2022 Barron Prize for Young Heroes awarded to several Indian-American youth

Karina Samuel – Founder, Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), Florida Chapter. Photo Barronprize.org
Karun Kaushik – Creator, X-Check-MD. Photo barronprize.org

Several Indian-American youth won the prestigious Barron Prize for Young Heroes announced Sept. 20, 2022.

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, (barronprize.org) a program of the nonprofit organization Young Heroes Project, “celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds” all across North America. Established in 2001 by author T. A. Barron, the Barron Prize annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment.

This year, at least 5 of the 25 awardees are of Indian origin – Karina Samuel, Karun Kaushik, Laalitya Acharya, Sahana Mantha, and Sri Nihal Tammana.

Laalitya Acharya – Inventor, The Nereid Project. Photo barronprize.org
Sahana Mantha – Co-founder, Foundation for Girls (FFG). Photo barronprize.org

Fifteen top winners each receive $10,000 to support their service work or
higher education.

Over the past two decades, the Barron Prize has honored 550 young heroes from across the U.S. and Canada. They have helped the hungry and the homeless, invented life-saving technologies, protected our oceans and endangered species, and addressed climate change, among myriad other initiatives. They have raised more than $26 million for their
causes and have inspired countless people by their example.

Sri Nihal Tammana – Founder, Recycle My Battery. Photo barronprize.org

Karina Samuel,17, of Florida, founded the Florida chapter of Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), an international student-led nonprofit committed to reducing the amount of plastic on the planet. In the past three years, she has mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers to join over 175 coastal cleanups across the state. “While all of humanity can be to blame for the climate crisis and pollution, I believe those who have the power to fight for change have the responsibility to do so,” Karina is quoted saying on the website of Barron Prize. “I hope to serve as a role model for other young women of color seeking to advance environmental causes.”

Karun Kaushik, age 17, of California, who created X-Check-MD, (Democratize Health) an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that can diagnose Covid-19 and pneumonia with 99% accuracy in under one minute.

X-Check-MD allows doctors to snap a picture of an x-ray with their cell phone’s camera, upload it to a globally accessible website, and receive a diagnosis within seconds. It is faster, cheaper, and more accurate than traditional methods, eliminating the diagnostic backlog commonplace in developing countries while reducing delays in treatment. Karun hopes it can help prevent deaths from pneumonia, 90% of which occur in the world’s poorest regions. He has field-tested X-Check-MD in several hospitals in India and offers his technology free of charge to doctors.

Karun launched his work following his mother’s battle with severe pneumonia in 2020, when misdiagnoses and delayed treatment at a California hospital nearly cost her life.


Laalitya Acharya,18, of Ohio, who invented Nereid, The Nereid Project, a low-cost, globally applicable device that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect water contamination within seconds. Slightly bigger than a cell phone, Nereid costs approximately $75 and only requires access to low power. The device takes microscopic images of water and runs the photos through a custom neural network that Laalitya designed.

She is currently field-testing Nereid in her hometown near Cincinnati as well as in Morocco, in collaboration with Columbia University’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Laalitya began her project at age 15 following a trip to visit relatives in India, where she and her family fell ill from drinking contaminated water.

Sahana Mantha, age 15, of North Carolina, who co-founded Foundation for Girls (FFG) to economically empower homeless single mothers and support their children.

Her nonprofit connects homeless single mothers with consistent, compassionate coaches to help the women become financially savvy, digitally capable, career confident, and socially connected. FFG coaches build bridges and human connections for transformative impact and multi-generational change. Since 2014, FFG has supported more than 2,500 homeless single mothers and their 450 children.

Sri Nihal Tammana, age 13, of New Jersey, who created Recycle My Battery, a nonprofit that installs free battery recycling bins and educates young people and adults about battery recycling.

In just three years he has built a team of 220 student volunteers across the globe who have recycled nearly 200,000 batteries and educated millions of people. Nihal learned at age 10 that 15 billion batteries are thrown away each year and that most end up in landfills where they pollute groundwater, harm the ecosystem, and can cause catastrophic fires. Inspired to tackle the problem, he began collecting used batteries from his community. He deposited them in free recycling bins at stores like Staples until he was told he was bringing too many and had to stop.

Undeterred, he moved on to get help elsewhere and expand.  Nihal’s organization now operates across the U.S. and is expanding to other countries including Canada, Switzerland, and India.



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