Class of 2016 Valedictorians and Salutatorians

Class of 2016 Valedictorians and Salutatorians

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Desh-Videsh congratulates all 2016 graduates! We wish them all a future filled with prosperity and meaningful opportunities. We are especially thrilled that so many of our young community members continue to excel and push themselves to be strong, talented leaders. Learn more about these Valedictorians and Salutatorians below.
Meha Agrawal, Salutatorian
Meha Agrawal School: Charles W. Flanagan
Hometown: Pembroke Pines, Florida
GPA: 5.5789
College: Georgia Institute of Technology
Major: Computer Science
Parents: Neeru Agrawal and Bramha Dev Agrawal
Academic Awards: I am a Posse Miami Finalist for Pomona College and a National AP Scholar. As a National AP Scholar, I have received an average of a 4 on all my exams, ten of which I received a 4 or higher on. However, I am most proud of the BCAA Scholar Athlete Award I received recently in recognition of my dedication to both sports and academics.
What job/position do you plan to pursue and why?

I am fascinated with the versatility of programming, so as of now, I am interested in learning about all of the different ways each language can be applied. After I explore all of my options, I will choose which one I enjoy most, whether it be Robotics, Web Design, or Cyber Security. The most thrilling part of my life right now, is the mystery of it, and my ability to take it in any direction I choose.

What is your favorite quote?

“Wonder begins in wonder” – Socrates

If you could have breakfast with anyone, who would it be and why?
Lin-Manuel Miranda

Which issue (global or local) is close to your heart, and why?

Education, because even though I used the system to succeed in my education, I see too many around me who are so close to me, slip through the cracks. While we work hard to create an equal opportunity for every student, it seems that in attempt to leave no children behind, we have left even more than before.

What is your little-known talent ?
Creating

Varnika Kuthuru – Valedictorian
Varnika Kuthuru School: Timber Creek High School
Hometown: Orlando, FL
GPA: 5.2
College: University of Central Florida
Major: Computer Science
Parents: Ramalinga and Jyothsna Kuthuru
Academic Awards:Ranked 1rst out of a graduation class of over 750 seniors, Commended Student in the National Merit Scholarship Program, National Women in Technology Aspirations Regional Award Winner, American Computer Science League National First Place Classroom Division Winner, AP Scholar with Distinction Award 2015, AP Scholar with Honor Award 2014, Business Professionals of America Competition District winner in word processing, Kiwanis Club Senior Award
What job/position do you plan to pursue and why?

I want to be a software programmer for a company that is willing to use its vast outreach to develop new technology that will have a lasting impact on society.

What is your favorite quote?

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” ― Alan Turing

If you could have breakfast with anyone, who would it be and why?

Alexander Hamilton, because he was a man with indefatigable drive to achieve his goals despite the unfortunate situation he was born into. He was in the center of the creation of this America and had a hand in so many aspects of our government. He wasn’t afraid to express his beliefs including pushing for equal rights for all before it was a widely shared sentiment. I would love to discuss how he put his innovative ideas into effect and how he found the drive to not only change his own future but those of a whole society.

Which issue (global or local) is close to your heart, and why?

A global issue important to me is girl’s education in countries where its only available to their male counterparts. This issue is close to my heart because the passion for acquiring knowledge is universal, and girls in countries facing extremism and violence have this right threatened and are subjected to unimaginable horrors. Education empowers women, gives them the knowledge of their rights and the unfairness of their situation- sparking change. Fighting for girls’ education not only gives them access to new opportunities, it removes a roadblock on that individual’s and society’s path to improvement and growth.

What is your little-known talent ?

Sketching

Priyanka Desai – Valedictorian
School system: Gwinnett
High School: Peachtree Ridge High School
Extracurricular activities: FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America); local chapter President Peachtree Ridge Academic Team; Ridge Run Charity 5K for Relay for Life; Co-Chair Kruti Dance Academy
College: Emory University
Intended major: Business Administration
What is the best advice you got about succeeding?

It is important to learn the difference between significance and fame, also being successful doesn’t always mean getting credit or recognition but is about making a difference.

What advice would you give to a freshman?

Don’t make decisions in high school based on what you think colleges or employers want to see. If a place doesn’t accept you because of the decisions you wanted to make, then they’re not accepting who you are.

