Class of 2016

Class of 2016

Chidambara Anagani, University High School

“Chidambara Anagani was born in India but is being raised in the USA. He is your typical tech savvy high school student with experiences in almost many hardware and software items of this world. Currently, Chidambara is a sophomore at University High School. His hobbies include just about anything outdoors, biking, playing tennis, and socializing with friends both locally and globally. Helping people is one of his favorite things to do as well as making sure he himself is doing everything right. Chidambara has a goal of starting a successful top-notch company and being the CEO of it. He hopes to use his profits to fund global projects like F.B.T. already does such as starting institutions for the poor, feeding the hungry, etc. He wants to make the lives of the people around him easier.”


Kelsie Ayers, Bloomington High School

“Kelsie Ayers is a teenager born and raised in Bloomington, IL. She is an above average person demonstrated by excellent character, honors classes, and varsity level athletics, In addition, she has a passion for tennis, people and is always willing to help others.  Kelsie is eager to learn and try new things to continually be a better person.”

Mihir Bafna, Bloomington High School

“Mihir was born here in Bloomington Illinois. He has enjoyed pursuing different projects, and his appetite to learn is still empty. He would like to make a difference in this world and help it in any way he can. He enjoys playing sports, learning new things, taking pictures, and just being outside in general. Working with different people on different projects has shown him the value of looking at different ideas in different ways, and also the value of criticizing an idea to cover up weaknesses. He also believes that quality is more important than time. He does not know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he is looking forward to finding out! He has done projects in robotics, acting, philanthropy, and informational projects that require one to look 20 years into the future. He believes that technology will be a huge part of the future.”

Vivek Bhookya, Normal Community High School

“Vivek Bhookya has his roots in India but has found his wings in the Bloomington-Normal area! Vivek spends a lot of his time reflecting on his past, and this has helped him develop his emotional intelligence, his understanding of the world, his critical thinking skills, and most importantly, helped Vivek realize who he is as a person. Vivek enjoys spending time with others, from playing sports to having snacks, but his favorite hobbies include ultimate Frisbee and Yugioh. Known for his down to earth demeanor, spending time with Vivek will include his unique sense of humor, genuine discussion, and what Vivek appreciates, new experiences.”

Jade Fung, University High School

“Jade Fung is a 14-year-old girl who is a freshman at University High School. Jade has also been a competitive swimmer for the past 6 1/2 years. Jade has gone to many places all over the world, but her favorite place is Jamaica because her parents, Collette and Franklyn Fung, were born and spent their childhood in the beautiful country. Jade has also been playing the piano for the past 8 years. Jade enjoys collecting seashells, reading, coding, and spending time with her friends. Jade believes that friendship is one of the most important aspects of life. She believes in building relationships and will always include everyone. Jade’s change is much like other….to change the world! She wants to help people in need whether they live in Africa or right in her own backyard! Jade believes that with the help of her peers, she can change the world for the better.”

Nia Gilbert, University High School

“’My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.’ -Maya Angelou. It is 16 year old Nia R. Gilbert’s daily goal to embody these wise words from the great Maya Angelou. Born in the corny (figuratively and literally) central Illinois, Nia was birthed into a large family. Hundreds of cousins, sisters, brothers, and God-Family. A large support system. They supported her through elementary school when she learned that she had an inner arousing enthusiasm for competitions and- specifically- winning them. They supported her through junior high when she learned that she had the talent and mindset to be a winner, leader, and teammate, but was struggling to accept her environmental surroundings. They’ve been supporting her through high school when she realized that she could change her environmental surroundings each summer with some cash, a plane ticket, and a plan. Though her family provided her with the strong foundation of love, strength, humility, and a sense of purpose, she had always felt like a big fish in a small puddle. So when the opportunity to spend the summer before her junior year in New York City presented itself, Nia jumped at the chance. Because of the opportunities the summer provided her- from an internship with a NYC council member’s office to learning how to be more independent- Nia came back to her “puddle” with a higher level of determination, awareness, and passion. Nia is involved in many different organizations, clubs, and programs. She enjoys listening to music, dancing, working, and exercising. She is excited for her future and spends every day preparing for it with the support and encouragement from her family.”

