A senior from the Charter School of Wilmington is one of 10 students across the country selected to a new leadership program.
Sahaana Rajagopalan is the lone Delawarean to be picked for the Rising Leaders Initiative, a one-year program that trains exemplary students in civic participation, education advocacy, leadership development and public speaking.
This is just the second year of the program, which is organized by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the first time a First Stater has been chosen to be in the 10-person group.
“Being a rising leader will teach me so much about advocacy and developing skills to foster meaningful change in my community,” Rajagopalan said. “I am looking forward to receiving mentorship in advocacy, leadership skills and policy to influence change.”
Rajagopalan is the founder of the S.P.A.R.K.S. Project, an organization which stands for Students Providing Awareness and Reach of Knowledge in STEM.
The group has done work in different parts of America and has raised money for STEM education in parts of Africa and India.
The organization aims to bring STEM opportunities for underserved students.
It conducts interactive and collaborative summer camps and workshops, and has online STEM resources for kindergarten through fifth grade students to promote STEM education with a verified curriculum.
“As a passionate advocate for children, STEM and health equity, I am interested in pursuing a career as a neonatologist or a pediatric oncologist,” she said.
In college, she’s hoping to major in global health and biology.
She said global health fascinates her because it combines her passions for comparatively studying healthcare systems across the world and championing health care equality.
“I also hope to continue pursuing my work with regards to STEM advocacy and equity surrounding elementary school students,” she said. “I will definitely continue to look for ways to marry my advocacy efforts and future studies.”
Rajagopalan serves on the board of NerditCares, a non-profit focused on reducing the digital divide in communities through technology, skills and support.
She also volunteers several hours weekly at the Ronald McDonald House.
At school, she’s taken on leadership roles in organizations like Speech and Debate, Health Occupations Students of America, and CSW Connections.
Rajagopalan was selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants.
“I was very interested in the Rising Leaders Initiative because of its values and missions surrounding charter school and advocacy and also spear-heading community change,” she said. “The program is a great opportunity to help me grow as a leader and changemaker, while also forging connections with other passionate students across the country.”
The 10 charter high school students were selected to grow their leadership and advocacy skills through intensive programming, team building and opportunities outside of their school classrooms.
Students will receive a year of training and mentorship from policy professionals and various experts.
The program was designed to further develop students who have a demonstrated commitment to service, scholarship, and improving their schools and communities.
“We are so proud of these students and what they’ve already accomplished,” said Sindy Pierre-Noel, director of programs at the national alliance. “The Rising Leaders Program will only add to what each of them already possess – a desire to shape the evolution of education, advocate for the rights of their peers, and pave the way toward a brighter future.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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