BOSTON—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 20-Under-20 Stars for 2022.
The 20-Under-20 Stars were selected based on their achievements, extracurricular activities, entrepreneurship, and participation in community service, as well as exceptional skills in writing, arts and music, among other factors.
20 Under 20 Honorees for 2022
Burlington High School
Ayush Agrawal, a junior, attends school in Burlington, MA. A kind, charming, and hardworking person, he takes great pride in the neighborhood and culture where he lives and committed to helping society in whatever way he can. He gives his time and energy to a number of non-profit groups, including Indian Americans for Burlington, Hindi Manch, Ekal Indi-Art, Shishu Bharati School, and Dharma Center of America. At Hindi Manch, Agrawal makes all of the event videos alongside his team as a member of the Hindi Manch’s audio/visual content management team and has helped with the event’s setup for the Hindi Manch Sahitya Samhelan. For Indian Americans for Burlington (IAB), a community organization that works to meet the unique needs of the growing Indian population in Burlington, Agrawal coordinated the IAB Diwali celebration’s booths with all of the entrepreneurs attending multiple times before the program day. Each business owner’s setup was taken care of, and he made sure everyone knew what they were selling. He also dedicated ten weeks to serve as the team coordinator for the weekly webinars on art for IndiArt, an annual art contest hosted by Ekal Vidyalya USA, with purpose of raising funds/awareness for the digitalization of rural India, and advocating for the accessibility of education for underprivileged communities. He served on the IndiArt youth team and helped with all aspects of marketing and poster production for these events.
Apart from volunteering and helping his community, he also helps seniors in need. One such example is when a senior lady wanted to share her special recipes for the world, he spent countless hours helping producing the videos, editing and posting it on her channel. “He did this selflessly and with a big smile,” said one of Agrawal’s nominators for the 2022 20-Under-20, recounting the story.
Agrawal is also a passionate member of his school’s DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) team. DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. Agrawal competed at the district level through the ninth and tenth grades- in the individual principles of marketing category in the ninth grade, and the individual sports and entertainment category in the tenth grade. He had to discuss a particular roleplay for this competition in front of judges chosen by the district who would be assigned to him and the other contestants in that division. He was one of a select few chosen to lead DECA at Burlington High School as a junior. Because of his position, he is responsible for mentoring and welcoming DECA’s newest members.
Additionally, Agrawal plays cricket in the 2022 Merrimack Cricket League T20 season.
Neha Chandra Agarwal
A graduate summa cum laude from the prestigious Groton School and a Wellesley College Book Award (2019) recipient, Neha Agarwal was able to secure Presidential Scholarship for a Research Assistantship designing a research study to determine intervention opportunities in state-level policy to improve the health outcomes of Asian immigrants, post-pandemic. At Dartmouth, Neha is active in her community as Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion in Alpha Phi International Fraternity, the social media manager of Dartmouth’s premier South Asian dance team, RAAZ and a writing tutor. She has also served as a youth ambassador for Akshaya Patra in Middlesex County.
Lexington High School
A gifted student with a keen interest in genetics and medicine, Arindam Bagga is a 2021 Harvard Telemed Medical Program Scholarship recipient, and has conducted research in multiple fields, including Gaucher’s Disease Type 1, immunology and even AI diagnosis of colon cancer. His research under his mentor on CRISPR-Cas9 systems for the treatment of Gaucher’s Disease Type 1, which was published at the American Chemical Society (ACS), has won recognition at research competitions on both the local and national levels. Bagga’s abstract and poster for “Designing a CRISPR-Cas9 Guide RNA system to Eliminate Antibiotic Resistance in E.coli DH10B Bacterial Cells; 2022” was published and selected to be presented at the ACS International Symposium.
Bagga was admitted to the ACC Young Scholars Program, a prestigious cardiology program. He is conducting research there on how environmental factors affect heart mortality rates in the United States, as well as collecting and running statistical analysis on relevant CDC data and working towards writing an abstract for the ACC conference in 2022.
Outside of the ACC Young Scholars Program, Bagga is also conducting statistical analysis on COVID-19 patients using Excel and Prism; working towards finding patterns, analyzing data and writing report on his findings. He also worked on a database of genes to create therapeutics for diabetic wound healing; and collected data on AI diagnoses of colon cancer.
