Six Indian Americans were among 100 who were honored by Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn at the 23rd annual Prudential Spirit of Community Awards at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. on Monday, April 30.
Aditya Sidapara of Phoenix, Arizona; Sivani Arvapalli of South Windsor, Connecticut; Vani Sharma of Fishers, Indiana; Anjali Chadha of Louisville, Kentucky; Praneeth Alla of Exton, Pennsylvania and Shrey Pothini of Savage, Minnesota, all received a $1,000 cash prize.
Sidapara, 18, co-founded an educational initiative which teaches computer coding to students living in four refugee camps in East Africa, aiming to lift them out of poverty and help meet the worldwide demand for skilled software engineers.
“Millions of high-potential refugees live in atrociously impoverished communities, hindered from realizing their dreams through technology. Software engineering offers a dignified path for uplifting refugees from cyclical poverty and inspiring the next generation of regional and global innovators,” Sidapara states on Prudential’s website.
Arvapalli, 13, was nominated by the Indian Valley Family YMCA and he volunteers with a group which has raised nearly $94,000 for various child-based charities through talent shows, benefit dinners and entertainment events.
“I believe volunteering is important because it shapes people into better humans and makes them more selfless. My decision was to make a change in our world, whether it is the smallest or biggest thing,” Arvapalli states on Prudential’s website.
Sharma, 11, has been visiting the Ronald McDonald House at Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis regularly for many years to prepare meals and entertain the families of children who are hospitalized and has also kept a collection drive to provide books and toys to the kids at the facility.
“Every day, volunteers would prepare and serve two meals for the families. After my sister was discharged, I felt like it was my turn to give back,” Sharma states on Prudential’s website.
Chadha, 15, founded a nonprofit organization to educate and empower minority high school girls in the world of technology last summer when she offered 10 girls a seven-week program for classroom training and real-world experience, she has been programming computers and building websites since she was 9-years-old.
“They were simply too fearful to even give STEM or technology fields a chance,” Chadha states on Prudential’s website.
Alla, 16, has spent more than 1,500 hours creating a product for a nonprofit which benefits rural villages in India, improving its ability to collect and manage donations, publicize projects and track income and expenditures.
He has also founded a network of youth clubs who raise money to improve the education of children in India.
Pothini is a community organizer who has hosted a city-wide “day of service” for three years in a row.
“I wanted children and families in my city to be exposed to the needs in our community and learn how to make a difference while having fun,” Pothini states on Prudential’s website.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), more than 29,000 middle level and high school students nationwide participated in this year’s program.