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Strauss Scholarships Help Support Indian American Undergrads’ Public Service Projects

March 22, 2019

At least three Indian American college students in California have been awarded $15,000 scholarships from the Donald A. Strauss Foundation.

 

Among the scholars is UCLA student Nathan Mallipeddi, U.C. Davis student Kausalya Raman and Ahaana Singh of U.C. Berkeley.

 

The Strauss Foundation awards scholarships to between 10 and 15 juniors and seniors from 14 California universities each year, including all University of California campuses. Each university nominates up to three students to be considered for the award.

 

Mallipeddi’s project, the Southern California Stuttering Service, provides resources and support for students who struggle with stuttering and other speech disabilities.

 

The psychobiology and political science double major’s project was inspired by his challenges growing up with stuttering. He struggled to make friends and communicate, and because the special education teachers at his school were not trained in speech therapy, he had to work to overcome his stutter on his own, a UCLA report said.

 

That’s why his Southern California Stuttering Service is geared toward K-12 students and provides funding for speech therapy and support groups for students with speech disabilities, it. added.

 

“I really believe in this project and I want to affect the lives of as many students as I can because I know how hard it was going through this,” Mallipeddi said in the report.

 

Most of the Strauss scholarship funds will pay for speech therapy for students who would not otherwise be able to afford or access it, Mallipeddi said. He’s worked with stuttering organizations across the country to identify families who need speech therapy support.

 

So far, 10 students in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Chicago, and Seattle have already begun receiving therapy free of charge thanks to his organization, the university report said.

 

Mallipeddi said he has received an additional $15,000 from two Silicon Valley start-up companies to continue expanding the program, according to the report.

 

Raman was funded for her project “English Kadhavu,” according to the foundation website, www.straussfoundation.org.

 

In Tamil Nadu, India, around 60 percent of elementary school students attend Tamil medium public schools. These students have little exposure to English, and often have teachers who are not fluent, Raman explained of her project on the foundation website.

 

In addition, the lack of access to appropriate reading material makes it difficult for them to acquire basic proficiency in the language, she said.

 

Most higher education programs, especially in STEM, are currently only offered in English, and most job sectors require basic English proficiency. This severely limits the opportunities available to students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds creating a language divide, she added.

 

“I started English Kadhavu to design, develop and distribute English learning supplements in book boxes to schools across Tamil Nadu to bridge this language divide. The book boxes contain books and related activities that are age-appropriate, easy for teachers to use, and set in the context of the students' lives,” Raman explained.

 

“As of now, we have created phonics sets for first grade and five book boxes for second grade and piloted them in seven different schools in Chennai with positive results,” she said.

 

The goal of Raman’s proposal is to build upon this effort and develop content for elementary grade levels up to six so that the students acquire a solid foundation in the language and are able to pursue higher education and better-paying jobs.

 

Singh was chosen as a scholarship recipient for her project, “The Refugee Health Literacy Initiative.”

 

The initiative is a project focusing on assessing and implementing adequate health education resources for refugee populations.

 

Through developmental assessment of general health literacy as well as best practices, the project will find the best means to create resources that will benefit refugees in understanding and taking initiative when it comes to their health, Singh said of her project.

 

This project will be powered by Pedi-Ed, Singh’s non-profit dedicated to creating educational resources for pediatric patients to bridge the gap between children and their ailments.

 

“I want to carry the same sentiment over to the refugee community using educational resources to improve health literacy and empower refugees to take agency when it comes to their health and well-being,” she said.

 

“In order to do this, however, we must assess the best means to accomplish these goals for this particular population. Following the assessment period, we will develop resources specifically for refugee populations and the health issues most pertinent to them,” Singh added.

 

The Berkeley student said that, after spending eight weeks on the ground working in a refugee camp in Greece, the initial project proved quite difficult to implement.

 

“I found that the refugee health issues that were true of overwhelming concern were not basic public health issues; it was mental health – and frankly, videos can't solve that,” she elaborated. Therefore, the foundation has allowed me to reallocate my award to fund additional video content for Pedi-Ed, pursuing her mission to bring health literacy to people who don't otherwise have access, she noted.

 

Other scholar recipients include Makeen Yasar of Loyola Marymount University; Marc Robert Wong of Stanford; Van Sam of U.C. Berkeley; Sophie Roe of Pomona College; Cassidy Pyle of U.C. Santa Barbara; David Nguyen of UCLA; Eric Medina of U.C. Santa Cruz; Holden Gibbons of Stanford; Andrew Eneim of U.C. Riverside; and Grace Donalson of U.C. San Diego.

 

Courtesy: India West

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