their stories, help spread the word, raise awareness and funds for the program in the US. This promotional video had a profound effect on her ability to fund raise. By focusing on real individuals — their stories, ambitions, and struggles — Jaya was able to capture their real difference these programs made, beyond just statistics.
Recognizing the power that unifying many can have, she began to mobilize everyone around her to contribute to the cause. Applying some of the skills she picked up from the local Youth Toastmasters program, she was able to create an ever-growing group of peers to rally around the same effort. As the pioneer of this campaign, Jaya was asked to present at the foundation’s Annual National Gala and shared her experiences and ongoing projects, as an invited speaker.
Jaya always brings her young entrepreneurial spirit and enthusiastic energy to everything she is a part of. It was only a matter of time before she applied the same to her work with the charity. She utilized the web programming skills she acquired attending Johns Hopkins University’s Center of Talented Youth program, and kick-started her own fundraising e-commerce platform: www.Knitforkidz.com. KnitforKidz is an e-commerce website designed to sell knitted caps made by volunteers, and help raise funds for the program.
An active Girl Scout, Vidula is a force for good in her community. She has been a Girl Scout for seven years. For six years, she was part of a troop, but once that troop disbanded, she continued as a Juliette, or a solo Girl Scout. She has received the Girl Scout Silver Award for doing a project to promote recycling in her community. As a part of this project, she helped her neighbors obtain recycling stickers for their cars, and sold items made out of recycled materials to raise money for Girl Scouts. She is currently working towards her Girl Scout Gold Award, teaching stress management techniques to students in her community. She has conducted two workshops, one at her local library and one at the India Society of Worcester. At each workshop, she presented various stress management techniques, and had the participants fill out worksheets that she designed to help them better understand the techniques. Additionally, each workshop had a collage activity, to demonstrate stress management. Her final workshop will be at a school in India and a website to share her work on stress management with the world, featuring a series of interviews from various members of her community. These interviews will help viewers/readers understand how others manage stress.
Vidula has volunteered at the India Society of Worcester as a Hindi assistant teacher for two years, as well as volunteering at her local elementary school at a program called Building Bridges. Through this program, she was paired with a kindergarten student, and acted as a role model to him for the last period of the school day. Also, she currently works at her local elementary school’s extended day program as a student assistant. For this job, she plays with the kids, and encourages them to follow the rules.
Juhi Lalwani is a talented and dedicated high school student who is passionate about giving back to her community through her love for music, dance, and volunteering work. Over the years, she has continued to cultivate her love for these fields, culminating in being named the Boston Indian Icon on the ZeeTV reality series, “International Indian Icon” in 2018.
Juhi began her journey with music and dance at the age of 5, when she started learning Hindustani Classical Vocal under the guidance of Smt. Preeti Nagar and Shri Ramarao Mukkamala, and Bharatanatyam under the guidance of Smt. Jasmine Shah. Over the past 11 years, Juhi has pursued her passion for dance and she completed her Nritya Nipuna in 2018, as well as receiving an award for being a “Rising Star In Dance” from Lokvani.
Currently, she is a student choreographer at Aangikam Dance Academy, where she volunteers to teach and inspire young girls in their own dance journeys. As well as dancing, Juhi’s love for singing has brought her to the stage of many events in the New England area, winning many local competitions, including IANH (2015), Swaraag (2015 & 2018), and NEHM SaReGaMaPa (2017).
Juhi is the newest member of the Dil Se team, which is an annual charity show taking place in September 2019. Juhi has broadened her abilities to Western Classical Vocal as well, in which she has sung in English, French, Italian, and Latin. She has been a two-time recipient of the prestigious Presidential Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) for her excellence and dedication in volunteering.
Shraddha Sunil Lulla
Dedicated to helping her community, Shraddha is the 2018 recipient of the Rotary Youth Leadership Award for following their motto: “SERVICE ABOVE SELF”. She has attended their invitation-only, overnight RYLA conference in 2019. She is also the recipient of President’s Volunteer Service Award 2 years in a row, in 2018 and 2019 for volunteer services towards for Shishu Bharati in Lexington, MA; volunteering every Sunday with kindergarteners and helping at special event days, graduation ceremonies and others.
As part of her school’s “June Academy”, a two week period at the end of the school year, in which all students at Weston High School take non-academic classes taught by teachers, Shraddha was instead asked to teach a course herself, titled “Stress Reduction through Music Therapy and Food”, which was an extension of an independent study that she had been conducting during the school year. In the course, she taught two of the days on Pie Therapy, and two days were focused on Music Therapy. Pie Therapy is a form of therapy which involves calming, repetitive movements while making pie dough. At the start, the 20 students who chose her course took a preliminary stress survey. During the 4 days after, Shraddha taught each student to create 2 personal-sized, healthy fruit pies (blueberry and apple pies) in the school kitchen. During the course, she also discussed stress reduction techniques like meditation and exercise.
