IACF Gives High Schoolers a Headstart to Begin the Journey to College

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The recipients of the IACF Scholarships which totaled $24,000, with the selection committee and Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen
Photos: Murali Santhana

By Jawahar Malhotra

SUGAR LAND: The focus of the evening of awards was certainly on the high school kids who were being honored for their hard work and determination to overcome odds, both personal and academic, and their tenacity to still achieve excellence among their graduating peers.

“It was a difficult task to make our selections from among the 53 applications we received,” remarked Alpa Shah, chair of the selection committee. “Each one of us on the IACF Scholarship Committee – Ramesh Cherivirala, Prem Cholia, Rathna Kumar, Mahesh Wadhwa and myself – spent 25 hours a piece to review the applications and narrow the search down to 23 deserving graduating high school kids.” Of the 53, four applications came from the IACF online website and the rest were passed along from Ft. Bend ISD, which had partnered with IACF, like it had done last year. Scholarships ranged from $2,000 to $500 and totaled $24,000.

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IACF President Kamala Raghavan addressing the audience at the annual Scholarship event.

Last year’s event was a boisterous affair which was coupled with a donor appreciation and reach-out Casino Night at the Aloft Hotel on Westheimer (see IAN dated August 8, 2014). This year’s event was much more subdued, focused on the scholarship recipients, and held at the FBISD Annex Building meeting room on Sweet Water Blvd. in Sugar Land on Wednesday evening, June 17. Among the guests was Allan Owen, the Mayor of Missouri City who expressed his admiration for the hard work the students put in and wished them well in their future careers.

Over 150 people attended the annual Indo American Charity Foundation’s Scholarship Awards event, including the scholarship winners and their parents and friends as well as most of the IACF Board of Directors and former presidents like – Prabha Bala and Paul Likhari – who were presenters of the certificates. Among the presenters were community leaders like Latafath Hussain, President of the IMAGH; Sam Kannapan, who serves on the Texas Professional Engineers Licensing Board; Sam Merchant, who is on the Board of India House and representing US Congressman Al Green; HCC Trustee Neeta Sane; S.G. Appan, a respected agricultural businessman and Harris County 127th District Court Judge Ravi Sandill.

One Scholarship was named for a former IACF president, David Raj, who passed away at a young age two years ago and left a deep indelible mark on the organization, but was passionate about education. It was presented by his close friend and personal physician Dr. Dominic Sreshta to Sydney LeFlore Murphy.

The event was emceed by another IACF Director, Dr. Vanitha Pothuri who stood in for Pooja Lodhia, the KTRH news reporter who emceed last year’s event but couldn’t do so this year as she was covering the lingering effects of Tropical Storm Bill which had hit the day before. IACF President Kamala Raghavan gave a brief run down about the IACF and the areas it provides funding to charities across the Greater Houston area, adding that this event fit in nicely with IACF’s mission and four pillars of activity.

The event also recognized four charities – Child Advocates, Literacy Advance, SEWA Intl for Nepal Relief and Edstension – which were getting grants for the year: and handed out checks to them. And, in a twist, Raghavan recognized Jin Laxmidas and his wife Chandrika who came to donate to the IACF. “They came all the way to show they appreciate how four years ago their daughter received a scholarship from IACF,” exclaimed Raghavan, and, pointing to the new graduates added, “Years from now, when you have made it, that’s what we hope you’ll do too: remember to come back to help us help others.”

Raghavan also recognized Roopa Gir, the president of iEducate, an organization that provides mentors to kids in three elementary schools in HISD where the children were failing in math and science, It was started by David Raj, who 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 to work as tutors, for which they would be paid.

IACF past-President Dr. Ramesh Cherivirala closed out the event by recognizing the efforts of Dr. Terry L. Sheneman, College and Career Readiness Coordinator of FBISD who had organized the event, including the snacks that were available to the guests, supplemented by Indian snacks from Pavani restaurant. It was the second attempt in three weeks for the IACF to hold the event and, like the deluge that hit the region three weeks ago, this one almost got rained out again by Tropical Storm Bill, prompting Alpa Shah to wish all “a good night and a safe trip.”

2015 IACF Scholarship Winners, their High Schools & Career Goals

Breona Autrey, Marshall, undefined
Magdiel Bautista, Jr., Willowridge, Anesthesiologist
April Brown, Hightower, Gynecologist
Sandra Boadu, Hightower, Pedtiatrician
Chelsea Jonaye Conaway, Marshall, Electrical Engineer
Huy Dang, Travis, Neuroscience and Anthropology
Stacy Anais Gallegos, Clements, Nurse
Laura Patricia Guerra, Dulles, Psychology and Spanish
Cameron Hubbard, Bush, Finance
Bianca Igodan, Bush, Petroleum Engineer
Sydney LeFlore Murphy, Ridge Point, Biochemistry
Neelesh Mutyala, Austin, Physician
Ginikachukwu Obi, Bush, Physical Therapy
Caleb Oluwakayode Ola, Travis, Mechanical Engineer
Yesika Vega Palacios, Willowridge, Computer Science
Mohammad Sufyan Palwala, Kempner, Mechanical Engineer
Samuel Quach, Clements, Economics
Ashley Sanders, Marshall, Orthopedic Surgeon
Joe Thomas, Elkins, Mechanical Engineer
Tyler Nicholas Turner, Ridge Point, Accounting & Pre-Law
Lexis Nicole Whiting, Hightower, Criminal Justice
Omar Wilkins, Elkins, Engineering
Grant Willis, Kempner, Chemical Engineer