At his school, Bagga founded the Biology Club, teaching concepts related to Biology every week to train its members for the United States Biology Olympiad Competition. He is also Health Occupations Students Of America VP, and studied for the Cultural Diversity and Disparities event, where he ranked first in Massachusetts in the same event and qualified for the international-level competition. As a varisty tennis athlete, Bagga was featured in the Boston Globe Boys’ Varsity All-Stars.
Shrewsbury High School
As an actor and model represented by AWA & BTM, LA, Krish Bhuva has appeared in many commercials, voiceovers, series, and films. Some of commercials that he appeared in (which were aired nationally and internationally) include Bose, Apple, Doctors without Borders, E.O.S, Hasbro and Brainly, and he appears in the Hulu series “Castle Rocks”. Bhuva also had a principle role as a middle schooler in the Sundance Labs, LA feature film “Selaah and The Spades”, which is available to watch on Amazon Prime. Bhuva is the founder of a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, Pan Reformica, which educates and raises funds to provide relief services to ongoing human rights issues around the globe, working collaboratively to establish support, employed novel ideas, and handled administrative tasks. Following the organization’s formation, Bhuva was invited by his high school to start a Pan Refromica chapter as a ‘club’, which was started in the 2022 fall semester and will create many volunteer opportunities for his peers.
Outside of his work as an actor, Bhuva is passionate about aerospace engineering and has channeled his focus to make his mark on the field. After reading research papers and emailing the authors in the hopes of making scientific contributions himself, Bhuva found work as a research intern at the Institute for Astrophysical Research at Boston University under the supervision of Dr. Thushara G.S. Pillai (astrophysicist, research scientist, MIT Haystack Observatory) to interpret and analyze magnetic field data of the Orion Molecular Cloud from the SOFIA telescope, as well as utilizing the AstroPy package in a Python coding environment.
Sanah Chatiwala is a figure skater who has been practicing the sport since she was a child of 5 and has won multiple synchronized skating championships through Colonial Figure Skating Club. Not content with being an excellent student with a 4.34 GPA at Westford Academy, she is also a varsity volleyball player for her school’s team. All through the pandemic, Chatiwala volunteered with Say Da Nar organization, where she tutored Burmese refugee children in English and other subjects. In 2022, Chatiwala volunteered at I Can Shine Bike camp, which teaches special needs children of all ages how to ride a bike, where she also managed over 100 volunteers and 40 campers. This included organizing their time slots, what days who could come in, etc. Fundraising for Saheli, an organization that helps South Asian women fight domestic and sexual abuse, Chatiwala organized a Chaat Masala event, which sold out and raised over $1,000 in donations, bringing cultural awareness to Westford Academy and gave a platform for children of Indian origin to come together and show their culture with live Indian music, henna, Indian food and stalls of Indian clothing and jewelry. The school administration was so pleased with this event that it became an annual event at WA.
Shrewsbury High School
Kunal Chauhan is a rising sophomore at Shrewsbury High School in Shrewsbury, MA, with an avid interest in robotics and continued commitment towards mentoring those younger than him. As an active and passionate member of his school community, he is currently serving his second year as a member of his school’s elected Student Council. Being a member of this council, he is not only accountable for representing the student body and his school, but is also responsible for planning activities in his community. Raising over $1,000 to help fund research for the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC), hosting an annual thanksgiving & winter clothing drive, and participating in the annual Shrewsbury Town Clean-up Day are only a handful of the numerous community-based projects that Chauhan helps facilitates as a part of this council. Along with this, he also takes other leadership roles in his school community, whether that be his role as the Secretary of the Bio-Tech Club or his role as Vice-President of the Engineering Club. Chauhan has always been active in his community, and since the pandemic started, his passion for volunteering in his community has grown even more. The pandemic caused everything to shut down in our world, but with this, came the opportunity to teach & learn in a whole new digital space. From a young age, Chauhan has been drawn to robotics & engineering, which has been shown in his four years of FIRST LEGO League (FLL) and his second-place Robot Design award at the state championship held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Wanting to impart his knowledge onto others, while attempting to make the best of an awful situation, he conducted an online LEGO robotics summer camp for kids in-and-around his neighborhood who didn’t have the ability to learn about these robots in-person, teaching for roughly 40 hours over the span of three weeks. Continuing with this passion, he began teaching more online programs through ISW (India Society of Worcester) — a non-profit community organization that is run entirely by volunteers. This included offering three ten-week online LEGO Robotics courses to roughly 50 students in-and-around central Massachusetts, cumulating a total of 75+ hours of community service through those 8 months. Not limiting himself to only robotics, he also taught core subjects, such as Math & English, remotely to younger kids during the pandemic. In addition to this, the unjust attack on Ukraine has caused over 12 million people to flee their home-country. Wanting to show whatever support he could for Ukraine, Chauhan and a group of students helped lead a bake-sale through ISW, and in the matter of 2 days, raised over $600 to donate to Ukraine Relief Efforts. Chauhan’s contribution to his community has been immense, and for this work, is a 2-time recipient of the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) and a Commitment to Service Award recipient in recognition of 75+ hours of service in a single school year.
