The Indian American Heritage Foundation honored 13 high school and six middle school students for outstanding academic and extracurricular performance at an afternoon gala held at the downtown Hilton hotel in Long Beach, Calif. April 29.
The ceremony, which solicited 41 award applications for 19 slots, also highlighted the importance of maintaining proper nutrition in life.
Earning top honors in the high school category was Nehaly Shah, who earned a perfect 2400 score on her SAT exam. Shah was presented a check for $2000 and a revolving trophy. Claiming first prize honors in the middle school category was Ashwin Ramaswamy, who earned a $500 check with his revolving trophy.
Honorees for Outstanding Achievement Awards included Labdhi Sheth and Shyamolee Desai (for Visual and Performing Arts), Gautam Soundararajan (for Community Service), Nehaly Shah and her sister, Neera Shah, (for Math and Science), and Anand Panchal (Sports). Each category winner won a check for $500.
Founded by Indian American community leaders Inder Singh and Rajen Anand in 1987, the foundation’s Annual Awards for Excellence has been an important venue dedicated to recognizing the promising talents of young Indian Americans growing up in Southern California.
The foundation’s awards gala also hosted an entertainment program that featured classical and modern dance as well as singing performances by Sneha Krish, Shyamolee Desai, Labdhi Sheth and Mosami Shah.
The event’s chief guest, Dr. Rajen Anand (see image - bottom right), who helped guide nutrition policy for Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, spoke to attendees about the importance of nutrition.
“Nobody should go hungry in this country. I cannot believe people go hungry because there are so many programs that the USDA offers,” Anand said, adding that everyone should avoid fatty and salty foods. “Keep track of the food items that you eat. You’ll be healthy and you’ll be happy.”
In his keynote address, Dr. M.C. Gupta commended the student awardees and their parents for the accomplishments they respectively achieved.
“In this hall, which is so energetic, we have a feeling of a sense of accomplishment. I will first express my gratitude and appreciation to the parents, who were the primary source for their (children’s) guidance, resources, and support to fulfill their mission by raising their sons and daughters and bringing them to a society in a respectable and valuable way,” Gupta said.
The foundation annually recognizes the achievements of Indian Americans graduating from Southern California middle schools and high schools. Originally awarding eight scholarships, the foundation now grants scholarships to deserving students for academic and extracurricular excellence.
The awards range from $500 to $2000 for high school scholarship awardees, $100 to $500 for middle school recipients, $500 each for Outstanding Achievement Awards in math and science, sports, community service, visual and performing arts in the high school category, and $100 for achieving a perfect 2400 on the SAT exam.
Students are eligible for a foundation scholarship if they have a grade point average of at least 3.0, have at least one parent of Indian origin, and be a graduate of a Southern California-based high school. High school candidates must also submit their SAT scores for consideration and also be quizzed on India and Indian Americans.
The other winners of the scholarships were: high school honorees — Labdhi Sheth, Gautham Soundararajan, Abinaya Thenappan, Meera Midha, Rohan Rastogi, Sulekha Ramayya, Maansi Shah, and Neera Shah; middle school — Megan Kotrappa, Kanhai Shah, Magen Phansalkarm, and Kirti Kumar.
The judges for the scholarship awards were Ashok Madan, Abdulgani Shaikh, Amrit Bhandari, Aparna Hande, Dilip Butani, Keshav Patel, Kewal Kanda, Harbir Hayreh, Raman Chadha, Raj Pakianathan, Simi Singh, Suma Hareesh and V.J. Singh, Sunil Agarwal and Yash Singh.
Dilip Butani served as the event’s emcee, while Kanda, Shaikh, Madan and Singh presented the student awards.