India Philanthropy Alliance Announces Winners of Inaugural Youth Essay Competition

Photo: India Philanthropy Alliance

WASHINGTON, DC— On the eve of a major online philanthropy summit, the India Philanthropy Alliance (IPA), a coalition of 13 US-based organizations working on humanitarian and development issues in India, announced the winners of a youth essay competition held earlier this year.

After careful deliberation, the judges selected Maher Adoni of Champaign, Illinois as the winner among high school students and Rohan Chalamalasetti of West Des Moines, Iowa as the winner among middle school students.  Adhitya Ajith of West Des Moines, Iowa was the runner-up among high school students and Shreeya Yarlagadda of Johnston, Iowa was the runner-up in the middle school age category.

One of the goals of the Alliance is to grow the culture of philanthropy among the Indian diaspora in the United States.  As a first step towards nurturing this philanthropic culture in Indian-American youth, IPA decided to sponsor a nationwide youth essay competition focusing on issues facing India and its people, and asking students to discuss how philanthropy and Indian-Americans can be impactful in these fields and to describe their own work and plans. This contest was made possible by a generous grant from the Sarva Mangal Family Trust, based in Orange County, California.

Maher Adoni’s winning essay focused on ways to improve education in India using technology and volunteers.  Upon being notified that his essay was selected, Adoni said, “I am very grateful for this opportunity to share my ideas with the public and with philanthropic leaders at the Philanthropy Summit.  This will motivate me to want to do more.”

Rohan Chalamalasetti’s winning essay investigated the issue of clean drinking water in India.  About the experience, he had this to say: “Participating in this essay competition was a great experience and I learned a lot.  I’m very excited to have this opportunity for my essay to be published and to receive feedback on my ideas.”

A panel of judges composed of leaders from IPA’s member organizations and Mona Shah, representing the Sarva Mangal Family Trust, reviewed numerous essays submitted by middle and high school students from across the country. “It was inspiring to see how passionate these young authors were about solving issues facing India today,” said Ms. Shah. “These middle and high school students had clearly given a lot of thought about how philanthropy can benefit India, and many of them are already actively engaged in helping address the issues they care about.”

As part of the competition, the winners were each able to direct $1,000 grants to the nonprofit organization of their choice, and the runners up were able to direct $500 each.  Chalamalasetti, Yarlagadda and Ajith all chose to support the Sehgal Foundation, based in Des Moines, Iowa.  Adoni directed his grant to the American India Foundation, based in New York City.

The judges also recognized six high school finalists and two middle school finalists for their outstanding essays.  The high school finalists were Mira Bhatia of Chicago, Illinois, Rhea Chakradeo of Rutherford, New Jersey, Amit Kamma of Atlanta, Georgia, Nithya Myneni of Clive, Iowa, Bedansh Pandey of Johns Creek, Georgia, and Shreen Shavkani of Alpharetta, Georgia.  The middle school finalists were Sameer Agrawal and Deetya Pai, both of Austin, Texas.

All essays written by winners, runners-up and finalists have been published on IPA’s website.

The philanthropy summit at which this was announced was organized by Indiaspora, a member of the IPA that works to transform the transform the success of the Indian diaspora into meaningful impact worldwide.  It follows on similar convenings in 2018 and 2019.


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