Rishi S. Gokhale
East Greenwich High School
Rishi Gokhale is a rising sophomore student at East Greenwich High School, and a recipient of the US President’s Education Award in 2021. In his freshman year, he engaged in self-study to take the AP exam in US History and got the top score of 5. Gokhale has been the school champion for Geography Bee and represented his school twice at the state level Geography Bee organized by the National Geographic Society. He has also participated in various Bees, Olympiads and Bowls organized by the International Academic Competitions (IAC) and received various awards and recognitions. On April 6, 2019, Gokhale won the Boston Regional Final Championships in History Bee, Geography Bee, Science Bee and Academic Bee with a first place finish in all Bees among sixth graders from most of New England region. He then traveled to Chicago for the national-level championships, where he placed as National Semifinalist in the US Academic Bee, National Semifinalist in the National Science Bee, National Quarterfinalist in the National History Bee and finished 12th nationally in the US Geography Olympiad. Based on his performance at the national championships, Gokhale qualified to compete in the Biennial World Championship for International Geography Bee and International History Bee (to compete with selected qualified candidates from 30 countries around the world), which were unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic. In 2021, Gokhale was also a US History Bee National Championship Semifinalist. On April 9th 2022, Gokhale received an award from The Naval Order of the United States at the Rhode Island History Day Competition in the Senior Division, for his paper related to US Naval History, titled “Little Remembrance Despite Great Toil – The Forgotten Story of the Treaty of Portsmouth” In 2018, Gokhale received a Citation from the Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives for his essay on the meaning of Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind” which won the first prize. In April 2022, Gokhale’s oil painting “Hidden Waterways – Venice” was selected for entry into the Congressional Art Competition for High School students. It was on display at the Warwick Mall for a week until April 25th. For this painting, Gokhale received a certificate from the retiring US Congressman James Langevin.
In 2018, after visiting Longyearbyen, Svalbard, which is approximately 800 miles from the North Pole, Gokhale’s article on his visit was published in Icepeople (www.icepeople.net), the Earth’s northernmost newspaper. Gokhale soon learned about the severe hardships suffered by Mr. Mark Sabbatini, the reporter, photographer, editor, and publisher of Icepeople and learned that Icepeople was on the verge of closing down as a result. Determined not to let Icepeople fail, Gokhale started a GoFundMe campaign to save the Earth’s Northernmost Newspaper. Gokhale’s campaign has raised more than $20,500 for that newspaper and has helped provide the most needed breathing room for Icepeople to get back on its feet. The story on Gokhale’s GoFundMe campaign was published in the Providence Journal, and it was also mentioned in the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review.
