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July 6, 2010 > Irvington graduate receives Presidential Scholar Award

Irvington graduate receives Presidential Scholar Award

Irvington graduate meets the President

By Rajeswari Ramanathan
Photos By Paarth Shah

Irvington High School 2010 graduate Pooja Ketan Shah smiled and was humbled when she found out that she was chosen as one of 141 students across the nation for the Presidential Scholar Award. Nominated by math teacher Clint Johns, Pooja was the only girl from California who traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with President Barack Obama.

Selected for her academic (especially her SAT score), potential, community service, and well-rounded interests, Shah is thrilled about the Presidential Scholar Award. Each scholar receives an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for four days to meet with President Obama and other scholars from across the nation. The award is given to a senior boy and girl from each state, 15 "at-large" scholars from throughout the nation, and 20 scholars in the visual arts for a total of 141 students.

"I feel incredibly honored," said Shah. "The people I met here are definitely going to be my friends for life, and it is no small thing to meet the President."

Academics are number one for Shah. Having taken and excelled in 16 Advanced Placement (AP) courses, she takes her studies seriously and with passion. Shah received a perfect 2400 on the SAT and is also a National Merit Scholarship Finalist for the PSAT. She is an active member of Irvington High School's Speech and Debate club and Academic Decathlon team. In fact, Shah was named the Valedictorian of her 2010 graduating class and has received several accolades for her hard work including the recent Coca-Cola Scholars in which she was a Regional Recipient and received $10,000 toward college expenses.

"I have huge hopes and dreams for the future and a way to achieve them," said Shah. "I published my two-year-long research project in a huge science magazine, I have won several national speech championships and I'm super-involved, both at school and in the community."

Speaking of community, Shah is always on the move to improve her community. In addition to running marathons for charity, she has also started a non-profit organization called "The Panacea Initiative" to aid disadvantaged children in third-world countries. According to California Super Teen Award, Shah "also started the Beneath the Bay community service project, which aims to prevent pollution of local bodies of water by pharmaceutical waste."

She allocates her time wisely between academic and extra-curricular activities. A student of martial arts for over 13 years, Shah is currently a Tae Kwon Do second-degree black belt. She is also talented in vocal music, dance and piano.

"I love to read," says Shah. "But I also enjoy simple things like listening to music, going to concerts, writing, dancing, laughing, traveling, doing sports that I can actually manage like skiing, boogie-boarding, spelunking, rock-climbing and several other things. Basically, I love to have fun!"

Shah and her parents view a very bright future for her. She is still deciding between Stanford University and Yale University. While she is not yet set on her major, Shah says that she'll probably triple-major in Economics, Engineering, and Political Science. According to California Super Teen Award, Shah "plans on becoming a businesswoman and starting a Fortune 500 company before she is 40. She also wants to be a congresswoman, senator and the first female President of the United States."

Her goal in life is to create a better planet environmentally and economically for everyone. She adds, "I want to change the world by presenting to it the gift of sustainability. I hope to eventually start a corporation that deals in global solutions to problems such as renewable sources of energy, food, and medicine."

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