BOSTON—India Association of Greater Boston, known as IAGB, bestowed Community Youth Excellence Awards to three New England youths: Shruti Pokharna, Yash Kalwani and Anya Mittal, on India Day at Boston’s Hatch Memorial Shell. This was the award’s 9th year.
Ms. Pokharna is a rising senior at Lexington Highschool, MA; Mr. Kalvani is a rising senior at Andover High School, MA; and Ms. Mittal is a rising senior at Acton Boxborough Regional High School, MA. The winners will be recognized at the India Day Festival 2022 on August 13th at the Hatch Memorial Shell in Boston.
The winners were selected by a panel of judges from a pool of nominations for the award. “The panel was very impressed with how accomplished, hardworking and qualified all the nominees were,” IAGB said in a statement.
Bios of Youth Award recipients:
Ms. Pokharna is a rising senior at Lexington High School in Massachusetts. She is the founder, president, and CEO of SpeakUP!, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a world where all youth have the argumentation skills to effectively use their voices and become champions of change for themselves and their communities.
Under her leadership, the organization has reached over 250 students globally and created a network of 50+ volunteers across the world. As a longtime Girl Scout, she has earned her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards- the highest Girl Scouting recognitions. She also serves as an elected Board of Directors to the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts.
Additionally, Ms. Pokharna is a co-founder of several impactful community nonprofits, including CircleUp Tutoring and LovingCIP. Moreover, she co-leads her town’s intergenerational outreach program working to bridge the gap between students and senior citizens in Massachusetts. The program has received statewide media coverage and several scholarships for remarkable service work. Furthermore, she conducts behavioral and agricultural economics research with professors at Bentley University and the University of Cambridge. She engages in a plethora of advocacy projects including successfully passing a bylaw in her town to ban single-use plastic straws and polystyrene food ware, for which she was endowed the Community Engagement Award by the Chamber of Commerce.
Ms. Pokharna is currently a legislative intern for State Representative Michelle Ciccolo. An accomplished debater, she has won several state and national awards. She also plays on her school’s Girls Varsity Tennis Team. Academically, she is an AP Scholar with Distinction and a 3-time Gold Medal awardee of the National Latin Exam and stays busy with a number of clubs and activities.
Mr. Kalwani is a rising senior at Andover High School in Massachusetts. He is a scholar-athlete, with an enormous appetite for academics and an equal amount of passion for rowing, his favorite sport. Participating in this physically intensive sport has not only brought accolades to Yash and his team, but it has also made him more resilient, benefitting his other pursuits in academics, especially his interest of biomedical engineering.
Mr. Kalwani is thankful, especially to his parents, for the opportunities he got along the way. Growing up with parents from different backgrounds in India, living in different countries and experiencing many cultures and languages such as Hindi, Tulu, German, and French has broadened his perspective. He hopes to bring those experiences to his classmates as he explores college.
Mr. Kalwani feels proud when he is the inspiration for any Asian rower to join the sport of rowing.
Ms. Mittal is a rising senior at Acton Boxborough Regional High School in Massachusetts. She is passionate about leadership, community service, public speaking, biology, and computer science. She is a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Scholar and recipient of the US Congressional Gold Medal, which is the United States’ highest honor for youth civilians, and recognizes initiative, service, and achievement.
Ms. Mittal is also an avid debater, and has won numerous awards at various state and national level speech and debate tournaments. She has been awarded the Academic All American award by the National Speech and Debate Association for outstanding character and leadership. She is also the co-founder of Viva, a startup that helps people keep their plants alive, for which her team won the 2nd prize at TiE’s Young Entrepreneurship Boston Business Pitch Competition. Their product is patent pending.
On the academic front, Ms. Mittal has been inducted in the National Honor Society, and was also awarded the Smith College Book Award for outstanding academic achievement, leadership qualities, and concern for others. Most recently, as a leader of her BioBuilder club, she published and presented a research paper about building a device to detect and kill harmful bacteria. A passionate volunteer, Ms. Mittal has been closely involved with We Care Charity to provide food for homeless shelters. She is also the co-president of Acton Institute of Computer Science, a non-profit organization committed to providing free computer science education to students around the world. They have taught over 2,000 students across 34 states and 13 countries. In her spare time, she loves to play piano, box, and travel.