By Steve Robinson | March 10, 2019 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Two young women had to wait almost two months for the richly-deserved recognition to be received, but on Saturday, Priyamsa Mikkilineni, a junior at Normal Community High School, and Kavya Sudhir, an NCHS senior were honored as recipients of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Award. Mikkilineni from the Human Relations Commission of the Town of Normal, Sudhir receiving her honor from the City of Bloomington’s Human Relations Commission. The ceremony took place at the Bloomington-Normal Radisson Hotel and Conference Center on Normal’s north side.

Priyamsa Mikkilineni: Priyamsa, daughter of Srinivas Mikkilineni and Usha Vallunpalli, has put her spare time into working to raise funds for the non-profit organization Bright Life Foundation which serves to help minority education in India. She has helped to raise $7,000 for that cause. She has also worked on a project to help the environment-friendly project which would have solar powered brought to schools in India.

Closer to home, Priyamsa is also co-founder for “Gotcha Boxes” for the needy in our area. What’s in a “Gotcha Box”? “It’s a box with toiletries and other necessities, which we get donated, and we give them to homeless people,” Priyamsa explained. Her group collects the items and distributes them to shelters for distribution to those people in need.

The vendors which have received these boxes include Home Sweet Home Ministries, 4-H, and Midwest Food Bank. Getting involved with such organizations became an education in itself for Priyamsa because she needed to be informed on how the Ministry preferred for such thing to go out to their clients. She said that taught her how compromise is achieved in the business world.

Priyamsa said the leaders at Home Sweet Home Ministries found what was desired to be accomplished to be “very ambitious, but they were excited” by what they were being offered.

Still a junior, she has a few colleges in mind for when she graduates from NCHS. Her life’s goal once she gets to college is to study business with a focus on marketing.

Priyamsa said she and her friends took the approach of trying to get folks to understand the problem of homelessness in order to get donations rather than just taking contributions without some background for why they were doing it. That sounds like she was using marketing skills already, and that she discovered she has a knack of it, too.

“Marketing is trying to make connections with people and trying to build relationships with people,” she said. “And throughout doing this, I’m building relationships with people who are involved in community service or are in need of community service. So I think that really helps.”

When she is not helping with “Gotcha Boxes,” Priyamsa is a member of the NCHS Marching Band, and the Future Business Leaders of America, where she’s the State Treasurer for that group. In this group, she added State representatives and other government officials have visited and informed about the economy has an effect on society.

Priyamsa has a goal she is determined to get off the ground armed with what her future education goals. She said she wants “to start a non-profit organization that helps kids get involved in sports.” She said she would like to do this because she realized after talking to friends that some kids’ parents can’t afford the expenses some sports entail.

“Since I was little, I was always involved in sports, and sports in America is a really big thing,” Priyamsa explained. “That’s not what non-profits really focus on.” She said the majority of non-profits she knows focus on education and homelessness among other issues. She said she would like to consider starting the kind of non-profit she’s been thinking of, as she explained, “Because kids like to have fun in their lives, too.”

Kavya Sudhir: Kavya, daughter of Sid and Susheela Sudhir, demonstrated her commitment to improve cooperation and fostering mutual respect among different peoples while as an intern with the City of Bloomington and the Downtown Business Association. She took what some might see as a unique approach to doing that. She worked on an individual project to make the City’s Farmer’s Market more open to those people of other cultures. She worked with the Market’s vendors to see if they would provide more ingredients used in Indian cooking. Doing that would allow the market to provide fresh produce to a larger amount of residents.

She also belongs to Youth Engaged in Philanthropy, or YEP, as one of 20 student members. The students in the group work with $10,000 from an anonymous donor to benefit non-profit groups using grants. She has even addressed Illinois Prairie Community Foundation which oversees YEP.

At NCHS, she is among a group of students which organize an “Iron Breakfast” event, giving new students to the school a chance to get together with other students and hopefully, foster new friendships. That event is put together by the school’s Student Council. Because NCHS has students whose families come from all parts of the globe, at the breakfast, Kavya uses the event to help the kids meeting there bond and begin friendships.

Although she hasn’t decided on a college to attend yet, Kavya does know what she wants to major in Biomedical Engineering. “My main interest lies in the field of Prosthetics,” Kavya explained. “That would be either in helping build prosthetics or attaching prosthetics to people who would have lost their limbs in war.”

She also is involved in the McLean County Diversity Project. When she is not involved with the groups listed so far, she also tutors math to junior high and high school students.

From all she has been involved in, Kavya said, “I think the main thing I have learned is leadership skills, learned how to deal with all different groups of people, and how to interact with groups of people who don’t have the same ideas or political backgrounds.”

Proud Principal: With two winners representing both communities coming from his school, Trevor Chapman, NCHS Principal, had reason to express pride in an email to me, stating, “Both Priyamsa and Kavya are incredible young women. They are selfless in that they are always thinking about how to serve others – both in and out of our school building.

“I know both of them sacrifice much of their free time to serve others, really serving as servant leaders for their classmates and our entire community,” he wrote, adding, “Both of these young ladies multi-task by serving others while trying to balance their own busy lives including school work and extra-curricular activities. I’m proud of both of them for going above and beyond and putting others before themselves.”

Both Priyamsa and Kavya have goals in mind and other peoples’ needs at the forefront of their thinking. That’s a hopeful sign. What’s more, the people they have already touched have benefitted from their good works. But it sounds like they are both just getting started in how they aid humanity, and it will be interesting to see what they can do for their communities, and possibly the nation or the world as a whole, in the future.

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