Navya Baranwal – Valedictorian
Navya Baranwal School: Miramar High School
Hometown: Miramar, FL
GPA: 4.0
College:
Brown University, Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School
Major: 8-Year Integrated Program in Liberal Medical Education
Parents: Amit and Bhavna Baranwal
Academic Awards:National Merit Scholar, National AP Scholar, IB Candidate, 2390 SAT, 800s in subject SATs for Molecular Biology, Chemistry, and Math Level 2, State Science and Engineering Fair Research Awards in Biomedical and Health Sciences, American Association of Clinical Chemistry Award, Comcast Leaders and Achievers Award and Scholarship, MIT Book Award, Broward County National Honor Society Member of the Year Award in 2015, Miami Herald Silver Knight Honorable Award, Grisham’s Scholar
What job/position do you plan to pursue and why?

I want to become a doctor because it is a job of service. I say to myself that I have been diagnosed with “Future Doctor Syndrome” because I always have a chronic yearn to help other people–a common symptom of “FDS.” By becoming a doctor, not only can I weave in my passions of service to my career, but I can also join the path to explore different causes and cures for various diseases in the realms of medicine.

What is your favorite quote?

Escape the ordinary, and go for the extraordinary.

If you could have breakfast with anyone, who would it be and why?

Spongebob Squarepants. He never fails to make me laugh!

Which issue (global or local) is close to your heart, and why?
Hunger. I am privileged to have great access to food, but so many people have empty dinner tables every night. Volunteering with Joshua’s Heart Foundation has opened my eyes, and I will always strive to l stomp out hunger.

What is your little-known talent ?

While my singing-in-the-shower skills are always superb, one of my favorite passions is playing tennis.

Agni Kumar – Valedictorian
High School: Milton High School
Extracurricular Activities: Math Team (President), Mu Alpha Theta National Mathematics Honor Society (President), Georgia ARML, Science Fair, Science Olympiad, Chamber Orchestra (Concertmaster), National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Academic Bowl, Robotics, Girls Interested in Science and Technology (GIST), swimming
College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Intended major: Mathematics and Computer Science/Engineering
How do you hope to give back to your community when you graduate?

Encouraging “A-HA!” moments, as there is no better sight to see that of the joy students experience when making art with numbers, beginning to enjoy a subject so difficult and mentally cog-turning – but also so essential – in nature. I have organized and hosted Mini-Mathletes tournaments and summer math meets for Milton/Alpharetta/Roswell elementary and middle school kids over the past several years, and would love to continue engaging in programs like this one that hold a special place in my heart.

What advice would you give to a freshman?

Do what you love. Funnel your time and energy into something you truly enjoy – those memories will be the ones you treasure most. Partake in events to share your joy with others…in my book, making a positive difference in the life of even a single person is a grand achievement. High school is your playground, so try and try again to reach for those monkey bars. Sm:)e, because you got this.

Maya Patel – Valedictorian
Maya Patel School: Freedom High School
Hometown: Tampa, FL
GPA: 8.60
College:
University of Tampa
Major: Biochemistry/MBA
Parents: VC and Nila Patel
Academic Awards:Recipient of an Associates of Arts Degree and College Credit Certificate with the highest honors from Hillsborough Community College (dual enrollment), Recipient of the Athena Society’s Young Woman of Promise Award, National AP Scholar, Commended PSAT Scholar, Top 5 Finalist at FBLA National Leadership Conference, Top 5 Finalist at HOSA International Leadership Conference, First Place winner for the Central Florida Geography Olympiad, First Place winner for the Central Florida History Bowl (as a solo team), Microsoft Office Specialist in Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint, Adobe Dreamweaver CS6 Certified, CPR and First Aid Certified, Third Place at Regional Science Bowl
What job/position do you plan to pursue and why?

I hope to pursue a career in the health sciences, perhaps in dentistry. I would also like to have a background in business administration or business management.

What is your favorite quote?

“Everyone smiles in the same language”- George Carlin

If you could have breakfast with anyone, who would it be and why?

Michelle Obama. She is a poised and diplomatic first lady who has put forth amazing effort to support this country’s youth. Her push towards encouraging a healthy lifestyle and reducing nationwide obesity is highly impactful and inspiring. I would love to talk to Mrs. Obama about her childhood experiences, her career, and her life in the White House.

