NRI Pulse
City News Features

Three Atlanta Scouts making a difference

BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE

Atlanta, GA, June 26, 2020: It is always a good time to celebrate youngsters who not only lead in academics, but also spare time to serve and make a difference. NRI Pulse presents three Indian-American kids who pursued their mission of Scouts all the way to its peak destination.

The Gold Award, the highest honor in the 100-plus-year-old organization, is achieved by fewer that 6 percent of Girl Scouts annually.  An essential requirement to win the award includes completion of a project that transforms an idea and vision for change into an actionable plan with sustainable and far-reaching results within the community and beyond.

“Having dementia and fighting against your own brain is a hard situation to be in and many feel alone; however, being able to be there for them is a simple joy that motivates me to continue helping out however I can,” says Divya Vikram, Alpharetta High school Junior who chose to minimize the suffering faced by dementia patients in memory care facilities, for her Gold Award project.

The inspiration – On a visit to her grandparents, Divya had discovered the pure joy of morning walks and talks with her grandfather and his friends. Inspired, Divya decided to volunteer at an old age home. When the facility close, she reached out to a new place– a memory care center. Nervous in the beginning, Divya quickly felt welcomed, and connected with the residents.  Armed with research study that positively impacts Dementia patients, Divya started playing the piano for her very keen audience.  “The smiles on their faces brought tears to my eyes as it was joy that words cannot describe. Being able to alleviate their pain of being confused and lonely, I discovered a newfound passion in me lighting a spark to help those with dementia.”

“My project is aimed at increasing awareness of various types of Dementia such as Alzheimer’s while showing ways to help those in assisted living facilities,” says Divya. She began by addressing root causes that she identified as impediments for better care and environment at Dementia care facilities, that included lack of activities and entertainment in facilities, limited time with family, and faculty at facilities not knowing the stories of the patients. The solution – Divya has created a picture collage that tells a short story of each person’s life that helps sustain residents’ memories and also educate the care providers with background of the clients they work with. This, Divya believes will help care providers connect on a personal level and engage well with the residents. Divya has also created a music book and a book of activities at the local facility for other volunteers to play for and entertain residents. “This music book can be further improved or localized based on language or regional requirements,” she notes. “To help standardize a basic understanding before volunteering, I have developed a training video for volunteers so they know what to expect when volunteering and it will motivate them to help residents. I have also worked with a local memory care facility and school clubs in order to establish a connection, so people are encouraged to help out,” she adds.

“With this project I know I will not be able to fix the entire problem, but by doing something I hope to create a change, no matter how small or big it is,” concludes Divya.          

Risha Hegde

“I wanted computing to stop being a “man’s job” and I wanted to teach girls that they are capable of doing the same things,” states recent Wheeler High School graduate, and Gold Award winner, Risha Hegde, who worked on a project “Girls Run the Cloud”, to inspire girls’ interest in STEM.

A Girl Scout since second grade, Risha observed that her male counterparts were more ecstatic about coding in her AP Computer Science Principles course than her female peers in high school. So Risha decided that she wanted to create a project to inspire younger girls to get interested in this rapidly growing field. For her project, she conducted STEM (Science, Math, and Technology) workshops, one in her community of Marietta, Georgia and one in Karnataka, India.

“My goal was to show girls age 9 and above that science and math are not scary, intimidating fields and if they have a passion for these subjects, they can choose to pursue careers in these fields,” says Risha. So she set up events that encouraged girls and their families to explore STEM through fun interactive activities.

As part of the project, she researched useful STEM topics to learn, enlisted a team of experts, speakers and volunteers to help with project tasks, created a workshop curriculum, raised funds, secured a venue to host workshops, and created and distributed publicity material. It took over a year for her to research her chosen topic, create a curriculum, speak with experts and advisors and carry out the workshops. She raised funds to donate a laptop to the school in India, so the students there could keep exploring computers and technology.

“The global economy is in the middle of a profound paradigm shift. The key question is how do we develop crucial roles with required skillsets that are just emerging,” concludes Risha.

Tejas Veedhulur

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Scouts BSA program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Since its inception in 1911, only four percent of Scouts have earned this rank after a lengthy review process. 

“The attainment of my Eagle Rank is more to me than just another scouting rank. It is the fulfillment of a dream I had when I first joined Scouts,” says Eagle Scout Tejas Veedhulur, recent Walton High School graduate. He earned Scouting’s highest honor as a member of Troop 1776 located at St. Ann’s Catholic Church on Roswell Road, Marietta, GA.

“I chose this project as I enjoy hiking and I have a personal connection to this park,” says Tejas. Tejas had noted that a section the foot bridge / boardwalk at Gold Branch, a National Park Services (NPS) managed unit in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) required urgent attention before it became a safety hazard and an inconvenience for the numerous Park visitors. The section of the boardwalk in question was between GB1 and GB2 and serves as the main pathway that houses beautiful trails visitors enjoy on a daily basis, all year around.

Tejas raised $1000 for the project which was utilized to raise the foundation to flatten the sunken section of the main boardwalk and replace the railings (approximately 110ft) along the entire length of the boardwalk, thereby providing a safe passage across the creek for park users. “We also dug several trenches to divert the flood water and prevent future damage. A total of 320+ service hours were expended by several scouts, scout leaders and parents,” notes Tejas. “It not only encourages a lot of visitors to walk / hike, but also has a huge impact on the physical and mental health of the community.  Visitors get to enjoy the beautiful serene landscape around the river and the abundant wildlife.”

“My parents and my brother have been extremely supportive throughout my Scouting journey. The journey to Eagle has taught me more than I could ever hope to have learned in any other group, club or organization. I have made friends that I will have all my life and I hope to be able to give back by helping the Troop and my community with skills and leadership I have learned in the past seven years,” concludes Tejas.

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