37 Indian Americans among 2021 UN millennium fellows

Millennium Felowship

Their “fantastic projects” range from climate change initiatives to teaching kids how to cope during a global health disaster.

As many as 37 Indian American students are among over 2,000 young 2021 Millennium Fellows chosen to help make the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and and the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) principles a reality.

Chosen from a record-breaking 25,501 applicants from over 2,200 campuses across 153 nations, the Class of 2021 includes over 2,000 fellows on 120 campuses in 29 nations that are participating in the program this year.

The Class of 2021 is on track to engage in projects collectively advancing all 17 SDGs and all 10 UNAI Principles, according to a Millennium Campus Network (MCN) press release.

Millennium Fellows are university undergraduates selected based on their leadership on sustainable development-related projects that advance the SDGs in their communities.

As Millennium Fellows, they will participate in a semester-long leadership development program to improve their student organizing, partnership building and community impact skills.

Among the “fantastic projects” the Class of 2021 has taken, the release cited a community outreach program to map the extreme heat wave areas in Delhi through a community-centric disaster management initiative at Indraprastha College for Women, India.

Millennium Fellows will also develop a preparedness plan for vulnerable communities that are at risk of being affected by the increasing heat waves in Delhi. The project is projected to positively impact 2,000 people this year, it said.

This year’s Indian American Millennium Fellows are:

Anaya Patel, Nova Southeastern University, Florida. Patel’s project, The Purple Box, aims to help school girls in Tanzania access to sanitary napkins.

Forcing many young women to drop out, this issue continues the cycle of poverty in third world countries that prevent them from becoming their community’s next teachers, doctors, and nurses, said Patel.

Audri Priyom Bhowmick, Brandeis University, Massachusetts. Bhowmick’s project is The Clean Needle Initiative, which sets up needle exchange programs and encourages HIV/AIDS testing in high-transmission areas.

Madhavi Mooljee, Rollins College, Florida. Mooljee’s project is Next Step Forward, which works alongside a nonprofit organization called IDignity to provide formerly homeless people with valid identification, to decrease the chances of relapsing into homelessness.

Having a valid form of identification is the first step to integrate into a stable lifestyle, said Mooljee.

Padma Vasanthakumar, The University of South Florida, in Florida. Vasanthakumar’s project is Heart2Heart, which uses the unique meditation practice, Heartfulness, to reduce stress, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. She will focus on university students, who have experienced higher levels of mental illness amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prakash Vasanthakumar, The University of South Florida in Florida. Prakash Vasanthakumar is working on a similar project, known as H-ART-fulness for Kids. This project also uses Heartfulness meditation as a means to reduce stress and suicidal ideations in children.

Samidha Mahesh Sane, University of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania. Sane’s project, the Menstrual Mission, aims to achieve menstrual equity in three key ways: service, advocacy, and education.

The project aims to collect around 1,000 period products every month which will be packaged and delivered to homeless shelters and women’s shelters in Pennsylvania, said Sane.

Swathi Tata, Aishwarya Mukundan and Ashima Agarwal, University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. Tata, Agarwal, and Mukandan’s project, Healthy Heroes Pittsburgh, aims to promote healthy nutrition and fitness for low-income children living in Pittsburgh.

The team will host interactive workshops for children ages 5-7 and their parents to learn the foundations of keeping physically and mentally fit with the curriculum tailored to the needs of the Pittsburgh public, said Tata.

Tanha Rahman, Nova Southeastern University, Florida. Rahman’s project, Connecting Hearts for Poverty is a short video series shedding light on various issues connected to poverty.

The objective of these videos is to address the needs of impoverished communities, and allow today’s youth to share their voices on why we care for and must work together to eradicate poverty, said Rahman.

Varshini Santhanarajan Odayar, Harvard University, Massachusetts. Odayar’s project, “Sparking Lives,” will create a report on educational inequity and lack of digital access, by studying two rural Indian villages.

The project aims “to amplify the voices of people experiencing homelessness and the voices of young girls fighting for their right to an education,” said Odayar.

Vibhu Raj Singh, Brandeis University, Massachusetts. Singh’s project, Wellness in Waltham, focuses on bringing food from soup kitchens to people who cannot access them. The project’s goal is to set up an online system where people can request food be delivered to them from the closest soup kitchen.

Aditi Peyush, Northeastern University, Massachusetts. Peyush’s project is Log-in for Inclusion, which will look at low-income communities that lack Internet access, She will then work with local politicians with the aim of establishing municipal Wi-Fi.

Akhila Ramesh, Pace University, New York. Ramesh’s project “Eco-nomize the Pace University Pleasantville Campus” is a student-run initiative designed to promote sustainable living practices, and to make the campus more eco-friendly by promoting green living.

Anjali Mahajan, University of Pennsylvania, in Pennsylvania. Mahajan’s project, UNAIDS at Penn, is a student-run advocacy organization which aims to end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, via speaker events, film screenings, fundraisers, discussion forums, and long-term collaborations with grassroots community organizations.

Ansh Nikhil Nanda, Duke University, North Carolina. Nanda’s project, You Can Change Earth, also focuses on climate change and how individuals can mitigate its damaging effects to the environment.

The project “provides personalized, actionable guides on how to reduce your carbon footprint, for anyone who is motivated to take some form of climate action,” said Nanda who hopes to involve 30,000 people.

