Five Indian American teens awarded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

Five Indian American teens awarded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes - 1


Five Indian-American teenagers have received the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes for making a positive difference in people’s lives, communities, and the environment.

The winners include Karina Samuel, 17, from Florida; Karun Kaushik, 17, from California; Laalitya Acharya, 18, from Ohio; Sahana Mantha, 15, from North Carolina; and Sri Nihal Tammana, 13, from New Jersey.

Established in 2001 by author TA Barron, the Barron Prize is a non-profit organisation annually honouring 25 outstanding young leaders from ages 8 to 18.

The award celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America.

Every year, 15 top winners are each awarded $10,000 to support their service work or higher education.

Karina Samuel founded the Florida chapter of Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), an international student-led nonprofit committed to reducing the amount of plastic on the planet. Her team focuses on passing pro-environment policy reform, banning plastic bags, organizing coastal cleanups, and educating the community about climate change. In the past three years, she has mobilized more than 1,000 volunteers to join over 175 coastal cleanups across the state. She is currently helping lead Ban the Bag Florida, a statewide campaign to ban plastic bags that was complicated by a Florida Senate ruling that prohibits local plastic bans from passing through city governments.

Karun Kaushik created X-Check-MD, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software that can diagnose Covid-19 and pneumonia with 99% accuracy in under one minute. His tool is an initiative of Democratize Health, the nonprofit he founded to save lives in impoverished regions using fast, accessible, and cost-effective technology. X-Check-MD allows doctors to snap a picture of an x-ray with their cell phone’s camera, upload it to a globally accessible website, and receive a diagnosis within seconds. It is faster, cheaper, and more accurate than traditional methods, eliminating the diagnostic backlog commonplace in developing countries while reducing delays in treatment. Karun hopes it can help prevent deaths from pneumonia, 90% of which occur in the world’s poorest regions.

Laalitya Acharya invented Nereid, a low-cost, globally applicable device that can detect water contamination within seconds. Her system uses Artificial Intelligence and can be placed directly into water pipes to detect microbial water contamination at low concentrations before it spreads. Slightly bigger than a cell phone, Nereid costs approximately $75 and only requires access to low power. The device takes microscopic images of water and runs the photos through a custom neural network that Laalitya designed. It then transmits the information to a water plant or local authorities, notifying them of any contamination. She is currently field-testing Nereid in her hometown near Cincinnati as well as in Morocco, in collaboration with Columbia University’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Sri Nihal Tammana founded Recycle My Battery to promote and facilitate the recycling of used batteries. His nonprofit installs free battery recycling bins and educates young people and adults about battery recycling. In just three years he has built a team of 250 student volunteers across the globe who have recycled nearly 200,000 batteries and educated millions of people. Nihal learned at age 10 that 15 billion batteries are thrown away each year and that most end up in landfills where they pollute groundwater, harm the ecosystem, and can cause catastrophic fires. Inspired to tackle the problem, he began collecting used batteries from his community.

Sahana Mantha co-founded Foundation for Girls (FFG) to economically empower homeless single mothers and support their children. Her nonprofit connects homeless single mothers with consistent, compassionate coaches to help the women become financially savvy, digitally capable, career confident, and socially connected. FFG coaches build bridges and human connections for transformative impact and multi-generational change. Since 2014, FFG has supported more than 2,500 homeless single mothers and their 450 children. In 2021 alone, the organization provided over 3,000 hours of group and one-on-one coaching and distributed nearly 13,000 care packs containing hygiene products, diapers, and children’s clothes. Sahana has built long-term community and corporate partnerships at the local and national level. 

Since its inception, the Barron Prize has awarded more than half a million dollars to hundreds of young leaders and has won the support of the National Geographic Education Foundation, Girl Scouts of the USA, and the National Youth Leadership Council, among other organizations.