- The annual award recognizes 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference in people's lives, their communities, and the environment.
Four Indian American teens have received the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a national award recognizing inspiring, public-spirited young people. Established in 2001 by author T. A. Barron, the Barron Prize is a nonprofit organization annually honoring 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference in people’s lives, their communities, and the environment. Every year, 15 top winners are each awarded $10,000 to support their service work or higher education.
Indian American winners include Karina Samuel, 17, Florida; Karun Kaushik, 17, California; Laalitya Acharya, 18, Ohio; and Sri Nihal Tammana, 13, New Jersey. Arsh Pal, 12, Iowa, and Reshma Kosaraju, 16, California, received honorary awards.
Karina Samuel founded the Florida chapter of Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), an international student-led nonprofit committed to reducing the amount of plastic on the planet. Her team focuses on passing pro-environment policy reform, banning plastic bags, organizing coastal cleanups, and educating the community about climate change. In the past three years, she has mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers to join over 175 coastal cleanups across the state. A passionate about promoting climate justice and racial equity. her team has hosted 50 drive-thru voter registration campaigns in mostly minority communities over the past year.
Karun Kaushik created X-Check-MD, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that can diagnose Covid-19 and pneumonia with 99% accuracy in under one minute. His tool is an initiative of Democratize Health, the nonprofit he founded to save lives in impoverished regions using fast, accessible, and cost-effective technology. X-Check-MD allows doctors to snap a picture of an x-ray with their cell phone’s camera, upload it to a globally accessible website, and receive a diagnosis within seconds. It is faster, cheaper, and more accurate than traditional methods, eliminating the diagnostic backlog commonplace in developing countries while reducing delays in treatment.
During a visit to India, Laalitya Acharya and her family fell ill from drinking contaminated water. She resolved to address the water crisis and launched The Nereid Project to help through innovation and education. The low-cost, globally applicable device that can detect water contamination within seconds, and uses Artificial Intelligence and can be placed directly into water pipes to detect microbial water contamination at low concentrations before it spreads. Slightly bigger than a cell phone, Nereid costs approximately $75 and only requires access to low power.
At age 10, Sri Nihal Tammana learned that 15 billion batteries are thrown away each year and that most end up in landfills where they pollute groundwater, harm the ecosystem, and can cause catastrophic fires. Inspired to tackle the problem, he began collecting used batteries from his community. He deposited them in free recycling bins at stores like Staples until he was told he was bringing too many and had to stop. That’s when he founded Recycle My Battery to promote and facilitate the recycling of used batteries. His nonprofit installs free battery recycling bins and educates young people and adults about battery recycling. In just three years he has built a team of 220 student volunteers across the globe who have recycled nearly 200,000 batteries and educated millions of people.
Arsh Pal created Art by Arsh to share his love of painting and raise money for charities through sales of his artwork. He has raised more than $15,000 for organizations including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He also teaches painting at the nursing home where his mother works.
Reshma Kosaraju invented a way to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict forest fires with nearly 90% accuracy. Her AI model uses Machine Learning and open access meteorological data such as temperature, humidity, and wind speed to determine when and where forest fires are likely to occur. Reshma’s model could help firefighters suppress fires as soon as they start, saving lives and resources and preventing large-scale ecological damage.