Two UC Riverside students have won Donald A. Strauss Foundation awards in recognition of student engagement with public service.
The students, Ankita Ahluwalia and Thaniya Shankar, each applied with a public service project that they will carry out during their junior or senior year. The awards come with $15,000 grants that aim to sustain their public service projects.
Ahluwalia, a sophomore majoring in computer science with business applications, was awarded the scholarship for her work in founding the Power of Words and Numbers Initiative, or POWAN. The initiative aims to empower students and teachers in underserved districts that serve minority and low-income families. Strauss funds will help facilitate and grow the program, which offers free, needs-based e-learning solutions and an after-school program designed to effectively reduce the equity, achievement, and opportunity gap in high school classes with historically high numbers of students receiving D’s or F’s.
“Our user-friendly platform allows K-12 students to sign up, schedule a session with an accredited volunteer instructor, and gain access to resources such as our Coding Bootcamp, all under five minutes,” said Ahluwalia, citing a 100% student and parental satisfaction rate.
Shankar, a junior studying biology and minoring in law and society, received the award for her work on Project LEAD, or Learn, Encourage, Advocate, and Develop. Project LEAD aims to address the educational barriers for kindergarten to 6th grade public school students with autism spectrum disorder. The program will allow UCR students to mentor elementary students on the spectrum in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, an under-resourced community.
“Students with autism display their own unique challenges that can benefit from individualized support,” Shankar said. “The program will not only promote a sense of community and belonging to autistic students, but also establish and strengthen academic and social skills that most autistic students lack.”
Ahluwalia and Shankar were two out of a dozen selected scholars and over 300 applicants.