Newsletter: October - 2012


Dear NSF Families,

It is with great pride that North South Foundation celebrated its 20th anniversary this year at the annual National Finals in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For twenty years, NSF volunteers have selflessly contributed to the success of thousands of children. Our efforts began with a few simple contests – the spelling bee and vocabulary bee. Over the years, they have expanded into a huge variety of ways to help our cause: the math bee, the science bee, the geography bee, coaching programs for educational contests and
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SATs, the Youth Ambassador program; the list goes on and on. As a first-time contestant in spelling bees, I remember seeing my name on the list of children who made it to Phase III in the Junior Spelling Bee in the 2004 National Finals in Phoenix, Arizona. That moment was what made me continue to compete in spelling bees and strive for excellence in all of my endeavors. North South Foundation has impacted thousands of children such as myself, and will inspire countless more in this way. In this edition, we share with you some inspiring stories of selfless youth who helped children in India over their summer break through NSF APNA, the Youth Ambassador program. Also included in this edition is a very inspiring interview with Mr.Sachin Rudraraju, an NSF Youth, a finalist for the TiE International Student Innovator Award. We are sure you will find them engaging and heartwarming.
Ramya Auroprem
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
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The University of Michigan campus seemed to be rejuvenated during the weekend of the 18th-19th, when the 20th Annual North South Foundation National Finals were conducted, with more than 1200 bee champions from all over U.S. These contestants were top rank holders from regional contests held in the month of March, April & May 2012. They ranged in grade from elementary to high, representing their chapters at the national level in various categories like spelling, vocabulary, geography, math, science, essay writing, and public speaking.
With kids scuttling from room to room for attending various phases of the contests, it was certain that people around felt emotions running high in the environment - some over the moon for winning the contest, some sad for not making it to the next level, some anxious about their next contest. However, it was crystal clear that each one of these contestants was a winner irrespective of the end result, being able to represent their chapters at national level and also for dedicating their summer holidays to preparing for the national finals. It was an amazing feeling for parents & others to witness these next generation scientists, mathematicians, professors, and business tycoons walking down the aisle and moving up the podium to receive their honor.

For a complete list of winners of the 2012 National Finals, please Click Here

The press release about the event is published Here

Also an e-copy of bee book can be seen Here


Shubhada Rao
2012 National Finals Team
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Sachin Rudraraju, a freshman at Cornell University, and an NSF alumnus, was recently announced a finalist for the TiE (The International Entrepreneur) International Student Innovator Award by TiE Ohio. TiE is an organization of entrepreneurs who connect, network, and mentor globally to create the next generation of successful entrepreneurs. Founded in Silicon Valley, TiE is now the world's largest organization for fostering entrepreneurship. Its members include some of the world's most well-known entrepreneurs such as Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande and Vinod Khosla. Apart from this, due to a long list of Sachin's achievements, he received over US $90,000 in college merit scholarships. Learn more about this highly accomplished 17-year old in the following interview by Dr.Madhav Durbha, editor of the NSF newsletter.
Madhav: Hello Sachin! Congratulations on your award. What can you tell our readers about yourself?
Sachin: Hi Madhav, thank you. Wel... I'm a freshman at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY as a Biology and Economics major. I want to go on to med school and eventually become a doctor. Outside of academics, my other interests include doing research, tutoring, coding, and community service.

Madhav: What is the TiE International Student Innovator award?
Sachin: The award is part of a set of awards called the Tie Ohio International Entrepreneur awards that are meant to celebrate entrepreneurship in Ohio, especially in international and immigrant candidates.

Madhav: How did you get nominated for the award? What made you qualify?
Sachin: I really have to thank a friend of mine, Mr. Josh Davda. He nominated me for the award and I owe him greatly. As for qualifications, I started my own non-profit called the Community Recycling Campaign. The purpose of the non-profit is to stop old computers and other electronics from being wasted and thrown into landfills. Along with some friends, I went around local neighborhoods asking people to donate old computers. We then tried our best to repair these computers so that they could be donated to charity organizations or individuals that needed them or otherwise recycled. But another primary goal is to raise awareness about the problem of global e-waste so I got the chance to speak at a number of events too. The project has been featured in a few magazines and newspapers as well.

Madhav: Wow! That is great! I also understand you do quite a bit of work in the area of Hemophilia. How did this interest come about?
Sachin: Well I actually have Hemophilia A. It's something I have to deal with on a daily basis and this is part of the reason that I am in America in the first place, given the medical care that is available in this country. I wanted to give back to this community that has been helping me so much ever since I have come to America. So I got involved with my local chapter, leading fundraising events such as the "Hemophilia Walk". This past year, I also got involved with the National Hemophilia Foundation, joining the National Youth Leadership Institute, a leadership program that seeks to promote health and advocacy. My activities include speaking to our state representatives and serving in local and national Hemophilia programs.