Lexington High School
Anuka is a rising senior at Lexington High School, who, as a sophomore, finaled in the National Economics Challenge, placing in the top 6 out of thousands of participants testing knowledge of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and current events. Later, in her junior year, she participated in the Wharton Global Youth Investment Competition hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, working with her peers to create an investment strategy and portfolio. Her team was among a select group of competitors chosen to present their investment strategy to a distinguished panel of judges at the Wharton School, where they ultimately placed in the top 10 out of more than 1,300 teams internationally. She is a recipient of the National AP Scholar with Distinction recognized for her outstanding performance on multiple AP exams. Manghwani is deeply committed to civic engagement in her community. As an elected member of the school’s student-faculty senate and a menstruating individual, she believed it was crucial for the school to provide access to feminine hygiene supplies. She advocated for the school to make feminine hygiene products accessible in the school bathrooms by communicating with nurses and the student senate. As it stands, the school will be making feminine hygiene products accessible in the bathrooms this upcoming school year. Additionally, Manghwani is also a leader of the school’s Door Painting Project where students paint faculty’s doors around the school to promote a sense of community and enthusiasm, as well as to foster creativity. Manghwani recently organized a philosophy camp for middle schoolers called Question everything: An introduction to philosophy, in order to cultivate an interest in philosophy and contemporary politics.
Outside of school, she co-founded Round the World, an organization that aims to make global news more accessible and provide objective journalism. Manghwani seeks to challenge the concept of “foreign” news and instead embraces news from a global perspective. Additionally, she seeks to fill the “what/why gap” in journalism (news that discusses what is happening, but not why it is happening). Through Round the World she aims to address these problems through a bi-weekly newsletter that delivers brief, yet descriptive journalism and makes global awareness accessible to everyone.
Manghwani is also working as an intern for Massachusetts State Representative, Michelle Ciccolo and Dr. Hua Wan from Boston University, where she is researching school equity in Massachusetts as part of her internship. She has served as a legislative intern for the Massachusetts Commission on Women. She worked as an intern, analyzing issues impacting women and taking notes during legislative hearings. Through her internship, she aimed to deepen her understanding of the challenges women face in society.
Aarav & Arjun Mehta
Hopkinton Middle School
Aarav Mehta and Arjun Mehta are 13- & 11-year-old brothers who attend Hopkinton Middle School in Hopkinton, MA. They are co-founders of the ARM-in-ARM Charity, which they started in May 2020 during the height of the pandemic, with a mission to connect the world’s children through sports and educational activities by collecting new or gently-used sports apparel, gear and educational supplies to enhance the experiences of less-fortunate children. The charity name “ARM” is not only the initials of their names but also speaks to the charity’s mission, to join “arm in arm”, to make a difference to children everywhere. The motivation to start a charity came after they travelled to Panama, Ecuador and Jordan in 2018 & 2019 and noticed how local children their ages didn’t have the right soccer balls, cleats and sports apparel as they did. During lockdown, when they were home with a lot of time on their hands, they decided with a little help from their parents to launch the charity and advertise their mission through social media which caught the attention of the editor of the local paper, who interviewed them for an article. Within a matter of a few months, they collected over 300 items of sporting equipment and apparel donated by families in Hopkinton and surrounding towns which they cleaned up and shipped to charities in Kenya and Tanzania that support under-privileged children.
What started as a small idea has now turned into an ongoing effort by both brothers to continue to find ways to help children in need through their charity. Most recently they led a book drive and collected more than 100 books for children in Kindergarten through 5th grade that were shipped to schools in India as well as led several programming/coding summer camps with proceeds from which were donated to a local charity that supports infrastructure projects for 450 schools in India. Aarav and Arjun always remind themselves of their favorite quote when working on their charity: “Caring has the gift of making the ordinary special.” (George R. Bach)
Winchester High School
Aashna Miharia plans to make a career in the journalism field and hopes to become a strong voice for women and a person of color in the media world. A author of middle grade fiction, Miharia published her novel, “In Their Heads”, in January of 2021. She received an Honorary mention at the 29th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Award, with one of the judges remarking, “Excellently plotted and structured, this book takes a concept nearly everyone has wondered about and makes it a reality for Gwen. Readers young and old will be riveted by Gwen’s compelling and interesting journey.”