Which issue (global or local) is close to your heart, and why?

Illiteracy, both locally and globally, is a serious issue that I believe needs to be addressed. In today’s society, it is easy to forget that education is a privilege that not everyone has access to, nor adequate resources for. That’s why I started an initiative to create a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that donates new or gently used books/textbooks for children all around the world. It is imperative that every person has the ability to read and write, so that they can use the power of knowledge to make this world a better place.

What is your little-known talent ?

I enjoy cooking

Rohan Rao – Valedictorian
High School: Johns Creek High School
Extracurricular activities: Frisbee, Debate, Math
College: Princeton University
Intended major: Operations Research and Financial Engineering
What is the best advice you got about succeeding?

You gotta risk it to get the biscuit! Sometimes taking a chance, even if it turns out badly, will help to build one’s confidence and character.

What advice would you give to a freshman?

Don’t take things far too seriously. If you do what you like and are passionate about, everything will work out. There is enough time to stress out about things in the future, so don’t do it now. (That’s not to say that school isn’t important! Please don’t drop out because of me!!!)

Dhyey Desai, Valedictorian
Dhyey Desai School: Deerfield Beach High School
Hometown: Coral Springs, FL
GPA: 5.5781
College: University of Miami
Major:
Cellular and Molecular Biology
Parents: Rakesh and Maulika Desai
Academic Awards: 2nd Place Broward County Science Fair, 2012; Robotics Grand Champion in Qualifying, 2012; Robotics 1st Place Robot in Regionals, 2012; Duke T.I.P State of Florida Recognition, 2011; Mu Alpha Theta: Pre-calculus (2014)- Ferguson Regional 3rd place team; Cypress Bay Reg. 5th place team; 14th place in state Complex Numbers Statistics(2015)- Braddock Reg. 14th place, 3rd place team; Ferguson Reg. 3rd place team; King Statewide-14th place, 5th place team; Heritage Reg. 4th place team; NATIONALS- 3rd place statistics individual; 3rd Place Broward County Science Fair, 2013; Most Outstanding Student Mentor for South Florida FIRST Lego League Region, 2013; Sunshine State Scholar Runner up, 2015; Exchange Club of Lighthouse Point Honor Student, 2015; AP Scholar with Distinction, 2015.
What job/position do you plan to pursue and why?

I hope to further research in genetic engineering, particularly in the CRISPR/Cas9 DNA editing technology. With the completion of such a project, all genetic and mitochondrial diseases that could potentially be passed alongside all forms of cancers could be eradicated. I have done theoretical research during my time in high school and hope to take this theoretical knowledge to the lab in college.

What is your favorite quote?

“Oh yes, the past can hurt, but you can either run from it, or learn from it”- Rafiki from The Lion King.

If you could have breakfast with anyone, who would it be and why?

Francis Collins, current directer of the National Health Institute and former lead scientist in the Human Genome Project. This individual had the drive and perseverance to complete one of the most arduous scientific endeavors in contemporary history. To pick his brain over breakfast would be an absolute honor.

Which issue (global or local) is close to your heart, and why?

As mentioned before, the continued growth of disease, particularly ones where we as humans have no control over, troubles me. To become versed in such an area and provide the relief and control to families dealing with such unfortunate diseases has become a dream of mine. The feeling of hopelessness in a love one’s eyes, seeing a family member suffer and being unable to do anything to aid them, is the most terrible feeling anyone can have.

What is your little-known talent ?

I am a decent long distance runner.

Sameer Puri – Valedictorian
Sameer Puri School: Hillsborough High School
Hometown: Odessa, FL
GPA: 8.72
College: Vanderbilt University
Major: Computer Science
Parents: Har Puri & Charu Puri
Academic Awards:National Merit Finalist and Scholarship Winner, Florida League of IB Schools Scholarship Winner
What is your favorite quote?

“Above all else, know thyself.” – Plato

If you could have breakfast with anyone, who would it be and why?

Alan Turing, I would like to hear his take on current issues concerning cybersecurity and encryption

Which issue (global or local) is close to your heart, and why?

Lack of awareness of online privacy, many people fall victim to cybercrimes like identity theft, cyberbullying, and cyberstalking

What is your little-known talent ?