Madhav: Very interesting! What other activities are you involved in? How do you spend free time, if you get to have any?
Sachin: Right now I'm involved in a Garba dance group at Cornell called big red RAAS. We perform on campus and also go to competitions off-campus. I'm involved in a few other campus organizations as well. I also have an interest in programming. So you may find me coding miscellaneous programs. Other than that, I relax like you would expect, with TV, food, video games, and friends.

Madhav: How do you motivate yourself? How do you deal with any "down" days?
Sachin: I like to challenge myself. This is part of the reason I chose to go Cornell University. I am surrounded by brilliant people, many of whom are more intelligent than me. This environment makes it very hard to succeed unless I give it my all. So, some of my motivation just comes from my need to be motivated. I like to keep myself engaged and active. Learning is a passion for me and the subjects I am studying keep me interested. I do know how to loosen up and relax. It's a must considering the stressful classes we have to deal with. Often, taking naps is my go-to method for recharging, and it works very well for me. I also like going to the gym, playing tennis, climbing, and just generally playing. All of these things let me get away from my stresses so that I can be happy.

Madhav: Do you have a role model?
Sachin: Like many, my parents are my biggest inspiration. Their story is far-reaching and there are so many things I can learn from it. They have been through so many struggles and each of their stories has a common theme; in the end, sustained hard work and a balanced lifestyle give the best results.

Madhav: How is life at Cornell? How is it different from High school?
Sachin: It's very different from life back at home. Living away from my parents is big change. There is so much more freedom and at the same time so many more responsibilities to consider. Having multiple science classes and the pressure to maintain high grades for medical school at a college that is called "the hardest ivy to graduate from" is definitely not helpful. It's definitely a learning experience. I have to teach myself ways to structure my time and still keep up with life.

Madhav: I understand you have over US$90,000 in merit scholarships. How did you qualify? Any tips and tricks you can share with our High school students?
Sachin: Well... the first step to getting scholarships is actually taking the time to research and apply to them. This is the most important step. Take care in writing your essays. Have others read over them and make sure they portray you-the best parts of you-honestly. Make sure that you consider your audience when you write essays but after you have written a few, you can start to go back and build upon previous material for each new scholarship. There are so many out there and there are definitely ones that are catered to your strengths and qualifications. Use websites like FastWeb to search for ones that are in your career field or distinguishing in some other way. Other than that, the next step is to build your resume. It's important to show that you are passionate and capable of something. What that is, that is up to you. Play to your strengths. Make connections and utilize them. Be engaged and seek real-world experience. This is where you come in, your story and your dreams.

Madhav: Great advice! Switching gears... Right now there is a lot of criticism about the American education system...whether it is falling math and science scores of high school students in comparison with several other countries, or too much homework with little value addition. What are your views on this?
Sachin: To be completely honest, I'm not really knowledgeable on the problems surrounding our education system. All I know comes from my own experience. I think the major problem comes from trying to give a standardized and quality education to diverse communities. Not every student gets the same attention, and a school's quality is often determined by the financial status of the surrounding area. The only way to fix this is invest more money into public education. One way to make sure that this money is used efficiently is to reform the hiring practices that schools use to hire teachers.

Madhav: In relation to the previous question, I hear another criticism that our educational system prepares one to become a professional such a doctor, engineer, or a lawyer, for example. But very little, if any, is taught in way of the financial or entrepreneurial skills. Do you agree?
Sachin: This is a problem that many schools are just starting to address. Only a few years ago, my school introduced a financial planning skills class that was required in order to graduate. I do agree that we need to make sure that graduating high school students need to have these skills as they enter into the real world. We have made steps in the right direction but more schools need to add this as a priority in their curriculum.

Madhav: There is also some criticism we hear that Asian immigrant parents put too much emphasis on academics and push their children too hard at the cost of extracurricular activities. Can you comment based on your personal experiences?
Sachin: I would hate to make such broad assumptions because every family is different, but that is the general trend I have observed. As for my personal experience, through middle school, my parents pushed me to do well academically and were very involved in my studies. In high school, one of my biggest struggles was taking control of my education. It was finding 'that drive' within me instead of from outside. I wasn't so worried about grades as much as testing myself and keeping engaged. Also, education for me wasn't only my classes, but all the activities that I was involved in. I learned as much from research and summer programs outside of school as I did during the school year. I don’t think enough students take control of their own education, something that parents should facilitate. My parents were still instrumental in helping me through school, just in a different way, and I cannot thank them enough for it.

Madhav: What is your association with NSF?
Sachin: I started going to the local NSF spelling bees and vocabulary bees in elementary schools and continued them through middle school. I got to go to some of the national competitions too, which were amazing trips. In high school, I started volunteering for the bees as pronouncer and grading. I am so grateful that I got involved with them because through them I have developed crucial study skills that I use every day.