Miharia is Managing Editor of the high school’s monthly newspaper, where she not only writes, but is solely responsible for mentoring staff writers in the process of choosing a topic, interviewing people, and writing articles. She is a paid columnist for Winchester Living,a local magazine. In her column, Miharia shares her unique voice as a young person of color in a predominantly white community. She is also currently serving as an intern for Dr. Gregory Schnitzspahn, the Winchester Living editor and English professor at Fisher College. In the summer of 2020, Miharia founded and independently organized a voluntary summer tutoring program called “Read with Aashna” to tutor 50 elementary students in reading, to help them grow academically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Miharia held one-on-one Zoom sessions with each student every week, designed personalized lesson plans, emailed back and forth with parents, and more. Most of these students were of Indian descent as she wanted to connect with kids who have had similar experiences as her. Miharia received overwhelmingly positive feedback on her work in “Read with Aashna”. Last summer, she expanded her volunteer program to be “Read & Write with Aashna” and implemented creative writing lessons alongside reading lessons. Overall, Miharia has now worked with over 100 students. Many parents have told her that thanks to her program, their child got better at reading and writing during the pandemic (whereas most kids nationally digressed in reading and writing due to remote learning) and developed a passion for it as well.
In summer of 2022, Miharia was selected as one of twenty students out few hundred applicants to partake in GrubStreet’s YAWP Teen Summer Writing Fellowship. This fellowship models a realistic, professional environment for working writers as they experiment with a wide variety of writing styles. It was a stipend-based program and her work will be published in an anthology in March 2023.
Acton Boxborough Regional High School
Inspired by software, biotech, and debate, Anya Mittal organizes free global computer science camps as President of the Acton Institute of Computer Science, has published biodevice research, and competed nationally as Debate Team Captain. In 2021, she earned and was awarded the US Congressional Award Gold Medal, the highest civilian youth award in the country. The Congressional Award provides opportunities for young people to unleash their potential by achieving personal goals focused on volunteerism, character development, and fitness. This was achieved after three and a half years of personal effort, including 400 hours and 24 months of voluntary public service, 200 hours and 24 months of physical fitness and an additional 200 hours of work towards personal development goals.
Mittal also received the Academic All-American Award, issued by the National Speech & Debate Association, which recognizes high school students who have earned the degree of Superior Distinction; completed at least 5 semesters of high school; demonstrated outstanding character and leadership; and earned a GPA of 3.7 on a 4.0 scale (or its equivalent).
Boston Latin School
Tarun Nagesh is a certified tax preparer by the Internal Revenue Service, and uses his knowledge and skills as a volunteer in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program for the last 3 years. The VITA program helps low to moderate income taxpayers to file their federal and state tax returns. His peers at the program noted his good character and disposition is a great asset for the program, remarking, “[Nagesh] is a valuable member of our VITA program, he helps taxpayers year-round, not only during the tax season.”
Oak Middle School
A black belt in Karate at 11 years old, Prisha Nair is continuing towards the first degree now. She was honored with an Excellent achievement in Math for 7th grade at school in 2022, as well as in the Math Olympiad top 50%. Nair is a member of the student council, an India Society of Worchester (ISW) youth member and was the 2018 1st place winner in the Worchester bowling competition.
Ishita Rai is currently a rising Junior pursuing a Bachelor in Human Physiology at the Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University (BU). She was chosen among a select group of peers to become a 2020 United States Presidential Scholar, one of the 161 finalists chosen from the 3.6 million high school seniors across the nation, and is also a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She has been accepted to the Boston University School of Medicine as part of BU’s very competitive Early Assurance Program. Rai is an extremely passionate, driven, and empathetic person who has a proven track record of academic excellence, community leadership, and research experience. She believes in taking challenges, learning, growing, and giving back to the community. Rai has pursued research on the effect of multi-drug resistant pneumonia in the mortality of trauma patients with mentors at Brown University and successfully published the research paper as the first author in the medical journal Surgical Infections (Jan 2020). Rai has presented research on the effects of telehealth on postpartum depression support at a renowned international conference with Dr. Meghan Sharp at the 43rd Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine and was a 2022 Provost’s Scholar Award for Academic Exploration and Valedictorian for the graduating Class of 2020 at St. Mary Academy Bay View. She was the recipient of the Catherine McCauley Woman of the Year Award, the most prestigious honor given by Bay View Academy to a graduating senior “of singular character and impeccable integrity who leaves an indelible imprint on the fabric of the Bay View community.”
