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HSS Youth in Aurora, Illinois, Honored With ‘Service Above Self MLK Youth Leadership Award’

HSS Youth in Aurora, Illinois, Honored With ‘Service Above Self MLK Youth Leadership Award’

  • The award was presented by Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, in the presence of city council members, county and state representatives, and Congressman Dr. Bill Foster.

On August 28th, 1963, a hopeful man stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and said in a resonating voice, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” These are the legendary words of Martin Luther King Jr. Renowned for his leadership of the Civil Rights movement and great speeches for racial equality, MLK touched the hearts of not only Americans but also his fight for love and peace resounded around the world.

Immigration Act of 1917

One hundred-six years ago, the United States Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917. This banned Asians, Mexicans, and Mediterranean people from entering the U.S., prioritizing Northern and Western Europeans. Also known as the Asian Exclusion Act, it restricted immigration access to multiple races, including Indians. 

However, Martin Luther King changed all this. He not only led peaceful movements to end the Jim Crow laws, which took away colored people’s rights, but he also changed the very mindset of America. Progressively, being a nation of a single race was viewed as unjust, which led to Congress’s passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This abolished discrimination against people, regardless of color, gender, nationality, or place of birth. Despite these changes being slow to enforce, it legally allowed those from the East to be able to come to America. India was a big benefactor of this, and it opened up the door for many to join what is now known as the “Melting Pot.” 

Fast-forward to the present, the nation is booming with diversity and immigrants are realizing their American Dream. Among these immigrants are Indians, and many of them were Hindus. The Hindu community in the United States established temples and organizations. As time progressed, more organizations, such as the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), helped the Hindu culture to spread. My parents, who are first-generation immigrants, were able to become a part of American society as well as retain their Indian heritage and also pass on Hindu culture to their children. 

Activities of HSS Youth

There are several activities that HSS youth participate in including ‘Adopt a Highway’ to keep our streets clean; cultural activities such as Guru Vandana, a special occasion dedicated to our teachers, honoring them for guiding us; Raksha Badhan, an event where HSS volunteers go to the police station, fire station, and the city officials and tie wrist bands to signify our gratitude and service activities such as Sewa Diwali where we conduct a food drive and donate to local food pantries.

 These activities are a part of what the HSS youth do to help the environment and community. To spread joy and to help others is something legends such as MLK have done, and we consider it our moral obligation to follow in his footsteps.  

MLK Day in the City of Aurora

 On January 16, the city of Aurora recognized the HSS youth with the Service Above Self MLK Youth Leadership Award for their contributions. The award was presented by Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, in the presence of city council members, county and state representatives, and Congressman Dr. Bill Foster. For all those who were present, it was an honor and a privilege to be recognized by the city. HSS youth had an opportunity to share the stage with other young achievers, and receiving the award was a great experience. It was also a privilege to share the stage with Star Jones, one of the original co-hosts on the ABC morning talk show The View, who spoke about the boomerang effect of good actions. 

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This was a timely reminder of the concept of karma in Hinduism, according to which a good deed without expectations begets only good. After the wonderful event was over, many of the HSS participants said that they were happy to be acknowledged. We all felt encouraged to do more. HSS youth would like to thank the city of Aurora for the wonderful experience and recognition.

Justice for All

Martin Luther King Jr. showed the world how kindness was a gesture and a way to communicate with each other. His bold words and even bolder actions paved a permanent path in history, and we must keep following it. His story of kindness is still unfinished and is waiting to be authored by the next generation. It is up to the youth to pick up the pen of change and to keep writing.

Adhvaith Ganesh is an eighth grader at Clifford Crone Middle School. He enjoys helping others, which is why he takes part in multiple volunteer activities and helps special education students at school. He believes in giving back to the community as it has done so much for him. 

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  • Going into your community and doing positive relationship building and putting your Hindu identity at the forefront (not above your national identity ofc!) is awesome!
    So glad they recognized your good work, keep it up!!
    America is a land of opportunity and we’ve taken advantage of that. It is time to give back to our communities and build those positive networks, all while not losing touch with our faith.

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