Shaunya Kumar from Shakopee, Minnesota and Aarshi Chaudhary from Newbury Park, California have won India Philanthropy Allianceâ€™s (IPA) fourth annual Youth Essay Competition in the high school and middle school category respectively.
IPA, a US-based coalition of 16 nonprofit, philanthropic, and charitable organizations focused on India, announced the results of the competition, one of several initiatives designed to engage youth in philanthropy and inspire creative thought and action to benefit India, in Washington, DC, on August 29.
â€œThe breadth of topics addressed in this year’s competition was really astounding,â€ says Minoo Gupta, Vice-Chair of the India Philanthropy Alliance and one of the judges of this yearâ€™s competition.
â€œThe students explored complex and often overlooked issues such as waste management, mental health, nuclear fusion energy, equity and inclusion, and many more. It was gratifying to see the research and consideration of the students as well as the compassion shown by so many.â€
Winners of the competition will present their ideas at a national gathering of philanthropists, nonprofit executives, business leaders, and consultants on September 29 in Palo Alto, California.
As in years past, the format will be a fireside chat led by Mona Shah of Sarva Mangal Family Trust, the lead sponsor of the competition since its inception. The event will be held on the campus of Stanford University and recorded for later viewing.
â€œI entered the IPA essay competition to share my views on the caste system, an issue I deeply care about,â€ says Shaunya Kumar, winner in the high school category.
â€œThe contest offered the perfect platform to express my opinions and reach an audience that had the power to significantly address the problem. I wanted to vocalize the hardships and prejudice in India, especially for its majority population. Winning the contest means I can actually â€˜be the changeâ€™ that we teens always talk about.â€
â€œI was inspired to write my essay on “A Solution to Poverty – Indiaâ€™s Most Pressing Developmental Issue” by the realization that poverty is not just a lack of money, but an impediment to realizing one’s full potential,â€ says Aarshi Chaudhary, winner in the middle school category.
â€œThrough the process of researching and writing, I learned about the complex causes of poverty in India, such as population growth, unemployment, and socioeconomic inequality.â€
A total of 22 states were represented in the competition. The panel of judges also represented diverse backgrounds and perspectives with noted author and India Giving Day Ambassador Mitali Perkins, former essay competition winner Rithani Saravanakumar, Akanksha Alumnae and staff member Pragati Raskar, Ashwin Sinha from Sehgal Foundationâ€™s Young Professionals network, Abha Shukla from Foundation for Excellence, and Fareeda Ehtesham from the Global Business Coalition for Education.
Runners-up included Prerna Chakkingal of McDonald, Pennsylvania in the high school category and Krishita Kataria of Dublin, California in the middle school category.
Finalists included Melvin Joseph from Milton, Massachusetts and Shreeya Ram of El Dorado Hills, California.
Past winners of the competition were involved in the first annual India Giving Day and youth-led India Giving Day activities are expected to grow in the coming year.
The 2023 Youth Essay Competition was sponsored by the Sarva Mangal Family Trust, Sehgal Foundation, and Give.
The inaugural Youth Essay Competition was held in 2020 and is now in its fourth year. It is designed to inspire philanthropic thought and action among todayâ€™s youth and generate future leaders with a commitment to serve the common good.
The competition is open to middle and high school youth and challenges them to identify the most pressing issues facing India today and propose ways in which we can be a part of the solution.
The IPA is a coalition of nonprofit, philanthropic and charitable organizations that mobilize people and funding in the United States (and elsewhere) for development and poverty-reduction programs in India.
The 16 core network organizations of the IPA include Agastya USA, Akanksha Education Fund, Akshaya Patra, American India Foundation, Antara International, Arogya World, Childrenâ€™s Hope India, CRY America, Foundation for Excellence (FFE), Indiaspora, Pratham USA, Project ECHO, Sehgal Foundation, Teach for India U.S., VisionSpring, and WISH Foundation.