Rai was the Director of Education for the BU American Lung Cancer Screening Initiative, leading a team of over 30 people and creating initiatives to strengthen the lung care curriculum at BUSM as well as local middle and high schools. Not stopping at just one cause, she was the founder and president of her school’s chapter of Vision Club. The Vision Club is affiliated with Harvard University, through which awareness and money for low-income families in need of eye care is raised by members through organized eyeglass drives, fundraisers, and planned events – all of which funded over 15 cataract surgeries and provided over 100 families with prescription glasses. Besides all these achievements, Rai works as a Clinical Research Assistant at The Warren Alpert Medical School, Providence VA Medical Center, and Boston University Medical Center; as a Crisis Counselor at Crisis Textline, providing crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and support counseling to those facing an emotional crisis; transcribes modern scientific research into laymen’s terms for the public, raising awareness, and researching preventative techniques for chronic disease with the CIEPA National Research Team; and works on research at the SURGE Lab at Brown University lab regarding racial disparity in healthcare.
Shrewsbury High School
Described as “creative, caring, and relentless”, Aanya Sachdeva is a rising senior at Shrewsbury High School. At the young age of eleven, Sachdeva had the opportunity to witness the difference that Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), a non-profit organization, has made in the lives of children fighting cancer. Upon learning what an impact one hour of research could make in the lives of those fighting cancer, she found her passion and committed herself to the cause. She founded Aanya’s BOWtique, an entrepreneurial venture where she used her creativity to hand-make hair bows and accessories to sell at local fairs and craft shows. Despite her young age, she donated all proceeds to ALSF. She also launched a website for people to donate directly to her fundraiser.
When the pandemic struck in 2020 and all local craft fairs suddenly halted, she realized her goal of helping children fight cancer was at stake and pivoted to launch Aanya’s BOWtique online via Etsy and continued spreading her support for ALSF. To this date, she has raised over $15,000. In recognition of her generous efforts, the ALSF foundation rewarded her with the “Top Fundraiser Award” for 2021.
Lakeville High School
Amirtha Santhosh developed her interests in and out of the classroom all through her high school. Academically, in addition to being on the high honor roll each quarter, she has taken several honors and AP courses, culminating in Bausch and Lomb Scholarship and AP Scholar Award as well as becoming a member of the National Honor Society. She furthered her studies through the Boston University Summer Challenge program, where she developed knowledge in biology on a deeper level through the courses Chemistry in Medicine and Infectious Diseases. As part of the top 1% of student of her school, and as the only Indian girl in her grade, Santosh has taken full advantage of the academic opportunities presented to her. Santosh is giving back by volunteering her time at a tennis camp as an instructor and was able to assist students in furthering their tennis skills and developing their passion for the sport. She is a member of her school’s LIFE Club, where they foster new relationships between the club members, students, and students with disabilities. In addition, she is a part of Laker Leaders, where students from all grades strive to help out the school community through various events. Outside of school, she has volunteered at a local food pantry, sorting food donations, bagging items in preparation for delivering them to customers, and filling customer food bags for them to take home.
Santosh is interested in exploring the medical field and additionally to the advanced courses in sciences, and summer programs at universities, she has volunteered at a local hospital in the surgery department where she stocks hospital rooms, cleans and makes beds, offers patients drinks and snacks, and brings them out to their family post-operation, and thus gaining first-hand experience in the medical field.
For the past two years in the summer, Arshia Sharma has been volunteering and documenting the life of girls of her age in the remote region of Yamkeshwar, a village in Uttaranchal under an AIF grant program, where she also made a visit this year. Her motivation was driven by a desire to put herself in other people’s shoes, view the issues from a new perspective, and gain a clearer sense of the issue of poverty and education from all angles. Throughout the year, Sharma demonstrated this openness to and empathy for the opinions, feelings, and perspectives of these girls and their lifestyle which was very different from hers.
Sharma also represented her school at the Model UN and presented at the United Nations where she spoke on the topic ‘nuclear weapons in the Middle East’. She is a student of Kathak of 10 years, and was one of the 4 finalists of the annual Wilder Speaking contest out of the 300 students who participated at her school.