As for the future, Shraddha is currently trying to bring these stress reducing activities to other high-achieving schools. There are some other schools that have similar programs to June Academy, so she will try to bring this stress-reduction course to other schools.
An accomplished student and scholar, Hari has achieved many accolades for the work he has done in his short years. He attended the prestigious MIT PRIMES computer science research program in 2018 and 2019 and has worked with Harvard Medical School Professor Gil Alterovitz, director of the Harvard-MIT Biomedical Cybernetics Laboratory, to create a system using machine learning and natural-language processing to match terminal cancer patients with experimental treatments and co-authored a paper on the findings that is under review for publication.
A gifted young writer, Hari is currently attending the highly competitive and coveted Telluride Association Summer Program for writing in 2019, which is widely considered the premier program for humanities for rising high school seniors in the US. He has won 18 scholastic writing awards across 5 categories over the past 2 years, including 13 awards in 2019, setting a record for the most individual writing awards in Massachusetts in 2019. His work has been featured in different countries, including a poem on Mahatma Gandhi, which was published in 2017 by the Oxford University Press, in an elementary school ethics textbook that is distributed all over India.
In addition to his academic talents, Hari is an advanced Indian classical music vocalist and has in India, Cleveland, and extensively the Greater Boston area. He was the lead vocalist for Oscar-awardee Jean Claude Carriere’s ‘The Mahabharata’ presented at the Paramount Theater in Boston in 2014 and has presented lecture-demonstrations on Indian classical music at the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Harvard University’s Dance Department, senior centers, and local schools in the Boston area. He is the lead vocalist of the ‘Aatma Tones’ fusion music band in Newton
Hari volunteers for the California non-profit ‘Access Braille’ since 2009, and is the Project leader for Access Braille’s venture, “The Accessible Hindu,” to bring The Hindu, India’s second-largest English daily newspaper, to the five-million visually impaired people in India. In addition, he is the Editor-in-chief of the ‘Wonders of Touch’ braille magazine for visually disadvantaged children.
Recently, moved by the tragic death of Philando Castile, Hari conceived a video call smartphone application to foster trust and reduce potential fatalities to civilians at traffic stops. His proposed application would essentially allow police to talk to car drivers, see inside their car, and review license and registration details without either party having to leave their vehicle. He pitched his idea to the Newton police, who were supportive, and said they would consider a beta test of the application.
A gifted science student, Antara Pal won first prize in the Massachusetts Science Fair in May 2019 at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and received the Sanofi Genzyme grand prize of $27,500. She has attended several science conferences, such as the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) conference held in April of 2019 at Niagra Falls, NY and the Bioengineering Medical Society (BMES) held on October 2019 in Philadelphia, PA. She was 3rd in at ASEE conference student poster section, an achievement where most of the participants were undergraduate or graduate students from different universities.
She has won several prizes in the Eversource Challenge, a competition for Massachusetts residents from kindergarten to 12th grade to write about saving energy. She volunteers at Emerson Hospital and has also raised more than $1,000 for the Healthy Heart initiative, a New England nonprofit.
A rising senior from Westborough High School, Nishka Pant is one of six winners of the Bay State Future Leaders scholarship for her performance as a competitive swimmer, receiving a $2,000 scholarship after an extremely competitive application process and live interviews. Nishka is an exemplary athlete, and in the three consecutive years she has competed as a swimmer, she has consistently placed in the top 18 of the State Swim Championships in the Butterfly category. In addition, she has immaculate academic accomplishments and placed in the top 1% of scorers on the ACT and volunteers extensively with the India Association of Greater Boston (IAGB). Her interest in science, math, programming has pushed her to spend her summers working closely with doctoral and post-doc students at MIT doing cutting-edge research.
Menaja has been a class treasurer in her grade for the past two years. She also serves as a Girl Scout and is part of the Massachusetts state level nonprofit organization known as Project 351. Through Project 351, Menaja has been able to expand her leadership skills beyond her school and lead within her community. Within Project 351, Menaja had the opportunity to be a part of the Alumni Mentorship Corps, where she serves as a leader to a group of eighth graders. Along with Project 351, Menaja has served in her town’s local Summer Enrichment Program, where she assisted teachers in their camps. Menaja has also participated in bharatanatyam dance for the past 11 years. Through bharatanatyam, Menaja was able to perform in several dance fundraisers that support pancreatic cancer research and MS foundations.
