IACF Gives 30 High School Grads a Head Start with Scholarship


Photos: Roy Photography

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By Jawahar Malhotra & Shweta Arora

SUGAR LAND: For the third year in a row, the Indo American Charity Foundation teamed up with the Fort Bend Independent School District to hand out scholarships to deserving young graduates from area high schools. Two years ago, the event was held at the Aloft Hotel in the Galleria area and it was a mob scene worthy of an opening night for celebrities. Last year, the IACF held it instead at the FBISD Annex Building meeting room on Sweet Water Blvd. in Sugar Land, where it was once again held this year on Wednesday evening, June 1.


Over 200 people showed up to congratulate the 30 outstanding senior high school students who were recipients of this year’s Indo-American Charity Foundation’s scholarship. The coordinator for the event in his third year in that role, past President Dr. Ramesh Cherivirala explained how laborious and rigorous the task was for the Scholarships Committee to cull through the numerous applications that the IACF had received. “They had to do a qualitative and quantitative analysis,” Cherivirala explained, “and out of these, only 30 graduates were selected”. The scholarships were awarded based on grade point average, SAT/ACT scores, personal essay, recommendation letters, and need. The number of scholarships is a record for the IACF ever since it started giving them 27 years ago, which has been a flagship event for the organization.


The room was filled with enthusiasm from teachers, administrators, and dignitaries who gathered to recognize the outstanding achievements of these honorees. Dignitaries included Sugar Land City Council Member and Mayoral candidate, Harish Jajoo, FBISD Trustee KP George, former FBSID Trustee Jim Rice and Sam Merchant, community liaison for Congressman Al Green who sent in a Proclamation in honor of the event.

Dr. Terry Sheneman of FBISD, College and Career Readiness Coordinator of FBISD helped to organize the event, including the snacks that were available to the guests, supplemented by Indian snacks. He was instrumental in making the event successful, and opened the ceremony with introductions of FBISD personnel who helped with the event. This year, for the first time, students from Alief ISD were also included, nine of them receiving scholarships, while Tyra Walker, AISD Director of Career and College Readiness was at hand to applaud her students. The event was emceed IACF Director Shweta Arora who later called out all the graduates to receive their awards.

Using a slide presentation, IACF President Nanda Vura explained the mission of the Foundation and how this year it has added volunteer committees which will be very focused. He also pointed out to Karpali Laxmidas who is a previous IACF Scholarship recipient. She had come with her parents Jin and Chandrika Laxmidas who donated to the IACF again this year, just like last year. Vura’s message was that IACF is not only dedicated, but that the non-profit is also enthusiastic about its mission to provide help to the local community.

The students were noticeably excited about receiving the scholarships as this represents a step towards them achieving their dreams and the future looks bright for the students who received a headstart from IACF. The talent varied vastly among the students, who have ambitions of becoming entrepreneurs, veterinarians, doctors, speech therapists and engineers.

Scholarships amounting to $30,000 were distributed among the thirty students as their names were called and they came to the podium to receive the award certificates from previous IACF Directors and other noted individuals. Sushmita Mahankali, who is graduating from Hightower High School, was presented with the David Raj Scholarship – named for a late former president of IACF – which is the highest award IACF presents each year to a student pursuing a career in medicine.

Previous IACF President Kamala Raghavan recognized Roopa Gir, the president of iEducate, an organization that provides mentors for kids in three elementary schools in HISD where the children were failing in math and science. The organization was started by Raj, who passed away two years ago but aspired to keep the group running and left it in Gir’s able hands. Gir, a retired executive from Schlumberger, has run the group ably since and has received commendations for the remarkable progress made by the schoolkids. She encouraged the high schoolers who were graduating to work as tutors, for which they would be paid at $12 per hour.

2016 IACF Scholarship Recepients
Eduardo Lopez,  Austin HS
Lauren Robertson, Austin HS
Ava Sanjana, Austin HS
Daniel Wang, Clements HS
Han Wen Zhang, Clements HS
Kathryn Carrabine, Dulles HS
Victoria Levin, Dulles HS
Perla Macias, Dulles HS
Ariel Nguyen, Dulles HS
Allen Watson, Elkins HS
Oluwafunto Amy Bolanle Akindona, Hightower HS
Jada Ceasar, Hightower HS
Susmitha Mahankali, Hightower HS
English Pratt, Hightower HS
La’Tayra Watts, Hightower HS
Mohogany Antoine, Marshall HS
Samitra Baldon, Marshall HS
Rhian Collier, Ridge Point HS
Lauren Freemount, Travis HS
Javier Cervantes, Willowridge HS
Lapria Oppenhammer, Willowridge HS
Brian Bui, AISD
Grace Akinyemi, AISD
Jannette Nguyen, AISD
Trever Dinh, AISD
Phan Angel, AISD
Wafeeq Ahmad, AISD
Do Harrison, AISD
Dara Hall, AISD
Cristel Castaneda, AISD