Ria Dang Sharma
Dana Hall School
Ria Dang Sharma is a senior at Dana Hall School with interests in brain research, mindfulness, student government, squash and music. Sharma has been doing brain imaging research for three years and is a co-author on two published papers and the first-author on a paper currently in draft. Passionate about singing, Sharma was selected to be part of the vocal Chamber Singers group and also takes part in gospel choir and studying Indian classical vocals. Ria has been recognized for her execution, genuineness and empathy as a leader. She is the elected All-School President, as well as the Co-Captain of Varsity Squash. She served on the Student Council for two years and was a Peer Education Leader. Sharma received the 2022 Dragon Award for Leadership in Sports, won the Class of 2023 Leadership Award voted by students and chosen by the Deans of Students and is a 2022 US Squash Scholar Athlete. Sharma serves as the Community Service Vice President of the Indian American Youth Group, and is a Saheli Fellow.
Sharma is fascinated by the power of the Indian art of mindfulness, and its role in improving mental health. She transformed a room at Dana Hall School into a popular mindfulness and meditation room, self-taught herself yoga and designed a journal. For her efforts, she won the 2022 Fitzie Foundation Award, which grants her $6,000 to study yoga and meditation in Rishikesh, India. The Fitzie Foundation selects one girl each from Dana Hall, Tenacre, Harvard-Radcliffe College and Harvard Business School who show qualities of leadership along with a sense of adventure. She was also a finalist for the John Means Spencer Award. As a selected Peer Education leader, she advised a cohort of fifteen girls on mental health and teen issues.
Vedant M. Srinivas
Eastlake High School (Sammamish, WA)
Vedant Srinivas has created an invention with the noble intention of reducing (and potentially eliminating) roadkill. His invention is an AI-powered system called Eqwis. Eqwis combines a dual stream camera (optical and thermal) for both day and nighttime vision, with an artificial-intelligence-based computer vision model (YOLO-v5) that can enable real-time detection and classification of moving objects, including animals. This invention has brought Srinivas recognition, including first place for the ‘Environmental Engineering’ category at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), and a feature on Inside Edition. Eqwis has garnered interest from both the state of the California and the state of Nevada’s Registries of Motor Vehicles and accolades from several universities.
Srinivas is also a high performing cricket player and has won several awards as an all rounder. He has learned both Carnatic and Hindustani forms of Indian Classical music from reputed teachers like Pandit Parthasarathi Desikan (of Patiala Gharana).
Following her interest in medicine throughout high school and beyond, Aahana Tiku is an energetic presence in her community. As part of her local Red Cross chapter, Tiku started her own International Humantarian Law (IHL) Youth action campaign, submitting her team’s presentation to compete with Red Cross chapters across the country. Through this campaign, she was selected as the state representative Red Cross IHL Youth Advocate for Massachussetts, to attend a month-long internship and virtual conferences, normally held in Washington, D.C, but held virtually due to the pandemic.
One of the most important people in Tiku’s life, her grandmother Nirmala was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease the year Tiku was born. Growing up, she saw the disastrous effects of this progressive disease and was one of Nirmala’s primary caretakers. When she reached high school, she decided to start her own club: the Parkinson’s Awareness Club. The main reason this club was founded was to educate people about the disease. She advertised for it daily and spoke about it on the school news. Soon her club became affiliated with the American Parkinson’s Disease Association and went from group discussions to analyzing medical literature and hosting fundraisers, the proceeds for each donated to the annual walk for the American Parkinson’s Disease Association. Through this work, she was selected as the sole representative for Massachusetts to present her work and progress to the other 50 state delegates. When she co-hosted the annual walk in her hometown of Andover, taking on the responsibilities of project lead for all of the events and issues related to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, the tech help for all the crew members, and also the social media manager for advertising the events. She was one of the official members of the Organizing Board of the Annual APDA Walk and she even founded the Massachusetts Partnership Program.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tiku thought of a project to salute and protect frontline worker by creating disposable plastic isolation gowns. She made over 100 disposable gowns to date and the gowns have been distributed to multiple hospitals.In her words: “The making of these gowns require immense patience, persistence, precision, and a lot of love and care. I thoroughly enjoyed the time-consuming process because I knew I was doing it to help protect our heroes.” Tiku also spends her time volunteering at Lawrence General Hospital Maternity Ward, both before and after the pandemic, answering calls, restocking cribs and making lab runs. She was selected for the Congress of Future Medical Leaders Award of Excellence based on her academic excellence and demonstrated interest in the medical field.