Two Indian Americans, Aryaman Khandelwal and Nitish Sood, were named among the winners of the 2017 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes on Sept. 25.
The award, founded by author T.A. Barron in 2001 who named it after his mother Gloria Barron, annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment, celebrates their inspiring and young public spirit with up to 20 top winners receiving $5,000 each to support their service work or higher education.
“These amazing young people see a need and use heroic qualities like compassion, perseverance and courage to find a solution,” Barron said in a statement. “Their message is clear: Find your passion and take action. Start small but dream big and you can truly make a difference, no matter how old you are.”
The 2017 class’ projects address a wide range of today’s important issues, including pollution, protecting wildlife, literacy, STEM, the homeless, cancer research and more.
Khandelwal, 17, of Pennsylvania, founded Get2Greater, an app which uses electronic tablets and local health workers and provides better access to medical care in developing countries like allowing health workers who aren’t fully literate, treat conditions like hypertension and malnutrition.
Khandelwal was inspired to launch his project following an annual summer trip to India to visit relatives in the city where he was born.
When he and his family traveled to a nearby rural area known for its extreme poverty and illiteracy, for the first time the Indian American teen saw people living in unimaginable conditions.
With startup funding from Penn State Lehigh Valley Launchbox, he decided to create an app called Get2Greater, which is written in Hindi, field tested in India and is now being used by the MAHAN Trust.
The app allows health workers to enter simple inputs like a patient’s height, weight and blood pressure and provides far more timely diagnoses instead of writing out long forms and waiting for nearly a week to diagnose.
“The problems facing our world are too great to be left to those in charge. The responsibility for change falls on us and we must be prepared to accept it. We can all make a difference,” said Khandelwal.
Sood, 17, of Georgia, along with his brother Aditya founded Working Together for Change, a nonprofit that mobilized more than 600 volunteers to help 3,000 homeless people through free medical fairs, supplies distribution and job training.
The nonprofit has organized 16 free medical fairs so far, recruiting doctors and nurses to provide screenings for vision, cholesterol and diabetes.
The teen focuses his efforts on raising awareness of homelessness by providing medical relief and finding innovative ways to empower the homeless including teaching teenagers how to code and sponsoring homeless students’ college tuition.
The group also stages 24-hour sleep-outs to give volunteers a glimpse of what it’s like to sleep out on the street, allowing them to learn how it feels like to be homeless so that they will know how to act and speak with greater compassion as they distribute backpacks of supplies to the homeless.
Sood began his work four years ago after a homeless man gave him a tattered copy of Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax,” in which the Lorax says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
“One in every 45 kids in America will be homeless today. No one person can end this epidemic. But working together, 44 kids can help the 45th,” said Sood.
The group has also traveled to Mexico to build homes for homeless families there.