Pavithra Kannan, Bloomington High School

“Pavithra Kannan is an Indian born American raised sophomore at Bloomington High School.  She has lived in Bloomington for a majority of her life but would like to travel abroad for studies and work in the future. Speaking of the future, Pavithra would like to be an IT Architect when she grows up. However right now, her passions include math, science, baking, band, tennis, and art amongst helping others with various things. She is passionate about STEM and other technology related fields and hopes to educate and guide more people into such areas in the future, but for now she does other volunteering services to better expand her horizons!!”

Vinit Karkathar, Normal Community High School

“Vinit was born in India and moved to the US when he was just six months old. He learned to walk, talk, and live in America; but his roots are still Indian. He has grown up with an almost “By day- By Night-” lifestyle. By day he hangs out with his “American” friends, playing soccer, video games, or just hanging out. Then at night he will be running around a religious ceremony with his “Indian” friends trying to get away from their parents. This has allowed him to see what is necessary in both cultures to not only fit in, but to be well liked and make connections.”

Sindhu Komaragiri, Normal Community High School

“Sindhu Komaragiri is a sophomore at Normal Community High School. Her hobbies are playing piano, playing violin, and she likes to hang out with her friends. Sindhu has been playing the piano for eight years and the violin for six years. She also likes to travel around the country, and even world. She would especially like to go to Europe and see France. She would like to see France because she is learning French at school. When she grows up she would like to be a pediatrician because she has always liked working with kids and helping others. Overall, she would like to have a job that she can help others and they are benefited.”

Shrijani Kongara, Normal Community High School

“Shrijani Kongara is originally from India, but she has discovered herself in the US. The differences between the two cultures has made Shrijani into what she is now. Shrijani has wanted to be a doctor and help others since a child. She is exactly what you would a “book nerd”. She has read things ranging from fiction to nonfiction to sci-fi. She is OBSESSED with Harry Potter. Her other passions include swimming, drafting, playing with her dog, hanging out with her friends, and spending time with her family. But by the end of the day Shrijani’s passion is to help others in need.”

Prithiv Kumar, Bloomington High School

“Prithiv Kumar was born in Bloomington, Illinois from parents of Indian descent, and this influences his life very much. It is hard to be the line between two cultures, but Prithiv has persevered and succeeded in bridging the gap between two very powerful influences in his life. A 14-year-old sophomore at BHS, Prithiv is very interested in math and technology. He does the STEM program at BHS, and enjoys hobbies like tennis, chess, and cubing. Currently, because of his enjoyment of helping others, he works as a tutor at iEXCELL and also volunteers as much as he can. His goal is to make a difference in the world around him, step by step.”

Michelle Lewis, Bloomington High School

“Michelle Lewis was born and raised in Bloomington, IL. She is a senior at Bloomington High School. Following high school, she plans to go to college and study nursing. She has a passion for many things. She enjoys helping people and spent her summer as a lifeguard.  She loves making others smile.  Her peers think she has a great sense of humor.  She has the qualities of a natural leader and demonstrates this quality as a volunteer at her local hospitals and the children’s museum.  Michelle loves making new friends and charms them with her smile and positive personality.  She is a great planner and an organizer.  In her free time, Michelle enjoys bowling, color guard that is the motion for the band, and basketball.”

Joshua Nepomuceno, University High School

“Josh Nepomuceno attends University High School as a freshman, where he runs on the cross country team. He loves to swim, run, and read; these activities take up most of his time. When he isn’t doing these things, he’s usually eating, sleeping, studying, playing video games, or hanging out with his friends. His main academic interests include astronomy, engineering, history, and computer science. Josh loves to help people, and tries to be the nicest he can to everyone.”

