Chosen from nearly 10,000 applicants, Pooja Muthuraj, a senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School from Richmond, Virginia, has been selected as the National Winner of the esteemed $10,625 National Honor Society (NHS) Service Scholarship. NHS is supported by its parent organization, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“I am so grateful for this recognition and for this opportunity to have a seat at the table with the students and educators currently creating the future,” Pooja Muthuraj said. “This scholarship means the world to me, and I have so much optimism for what is to come. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible. Seriously, thank you so much.”
When Pooja Muthuraj learned about how some girls lack access to menstrual hygiene products, she established a local chapter of PERIOD, an international organization dedicated to ending period poverty and stigma around the world. Through this organization, Pooja and other students lobbied for two statewide bills mandating that public schools provide free period products in their restrooms, and both bills passed in March 2020.
Pooja also co-founded her own nonprofit, Teen Polytx, which seeks to bridge divides between high school students from different sides of the political aisle by fostering communication and encouraging conversations about pressing societal issues. Through this group, she moderates monthly discussions open to high school students from across the state, and the organization has connected over 60 high school students through meaningful discourse.
NHS is awarding $2 million in scholarships to 600 high school seniors this year. For the first time ever, four finalists were awarded a $10,625 scholarship for embodying the four pillars of NHS membership: scholarship, service, leadership, and character. The other recipients of these awards are: Alyssa Speelman from Ashland, MT for Service; Ethan Sandoval from Pasadena, CA for Character; and Owen Zhang from Bellaire, TX for Leadership. Twenty finalists received $5,625 and Evan Osgood from Loveland, OH earned the top $25,000 NHS Scholarship. Their bios are here.
“We’re humbled to honor these students’ powerful initiatives that have help their communities in this time of need,” said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “We need passionate and forward-looking leaders like them who combine their quest of knowledge with service and advocate for systemic change. These winners have outstanding potential, and we’re thrilled to be a part of their journey.”
The announcement is part of NASSP’s Trailblazing Leadership Week, bringing together the 2021 State Principals of the Year and the NHS Scholarship finalists to celebrate their accomplishments and connect with one another. In addition to the gala, the day began at the U.S. Department of Education where officials met with school and student leaders to discuss the most pressing issues in education.
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