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Three South Asians among Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21

Political activist Shiva Rajbhandari, multi-hyphenate Sridevi Krothapalli, and tech wizard Alishba Imran

The changemakers have made a substantial impact in both their communities and the world

Three South Asians are among Teen Vogue’s annual 21 Under 21 list of “changemakers, influencers, activists, and artists who have made a substantial impact in both their communities and the world.”

The list includes political activist Shiva Rajbhandari, multi-hyphenate Sridevi Krothapalli, and tech wizard Alishba Imran.

The primary message that Shiva Rajbhandari, 18, of Boise, Idaho, wants to impart to his peers is to keep things in perspective. “Activism takes place at the intersection of your interests, your skills, and your community’s needs. From artists to writers to speakers to scientists, there is room for everybody in our movement,” Shiva told Teen Vogue.

Read: Indian American Samhita Mukhopadhyay named executive editor of ‘Teen Vogue’ (February 7, 2018)

“As I grew in my activism, I began working for tribal justice, voting rights, and gun violence prevention,” Shiva, who started off working in climate activism, explains. “After a two-year long campaign to create a clean energy commitment and long-term sustainability plan in our school district, I decided to run for the school board.”

Now, Shiva is an elected leader himself – which doesn’t leave a lot of time for being 18. “The biggest challenge I’ve faced has been creating space for myself and my friends to rest and have fun. Sometimes, we feel like Atlas, the whole world resting on our shoulders,” says Shiva.

“Adults tell us, ‘your generation is going to save the world.’ That’s a lot of pressure!”

A physics pro, Sridevi, 17, was selected to attend the Stanford Program for Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in Physics hosted by the Stanford Physics Department and the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology.

“By applying coding skills to physics-based projects in environmental engineering and tutoring other students in physics-oriented topics in my community, I realized my ambition to break the gender gap in the field of physics and mathematics,” she says. “I hope to pursue making scientific discoveries that will better the lives of others all over the world.”

Likewise, her talents in art, literature, and philanthropy have allowed her to realize her devotion to other causes as well. She founded and still serves as the president of her student-led non-profit, Kahani, which distributes literary and art magazines to children’s hospitals around the world so patients can enjoy them.

At such a young age, Sridevi’s work may all seem complex, but she explains, “For me, kindness and love have been a guiding force to speak what comes to heart and incite positive change.”

At only 18, Alishba Imran has carved a space for herself in the competitive (and male-dominated) world of machine learning, robotics, and blockchain.

It all started when she joined her school’s robotics team at 14, where, despite having zero programming experience, she became a lead programmer. Now a student at UC Berkeley, Alishba proudly wears a million hats — among them being the co-founder of Honestblocks and Voltx.

While on a service trip in India, she learned that a high percentage of medications in rural parts of the world are counterfeit. She taught herself blockchain coding and launched Honestblocks, a platform that tracks counterfeit medicine in the supply chain.

Her codebase for the initiative has since been integrated into IBM and used globally. She then co-founded Voltx to accelerate the development of renewable energy storage devices using machine learning and physics models to accelerate the lab to commercialization process for electrochemical devices.

Read: Innovation Generation: 2 South Asian Americans, 1 Canadian Among Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 (December 14, 2022)

Everything Alishba has accomplished so far has been with a clear goal: Using machine learning as a tool to solve real problems. “The biggest thing you can optimize for in life is people,” she says, offering some advice to fellow coders.

“Spend time exploring your interests, what you’re good at, and what brings you energy. I think the best things to work on are at the intersection of what you’re good at, what you enjoy, and are a way for you to create value for the world.”

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