Madhav: Where do you go from here? What are your ambitions?
Sachin: Well I hope to graduate from Cornell and go on to medical school and eventually become a doctor. As of now, that is the plan.

Madhav: Sachin! Thank you so much for your time. Very much enjoyed catching up with you. Hope we get to meet again.
Sachin: Definitely! Thank you for your time as well.

Madhav Durbha
NSF Newsletter Editorial Team Member
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NSF organized another successful year of APNA India Ambassadors program, providing an excellent opportunity for the high school level students in USA to volunteer in India. Below are some very interesting experiences of two of our volunteers. The next issue of NSF newsletter will contain more of such inspirational stories. For additional details about NSF APNA program, please visit:
http://northsouth.org/app11/APNA/Index

Making a Difference to Underprivileged Kids through Volunteering

My name is Shreya Shankar, and I am an incoming 10th grader at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, TX. This past summer, I visited Bangalore, India. During my trip, I volunteered as a teacher and helper at Parikrama Centre for Learning, a K-12 local school for economically disadvantaged kids. This essay provides some background about the school and describes my experience as a volunteer.
Parikrama Centre selects underprivileged children from downtrodden families. In many of these families, these children are first-generation school-goers. A majority of them do not have college aspirations, so the school’s goal is to initiate them into learning. I taught the fifth grade class the spelling, meaning and usage of several English words and conducted a spelling bee at the end of my volunteer program. The NSF APNA Program provided me with the relevant materials.
I traveled to Bangalore and started teaching on the very day I landed in India. I devoted my first two weeks to teaching the 5th graders basic word parts, their meanings, pronunciations, and rules of spelling bee. During my final week, I conducted the spelling bee. I absolutely loved working with the students. I found the class of 32 students to be most talkative. I really appreciated their enthusiasm, but there were many times when I had to gently remind them not to misbehave. Over time, the students grew accustomed to my teaching. I learned that a disciplined classroom and a focused learning environment help accomplish students' learning goals. I quickly realized that I couldn’t just hand them the word list and expect them to learn all the words at home. It took days of practice and training for the students to understand all the words, their meanings, and their pronunciations.
I was truly amazed at the results of our efforts. One student, Sridhar, started without knowing how to spell simple words, such as "guitar" and "flamingo." At the end of the spelling bee, he could spell many words, including "hippopotamus" and "accommodate." Another student, Sathish's knowledge of words increased from 20 to 120. Importantly, the students understood the meanings of the words and learned how to use them in sentences. I am confident that the 5th grade class can learn the spelling, meaning, and usage of more words in the future.
During this wonderful experience, I learned that volunteering really makes big difference in kids' lives. Surprisingly, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I knew my efforts were rewarded when I saw the smiles on the students’ faces after they spelled words correctly. My most satisfying moments occurred when many students came up to me afterwards and said that the learning inspired them to aspire for college after school. I can't wait to go back and teach again.
I am grateful to NSF for the opportunity to help underprivileged kids learn and make a difference in their lives. Hopefully, these students will go to good colleges and have great futures ahead of them.

Watch Shreya with the students in India in this video
Shreya Shankar
NSF Youth Ambassador
Experiences of an NSF Ambassador

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The total experience of teaching in India as part of NSF was amazing. I would like to thank NSF for giving me this opportunity and I would also like to thank Mr. Venkat Gade for explaining this volunteering opportunity to me. To me, this experience meant a lot. At first, I thought it would be a job to wake up every morning and teach the students; however, that wasn't it. I felt a tremendous pleasure inside of myself to help these students in India that are not as privileged as I am.
The school I taught in India was in Vijayawada. It was a municipal school. There were a limited number of benches, so half the students sat on the ground while the other half sat on the benches. Over the 5 days, I taught for 3 hours every day. For about an hour and a half I taught grades 6 and 7 and the rest of the time to grades 8-10. Interestingly, even though the kids that I taught were in middle school and high school, they didn't have a very good preparation in English. They were still struggling with many topics..
The 6th and 7th grade classes were very enthusiastic. All the kids wanted to respond to as many questions as possible. They would stand up and start talking nonstop.
One of the best students in that class was Prasad. He grasped concepts very well, and he had the will to learn and excel in his class. He was not only an encouragement to the other students, but also to me. He made me want to teach more and more. Every day he would come prepared to talk in front of the class. The students and 8th-10th grade were much quieter, but they grasped everything much faster. It would take 30 minutes to explain a topic to the little kids, and only 15 minutes to explain the same topic to the older kids. So we would do a few exercises, and quizzes in the end. On the test day, everyone sat on the ground. I dictated the words in one class while my dad watched the other class and then we would exchange. The little kids had a little trouble, so they got a few hints. On the very last day all the students were given certificates and the top 2 students from every grade that participated in the test got a dictionary for their keeping. The Headmaster and my grandfather said a few words to encourage the students to keep practicing what they learned. A few students were also asked to come up and talk about concepts that they learned over the 5 day period and whether it was helpful or not. Going to the school every day never felt like it was a job to me. I looked forward to going to the school again every night. The students were very jovial and treated me like a friend or sister. They were very polite and also very humorous. One student asked me to throw a water bottle or hang a red flag on the plane when I leave so they could say bye. I hope to keep in touch with the school over the next few years.
Deepti Yechuri
NSF Youth Ambassador
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Who we are not:

You live in a house-on-a-hill. You spend your days on the second floor balcony looking down on the streets below, watching the people walk in and out of their houses as part of some strange, nonsensical dance that you never could figure out.

There’s an evergreen tree that stands guard in front of the house, a huge monolithic monument commemorating consistency and the color green all year round. When you're small it stretches taller than you, taller than the house-on-the-hill, sometimes you can even imagine that it pierces the sky and summons rain.

At the top of the never-ending tree there are always crows, visible from the second-story window. You watch them eternally pirouette about the stormy top through snow, sun and sleet, forever cawing indignantly about their silly crow lives.

Your older sister takes your hand and points at them, showing you how they stretch their wings out for as long as they can, but at that last moment when they lose the air beneath them they give in and flap their wings just to stay afloat. They're pretending to be eagles, she says in a confident voice, and it’s not hard for you to believe it. You try for a larger wingspan yourself sometimes, but most often you have to make do with your own.

But they're also vultures, she whispers later. See how they're circling?

Later, you look back at all of this and realize what you were seeing but didn't understand.

The crows were sometimes eagles and they were sometimes vultures but too often their black, dull feathers would show through, scattering the illusion. Every day, like clockwork, they were at the top of the tree, trying to become eagles in endless circles around the static tree, trying to break past their limitations into something unattainable. And as you gazed on from your second- story window you watched them flash between crow-vulture-eagle-crow-vulture-eagle trying to understand what they really were.

Your childish mind automatically drew parallels between the crows and the people in your life. Weren’t we all like that? Didn't we forever aspire to be people we were not? If nothing, we yearned to be just one second older, just one second wiser. And yet we turned out to be nothing but ourselves.

So, in the end, were we eagles or vultures, or were we just crows?

Preethi Balakrishnan, One of our young contributors



Sleepiness

Sleepiness
Taking over when the sun takes its rest break
And the glowing moon and shimmering stars awake
To finally rise above and shine
The angel swiftly carries its light body
And puts an incomprehensible spell
On a lovely pair of eyes
When one tries to understand
It's too late
The immortal enchantment catches you disobeying it
It spreads a warm feeling
Over your heavy eyes
But also waiting for the right moment
To set free the being
But when that happens
You would've drifted off to sleep
Quite peacefully
As ever

Kavya Borra, Grade 5, Princeton Junction, NJ



Once in the Tunguska Forest

Once in the Tunguska forest,
there lived an uncertain deer,
who thought he knew where Moscow was
but didn't think it was near.

So he marched across Russia for a week,
and all he saw was moss.


But he came to the Ural Mountains
where he was likely to take a toss.

Nowadays at the Tunguska forest
there is no uncertain deer
who thinks he knows where Moscow is
but doesn't think it's near.

Amith Vasantha, Grade 2, San Francisco Bay Area, CA

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The 2012-2013 season is well under way and all chapters are receiving applications. We have several new volunteers working on new chapters through their network in India. In an effort to increase awareness about NSF scholarships, our team made a 2012 promotional package consisting of an application, cover letter and a flier. Here are the highlights of the Public Relations (PR) effort.

  • 25 PR packets were mailed to each India Chapter Coordinator to send to 25 colleges as outreach in their states.
  • PR packets were mailed to each and every JNV school (625+).
  • PR packets were mailed to all new scholars who were granted a scholarship in 2011-12 congratulating them and requesting them to help spread the word (790+).
  • All recent graduates are getting a merit certificate and a congratulatory letter asking them to register in NSF scholar alumni database (400+). This project is run by the volunteers of the Nagercoil chapter.
  • The online application system is open and students are applying online as well.
  • Past years' data is being entered into the new on-line system by the volunteers from the Nagercoil chapter.
  • Each chapter has a webpage with the contact information for the applicants and interested parties


As always, scholarship team is looking to improve and increase scholarships and requests for ideas from our NSF newsletter readers.

NSF Scholarship Team
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Do you have a story, poem, essay, or some art work to share? Please send an e-mail with the attachments to nsf-editor-team@googlegroups.com. In addition to your entry, please send in a scanned copy of your photograph, name of your school and city, your grade level, and your hobbies.

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Ramya Auroprem, Sukanya Roy, Shrinidhi Thirumalai, Vignesh Kumar, Madhav Durbha

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