On a balmy Sunday afternoon, the Indian American community of Syosset awarded scholarships to three deserving graduating high schoolers: Shivaangi Salhotra, Rhea Sharma and Noora Zakaria. The event was held at the palatial home of Dr. Rajiv and Vandana Jauhar.
Dr. Tom Rogers, Superintendent of the Syosset School District gave an inspirational commencement speech to the august crowd, highlighting the district’s focus on inclusivity and a sense of belonging which the Indian American community seemed to have captured well. He further said that awarding scholarships simply based on GPA impersonalizes the overall attributes and talent of students. One of the judges, Nandita Gupta elaborated on the holistic selection process and deliberations that transpired behind the scenes by her fellow judges, who were Shuprotim Bhowmick, Dr. Rajiv Jauhar, Dr. Inderpal Chhabra, Shilpi Sinha, Rathi Raja, Madhu Allu and Dr. Jaydeep Kadam. The awardees were chosen on three overriding criteria: academic excellence, contribution to the community and sense of values. In her address, Gupta stressed the continued love of learning and dedication to evolve and succeed.
The Indian American Scholarship was initiated by Rajiv Rudra about three years ago; in his address, he remarked that the Indian community needed to unite and celebrate like many other communities had already done. He, along with Aruneesh Salhotra, started putting together the initial building blocks, which gave one award in 2020, two in 2021 and three in this in-person post-pandemic event. “The journey had just begun but to sustain it, the community by large has to come together and act as one voice,”Salhotra remarked.
Syosset School District is a blue-ribbon school that is highly rated among high schools in the U.S. Indian American parents stress on good education and Syosset boasts over 700 Indian American households.
The evening began with a super rendition of the Indian National Anthem, by rising high school senior Anoushka Rishi. She was accompanied by saxophonist Aryan Shah, a rising high school junior. Simreen Kalra, SHS alum and current freshman at Berklee School of Music, enthralled everyone first with the American National Anthem and then showcased her powerful voice and range, singing “My Mind” by Yebba. Sujoy Haldar, another alumnus and recent graduate of USC, rounded out the entertainment part of the evening to exhibit his singing prowess, singing a John Mayer composition as well as a Hindi song, much to the delight of the audience.
The event was skillfully moderated by Sheetal Rishi who thanked participants and guests alike and encouraged them to use these opportunities to add value and to make an impact as a community. The evening ended as guests networked over appetizers and the cake-cutting ceremony, celebrating the awardees.
More information about this initiative can be found on www.facebook.com/