Suhrud Raut, Normal Community High School

“Suhrud Raut is a fifteen-year old kid who currently goes to Normal Community High School. When it comes to favorite subjects at school, Suhrud generally prefers any class within the Social Studies department. Other interests of his lie in space, religion, sports and history! Other hobbies and passions of his include running, playing basketball, playing video games, playing board games, and socializing with friends. Growing up in America, Suhrud moved from one state to another from the age of three to the age of six. At the age of six, Suhrud settled in Bloomington, Illinois. At first, Suhrud doubted if he would make any friends, and that he’d like the community that he lived in.  From Kindergarten to the 3rd Grade, he went to Adlai E. Stevenson Elementary School II. There, he made friends and established relations with teachers and staff. In the summer of 2009, Suhrud had to move from a town home in Bloomington, to a house in Normal. As he lived in Normal, he realized that not only did he like the Twin Cities, he liked the community as well! The primary reason as to why he adored the community, was because of the kind, generous people it had. On that day, a sense of giving back and helping others came into his mind. From that day onward, Suhrud decided that he’d take action and contribute by being part of organizations that help charities, ensure the cleanliness of streets and more! His main goal is to help others, in order to make a positive impact on their lives and to serve the community.”

Oviya Sugumaran, Normal Community High School

“Born in the U.S.A. but raised from Indian parents, Oviya Sugum is an American Born Confused Desi! Oviya is quite liberal in her thoughts as she celebrates differences and respects equality. She is a strong supporter of equal rights for all and against animal abuse. Oviya is a student at Normal Community High School and works very hard to get her best grades possible. In addition to being a dedicated student, Oviya loves to volunteer! She is currently the Lieutenant Governor for her Key Club division and really enjoys the position. Her other hobbies include playing the piano, painting and drawing and teaching young children. She is pursuing a career in the medical/ engineering field. Most of Oviya’s passion belongs to being kind and positive. Her hope is to make a big difference in the world!”

Shaunak Taxali, University High School

“Shaun Taxali is a sophomore student at U-High, being brought up by Asian Indian parents; he respects the values of the East and has adapted to grow in the West.  Shaun has a passion for theatre, speech, and chorus.  Shaun has acted in several plays and is an active member of his high school’s speech and chorus team.  He is a member of the Rotary Club at school where he has been involved with several fundraising activities for noble causes.  Shaun is a big sports fanatic.  He not only enjoys watching all kinds of sports, but also relishes analyzing sporting events and reading anything related to sports.  He is an avid Cubs, Bulls, and Bears fan! Shaun enjoys meeting different people from different cultures and backgrounds and enjoys learning from them.  His teachers always describe him as a positive individual who brings the best in people.”

Sita Vakkalanka, Bloomington High School

“Sita Vakkalanka is a first generation Indian-American who is able to capture the cultures of the western world while holding on to her traditional roots. She passionately pursues South Indian classical arts, and thrives to use her interests and make a difference. She loves communicating with people and showing what she’s about. She recently presented a dance debut in Bharatanatyam and is looking to present a music debut in Carnatic music. She has moved around a lot and that has strengthened her ability to accept change and build confidence. She is also a tennis love and hopes to pursue the sport at a high level. Sita is outgoing, enthusiastic, confident, and independent, and wants to use these strengths to make a difference in the world wherever it may start.”

Rahul Vudaru, Normal Community High School

“Rahul was born and raised in the U.S. but went to India four times for at least three months for each trip. He is currently a sophomore in Normal Community High School. His hobbies include playing the guitar and viola, playing video games (currently playing Nintendo until “Halo 5” comes out), watching superhero movies and animes, and reading. He doesn’t really have a specific goal but he believes that he is very nice. He also tries not to judge people until they prove to him otherwise, additionally, he is not one of those people who hangs something embarrassing over your head, forever.”