Menaja served as a Student Teacher for the India Society of Worchester (ISW) for seven years, helping students and supporting them as they a new language. In addition to this volunteer job, she is a professional dancer, and has participated and organized many ISW events.
An award-winning singer and performer, Aarshiya Sachdeva is an equally passionate and ambitious high school student. Since the age of five, Aarshiya recalls taking her voice seriously. Beginning her journey with Indian classical voice and piano lessons, to annually performing with her high school’s outstanding musicals, choirs, and Tri-M Music Honor Society, she eventually dove into the world of performance and solo artistry. She has achieved accolades at venues including Faneuil Hall, Loretta’s Last Call, Tower Hill Botanical Garden, Wachusett Mountain, and Orlando’s very own Disney Springs. Taking the next step, she founded “Sounds of Summer,” an interactive music therapy program for senior citizens in local towns and long-term care facilities. Her belief that music can heal the world along with her commitment to helping others inspired her to establish this program.
Most significantly, she is involved in the India Society of Worcester (ISW) language and cultural school, both as a student and a teacher volunteer. After graduating from the eight-year program, she decided to make an impact by becoming a student teacher. While running the program, she was also able to put her creativity to use. She successfully choreographed various dance performances and trained her students to showcase their vocal talents at annual shows. Aarshiya is a loyal member of the Indian Youth Group (IYG) where she coordinates different events and supports several causes. In recognition of these efforts, she was presented with the Shrewsbury High School “Commitment to Service” Award.
Aparna Shanmugam, who completed her Sophomore year at Andover High school this year, is passionate about the life sciences, particularly in the area of biotechnology, drug discovery for systemic diseases and illnesses. There were personal incidences that triggered her interest in the area of drug discovery/biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. After a tragic loss of a family friend to Alzheimer’s, she started volunteering at a local care facility for dementia patients called Nevins in Methuen, MA. Every week she spends her time playing memory games, paints and helps with food services for dementia patients at the center. Through her interactions with dementia patients, she realized the importance of spreading awareness of the disease to the student community.
To that end, Aparna reached out to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and started a teen chapter of the AFA with her friends at Andover High School. The club meets every other Thursday with a goal to fundraise for the national foundation and help with the search for cure, as well as educate her peers on the disease.
This summer, Aparna will be going to India to complete an internship/research at the Schizophrenia and Dementia Center (SCARF) at Chennai, India. Her research will require her to visit different schools from various socioeconomic classes and survey the students’ awareness about Dementia to see if there is value to include systemic diseases into the educational curriculum. She will also be comparing the care cycles offered between US and developing countries such as India, in her research.
Motivated by his own journey in weight loss and nutrition, Anish Sundaram is active in promoting health and nutrition in teens. He is affiliated with Wholistic Health Alliance Youth Group and was nominated as the President of the group. Anish is writing a book on his weight-loss experience and also working on a fitness app, in addition to other creative ventures, such as his solo album, Fabula Amoris (which was covered by INE earlier this year.)
Anish also has received a commendation letter for bravery from the Police Dept in Acton in 2016, for his actions when his father became disoriented from a possible seizure. He contacted 911 and helped restrain his disoriented parent until help could be administered on scene.
At the young age of 13, Ayur has achieved much through his talent for public speaking and storytelling. National Speech and Debate Champion in 2018 and 2019, Ayur placed 5th in 2018 with a public service-oriented speech in the “Original Oratory” category and placed 1st in 2019 with his energetic “Storytelling” performance.The 2019 National Speech and Debate Tournament featured students from 48 states, 5 countries, and 2 U.S. territories. The week-long tournament hosted by NSDA brought nearly 10,000 students, coaches, educators, and parents, making it the largest academic competition in the world. Ayur has also received numerous first place awards for his performances in the Massachusetts Middle School Speech League tournaments in 2018 and 2019.
An advocate for Mindfulness, a meditation technique, at schools, Ayur is conducting a fundraiser for MindUp.org, a non-profit organization which brings Mindfulness to schools. He is also a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a member of his dojo’s demonstration team. He has placed in the top 3 for breaking and sparring at national competitions held at New York and Rhode Island.
Ayur values his culture and heritage and has attended Shishu Bharati from kindergarten through grade 6, until moving to Andover and away from his Shishu Bharati center. He also enjoys dance and theater and has been learning hip-hop since around age 7. To develop his skills, he trained during summer at the renowned Joffrey Ballet School of Dance in New York City and he is a current student of Wilmington Dance Academy. He has competed at various events including the 2019 BravO!