National Presidential Scholars Award Earned by Suhani Patel
By Amy Wolff
Photo by Sara Altair Photography
For most high school seniors, final exams, graduation ceremonies and parties are in the rearview mirror and college is quickly approaching. Students also received many academic awards recently, including the Department of Education’s 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars award. This is one of the nation’s most prestigious academic awards for high school graduates and is only presented to 161 U.S. students each year.
Suhani Patel, a recent graduate of Mountain Ridge High School in the Deer Valley Unified School District, was one of only three Arizona teens that received this year’s sought-after award. She is an active member of the National Charity League (NCL) of Arrowhead.
Suhani qualified for the award based on her work in the field of software development. She was chosen by Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman to proceed to the national round where she was selected from more than 5,000 applicants nationwide to receive the award. Suhani attributes her hard work, dedication and passion for social change for her success.
During high school, Suhani developed a passion for the intersection of technology, business and social activism. She explored her interests through extracurricular opportunities with Carnegie Mellon University, where she worked on developing solutions for low-income communities experiencing drought.
Suhani was also an active member in NCL throughout her high school career. The mother/daughter philanthropic group has chapters across the U.S., including the Arrowhead chapter that encompasses the Anthem, Glendale, Peoria and West Valley areas. The organization provides opportunities for members to volunteer in the community and helps young women become strong, independent leaders.
“Being part of an organization committed to community service like NCL allowed me to explore many of the social inequalities and issues I want to address in my career,” says Suhani. “Through NCL’s work with diverse philanthropy opportunities that directly address social inequalities, like the Ronald McDonald House and Feed My Starving Children, I gained a greater understanding about the needs of the less fortunate in our community and across the U.S. These experiences only fueled my desire to make a greater impact with underserved communities both now and in the future.”
During high school, Suhani was inspired to create her own nonprofit organization called “Tech for Tails,” where she hosted computer programming classes and workshops for kids. All the profits from this group were used to fund projects for humane animal shelters across Arizona.
Through this experience, she was able to see how her interests in business and social activism could be combined to benefit her community. She was also an active participant with organizations like Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA); DECA, a nonprofit organization focused on preparing high school students for careers in marketing, communications and management; and LITAS for Girls, a nonprofit group geared at helping build young women to be the next generation of leaders in computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
Each year the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects high school students based on academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and demonstrated commitment to high ideals.
In the fall, Suhani will attend Cornell University in New York where she will study computer science and economics. She hopes to address social issues such as the wealth gap and resource inequalities in developing countries after she graduates.
For more information about the National Charity League, visit arrowhead.nationalcharityleague.org.