Two Indian American teens – Aryaman Khandelwal and Nitish Sood – were named among the winners of the 2017 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes Sept. 25.
The award, which celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America, was established in 2001 by author T.A. Barron.
It annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment.
Up to 20 top winners each receive $5,000 to support their service work or higher education, according to a Barron Prize news release.
“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. It uses local health workers, electronic tablets and an app he created to provide people in developing countries with better access to medical care.
Get2Greater allows for efficient treatment of conditions like hypertension and malnutrition, even by health workers who aren’t fully literate, according to his bio on the Barron Prize website.
Khandelwal was inspired to launch his project following an annual summer trip to India to visit relatives in the city where he was born, it said. When he and his family traveled to a nearby rural area known for its extreme poverty and illiteracy, the Indian American teen saw for the first time people living in unimaginable conditions, facing malnutrition, hunger and superstition, the bio said.
Khandelwal’s app, field-tested in India and written in Hindi, allows health workers to enter simple inputs like a patient’s height, weight and blood pressure – replacing lengthy handwritten forms – and provides far more timely diagnoses, which, formerly, could take weeks to receive.
With startup funding from Penn State Lehigh Valley Launchbox, the app is now being used and embraced by the MAHAN Trust, according to the organization.
“The problems facing our world are too great to be left to those in charge,” Khandelwal said. “The responsibility for change falls on us and we must be prepared to accept it. We can all make a difference.”
Sood, 17, of Georgia, co-founded Working Together for Change. The nonprofit has mobilized more than 600 volunteers to help 3,000 homeless people through free medical fairs, supplies distribution and job training.
WTFC has organized 16 free medical fairs, recruiting doctors and nurses to provide screenings for vision, cholesterol and diabetes. The group also stages 24-hour sleep-outs to give volunteers a glimpse of what it’s like to sleep on the street, helping them to act and speak with greater compassion as they distribute backpacks of supplies to the homeless, according to Sood’s bio.
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,” according to the bio.
The teen focuses his efforts on raising awareness, providing medical relief and finding innovative ways to empower the homeless – including teaching teenagers coding and sponsoring homeless students’ college tuition. His group has also traveled to Mexico to build homes for homeless families there.
“One in every 45 kids in America will be homeless today,” Sood said in the bio. “No one person can end this epidemic. But working together, 44 kids can help the 45th.”