Students Nithya Menon and Shivana Anand, both from Irvine, Calif., won the Top Heritage Award in the high school and middle school academic categories, respectively, at the Indian American Heritage Foundation’s 30th Annual Heritage Foundation awards function held on Sunday, April 10, 2016 at Cerritos Sheraton Hotel, Cerritos, California.
Tejal Gala won the second place while the third place winner was Vikas Munukutta in the GHigh School category. Others who were awarded at the annual event included, Vibha Vijayakumar, Kanhai Shah, Chirag Bisht, Kriti Kumar, Ashwath Manivannan, Varun Mandi, and Megan Phansalkar. The second place winner in the Middle school category was Sreekar Kasturi while the third place winner was Rishi Shah. The fourth and fifth awards went to Abhinav Ganguly and Ria Arora respectively. Sreekar Kasturi and Shivana Anand also won the Visual and Performing Arts awards instituted in honor of “Teachers, parents and family.”
Vikas Munukutta won Outstanding Achievement Award and revolving trophy in Visual & Performing Arts. Tejal Gala shared the Award and revolving trophy in Math, Science and Technology with Varun Mandi, Kanhai Shah shared award and revolving trophy in sports with Deeksha Chaturvedi, while Kriti Kumar shared award and trophy in community service with Navya Katragadda.
Consul General of India, San Francisco Ambassador Venkatesan Ashok who was the chief guest speaking to the gathering empathized the importance of education and preserving the cultural heritage of India and applauded IAHF for the great work it is doing in promoting this. He also donated $20,000 to the IAHF from the leftover Parvasi Diwas funds. The CGI took the opportunity to talk about the petition regarding the California Department of Education’s move to make changes in textbooks by replacing ‘India’ with South East Asia. He urged all present to support the petition as it is important for all Indian- Americans.
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, Cerritos Mayor Pro Tem, Naresh Solanki and Artesia Mayor Pro Tem Ali S Taj were the guests of honor. Sanchez spoke about the importance of education and culture and about her long time association with the Indian-American community. She thanked all the organizers and the students for the tremendous work they put in.
Inder Singh, the main organizer, in welcoming the attendees, appreciated the support by the sponsors who provided necessary funding for the continuity of the awards program. He also thanked the judges who undertook the grueling task of evaluating the applicants, and praised his “working crew” — team of volunteers — who worked hard to make the event a success. He said, “An individual, howsoever brilliant, intelligent and smart, would find it difficult, if not impossible to match the collaborative efforts of an effective team,” adding that he was blessed with a team which has been providing selfless service for the cause of youth.
The IAHF has been recognizing the achievements of youth, graduating from high and middle schools in Southern California for the past 30 years. The Foundation started with just five scholarship awards in 1987 and now gives 24 scholarships annually.