Anusha Natarajan, Arizona State University in Arizona. Natarajan’s project, Culture Talk, focuses on providing accessible and credible educational resources for teachers and learners in six different areas: heritage, trends, government, history, geography, and law. The mission is to educate as many individuals as they can about diversity and the importance of culture.

Anuva Fellner, UNC Charlotte in North Carolina. Fellner’s project, Blessing The Queen City, distributes “blessing boxes” around UNC Charlotte and the surrounding area, stocked with non-perishable food items and toiletries for people in need.

Thirty donation boxes will be planted on campus and the surrounding areas to acquire 300-450 items on a bi-weekly basis. Fellner hopes to also partner with food banks to serve more than 400 people.

Chandana Dasari, Nova Southeastern University, Florida. Dasari’s project, Gender Inequality in Healthcare, aims to promote awareness of the gender inequality in the healthcare industry through guest lectures, patient testimonies and information sessions.

Imaya Virani, Furman University, South Carolina. The Covid-19 Outreach Project, founded by Virani, aims to improve mental health, reduce misconceptions about Covid-19, and promote unity through the pandemic.

Mahima Kakani, New York University, New York. Kakani’s project, Consulting for Impact, focuses on Black and Latina entrepreneurs, who make up 14% and 8% respectively of US entrepreneurs, but receive less than 2% of venture capital funding. All-women teams receive just 2.2% of venture capital funding. The project will offer pro-bono strategy consulting services from rising business leaders to women and social entrepreneurs.

Kunal Patel and Nishtha Kochhar, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Patel and Kochhar’s project, Steel City Sapna, works to showcase amazing South Asian talent within the collegiate circuit.

This is done through hosting a competition at which 16 teams compete to raise money for a charity. The team typically has eight Bollywood fusion dance teams and eight a cappella teams competing every year.

Meghana Iyer, University of Pennsylvania, in Pennsylvania. Iyer’s project, Music for Health and Well-Being, aims to provide youth in Philadelphia the opportunity to grow as musicians and learn how to find healthy ways to explore mindfulness and stress-relief.

Namrita Narula, University of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania. Narula’s project, Pocket Promise is a subscription-based donation platform for nonprofit organizations.

It “aims to become a one-stop-shop for donations. We hope to create a world of givers where doing good is simple and meaningful,” said Narula.

Nidhi Patel, Harvard University, Massachusetts. Patel created the College Guidance Center, a project that would develop a set of resources for students related to college guidance, including mentorship on preparing for and applying to college, financial aid, and scholarship opportunities.

Nikita Sood, Nova Southeastern University, Florida. Sood’s project is Serving With A Smile! The project aspires to sponsor accommodations and education about dental hygiene for the highly marginalized, orphaned children in Bangladesh.

Prachi Lalwani, Florida International University in Florida. Lalwani’s project, Own Your Crown, empowers women to advance their careers and quality of life by establishing mentorship opportunities, providing informational resources, and creating a community of women that fosters thoughtful guidance and empowerment.

Prerna Gupta, Arizona State University in Arizona. Gupta’s project,Timeless, Sustainable Fashion, focuses on the impact of fast fashion, cheap, trendy clothing promoted by social media influencers.

Gupta has created a digital resource for people to learn about the effects of fast fashion on the economy, environment and mental health.

Rizina Yadav, Stanford University, California. Yadav’s project, Amelior8, is a knowledge and resource sharing platform that allows NGOs to collaborate, submit joint applications for funding, and ensure effective achievement of program goals.  Yadav is aiming to involve 500 NGOs on the platform.

Saher Arora, Nova Southeastern University, Florida. Arora’s project, Closing the Wage Gap, hopes to raise awareness about the wage gap between men and women through group discussion.

Sam Mahiben Beatty, Baylor University, Texas. His project, Serving Impoverished Communities, works with low-income people in Waco, Texas, where the poverty rate hovers at 27 percent.

Beatty, who, with his twin sister, was placed in an orphanage in New Delhi at birth, will organize a Christmas toy donation and a Thanksgiving food giveaway for the homeless. He hopes to support at least 1,500 people.

Samra Kanwal, UNC Charlotte, North Carolina. Kanwal’s fellowship project, Girls Who Launch, strives to empower young girls to become the change makers of tomorrow.

Kanwal’s “goals are to grow our social media education campaign by 1000+ followers, put on 10 workshops reaching at least a 100 girls, developing an engaging curriculum of 10 modules, and fostering partnerships with 5+ schools and colleges.”

Sanjana Koushik, Northeastern University, Massachusetts. Koushik’s project, Global Business Brigades, is a nonprofit student-led organization for economic development, using business and financial consulting to empower better lives and support micro-enterprise growth in rural and under-resourced areas.

Sanjitha Subramaniam, Brandeis University, Massachusetts. Subramaniam’s The Beautiful Brown Project works towards empowering young South Asian females across the globe.

The project will create a network of South Asian females to help them to overcome the difficulties that society places on them and help them to believe in their worth, she said.

Veenadhari Kollipara, University of Pennsylvania, in Pennsylvania. Kollipara’s project, Coping with Covid, works with K-12 students in West Philadelphia schools to teach them about Coronavirus and how to cope, physically and mentally, during a global health disaster.

Kollipara will use many hands-on, creative projects to help all students understand how they are being affected, and what they can do in their community to help. She will also create a short docu-film.

Vikti Mehta, The University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas. Mehta’s First to College program helps low-income students in San Antonio who are the first in their families to go to college by helping them navigate the process of college applications, standardized tests, and financial aid.

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