I run a Minecraft game server in my spare time

Ramona Parkash – Salutatorian
Ramona Parkash School: Somerset Academy Charter High School
Hometown: Pembroke Pines, FL
GPA: 5.58
College: University of Florida (Honors Program)
Major: Neurobiology
Parents: Vijay Laxmi and Jai Parkash
Academic Awards:
AP Scholar With Distinction, National Merit Commended Scholar, Associates of Arts Degree with Honors Distinction from Broward College, Florida Academic Scholar, Miramar & Pembroke Pines Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Recipient, University of Florida Presidential Scholarship Recipient
What job/position do you plan to pursue and why?

With a passion for impacting the lives of patients, I plan to pursue a career in medicine or healthcare.

What is your favorite quote?

“Always wear your invisible crown.” -Unknown

If you could have breakfast with anyone, who would it be and why?

I would love to have breakfast with Emma Watson. Her dedication to advocating for gender equality and the value she places on education are both very inspiring; listening to her insight would be fascinating.

Which issue (global or local) is close to your heart, and why?

The lack of access to education that many people, especially women, in developing countries experience is a serious issue. Education is the foundation for creating better informed perspectives, and it is unfortunate that certain individuals are deprived of this opportunity.

What is your little-known talent ?

Starting an essay ten minutes before it is due and submitting it on time.

Parth Kumar – Valedictorian
Parth Kumar High School: Cambridge High School
Extracurricular activities: Math Team, Georgia ARML Team, Independent Aerospace Research, Marching Band, French Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Social Studies Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, National Honor Society, Beta Club, Science Olympiad
College: Georgia Tech on a Gold Scholarship.
Intended major: Aerospace Engineering.
What is the best advice you got about succeeding?

Try and develop an intrinsic desire to learn. Students oftentimes just focus on completing courses for credit, but if you develop a passion for learning, it makes it much easier to succeed as that is a better motivator than anything else. Furthermore, as you follow your passions, help people along the way and share your passion with them. For example, you can tutor your favorite subject.

What advice would you give to a freshman?

Remember to find time to relax. High school is a huge change, and it is important to not get overwhelmed with work. Find some extra curricular activities to do such as music or a sport, and if you really enjoy a certain subject, join some clubs related to it to learn more about the subject outside of the classroom. It provides an additional perspective that can be useful in determining what path you want to eventually go on to in the future. At the same time, make sure not to relax too much – it is important to find a healthy balance.

Serena Shah – Salutatorians
Serena Shah School: St. Johns Country Day School
Hometown: Fleming Island, FL
GPA: 4.57
College: University of Miami
Major: Double Major in Biology and International Studies
Parents: Drs. Arjav and Sita Shah
Academic Awards: University of Virginia Jefferson Book Award for Scholarship, Leadership, and Citizenship; Florida State Spanish Conference; Sobresaliente (Highest Achievement): Impromptu Speaking; Sobresaliente (Highest Achievement): Theater Skit; Afterthought Award in Upper School and Publication of essay, “Life Redefined by Liam”; President’s Education Awards Program: Outstanding Academic Excellence Award; Florida Bright Futures Scholarship: Academic Scholar Scholarship Recipient.
What job/position do you plan to pursue and why?

My career goals include becoming a physician with an impacting, international presence. However, I hope to take my medical skills and knowledge abroad to aid populations in need of medical care and whose culture is not understood and respected well enough. I hope to combine my medical knowledge and understanding of different cultural values to participate in a productive program that not only practices medicine globally, but also is inclusive of and comprehends the cultural and societal values present in communities around the world.

What is your favorite quote?

“Life is inherently risky. There is only big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.” -Anonymous

If you could have breakfast with anyone, who would it be and why?

I would have breakfast with movie star, Steve Martin, because I know the meal would include talking about the best parts of life. It would be a great opportunity to press pause on my busy life and start my day off by simply sharing a few laughs and consequential smiles with such a positive, funny person.

Which issue (global or local) is close to your heart, and why?

Women’s empowerment and right to obtain an education is an unfortunate issue that is close to my heart because I believe that having an education is the gateway to accomplishing goals, creating positive, social change, and inspiring innovation – activities that our world desperately needs to thrive.

What is your little-known talent ?

Not only am I a dancer, but I am also a pretty good choreographer. I have been dancing since I was 5, and I now choreograph hip-hop, lyrical, and even Bollywood dances to perform at different events.