Late last month, the Hamilton County Youth Service Award was presented to recently graduated Laksmhi Pendela of Hamilton Southeastern High School at a ceremony sponsored by the Hamilton County Commissioners and the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs.
Pendela, 17, won a $1,000 scholarship as part of the prize. She was recognized for her community service teaching English to Ukrainian students and blogging about suicide prevention.
Pendala said part of the application process required nominees to write an essay promoting drug and alcohol abstinence. Pendela was one of seven students nominated for the award.
“I was awarded the grant for my lack of drug and alcohol use during high school, and for the work I do to help Ukrainian students with mental health problems,” Pandela said.
Pendela said she tries to help her community by blogging and participating in various service organizations. Pendela is a youth blogger for the National Suicide Prevention’s “You Matter Council” and is a student board member for the Southeastern Education Foundation. She is also secretary of the Key Club and co-captain of her school’s Speech and Debate Team. She also volunteers for Buddy Help, her local COVID-19 vaccine clinic, and ENGin, where she teaches English to Ukrainian children.
Drug and alcohol problems are common in Ukraine, Pendela said.
“So, in addition to teaching English, I talk to the kids about the value of good mental health and the harmful effects of using drugs and alcohol,” she said. “My goal is to one day become a child psychiatrist and start a telehealth platform to accurately assess a person’s overall health.”
Pendela graduated from HSE in May. She was ranked 12th in her class academically with a GPA of 4.66. Although she has received an IUPUI grant for a full ride, she also plans to attend medical school and will apply the $1,000 grant to expenses.
“I was ecstatic when I heard about my scholarships,” she said. “After completing my bachelor’s degree, I plan to study biomedical informatics, looking at various medical data and then looking for ways to incorporate that data into finding ways to improve the overall health and well-being of people. to help a person.”
Mental health has always been an important topic for Pendela.
She said her main achievement in her community was starting a new curriculum for the Ukrainian students she tutors.
“I’ve taught them to face the mental health stigma,” she said. “It is very important to tackle that problem at the root with the children. I incorporated new elements into the existing ENGin mental health curriculum. I found it online and through my internships I have been doing it for two years.”
Six other students were nominated for the Youth Service Award by their respective school’s counseling departments. The other nominees were Samantha Brigham of Carmel High School; Megan Mybeck of Fisher’s High School; Elianna Watson of Hamilton Heights High School; Delany Shoemaker of Noblesville High School; Elijah Kinkead of Sheridan High School; and Addison Rismiller of Westfield High School. They will each receive a $300 scholarship.
“We are proud of each of the applicants who chose to live a drug-free lifestyle and contribute their time making positive changes in the lives of others,” said Monica Greer, executive director of the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs. †