HAF Announces 2012 NextGen Essay Contest Winners

New York, NY (September 17, 2012) - “[A]s President I will not tolerate the denial of abuse and negligence that many of our religious minorities face today. The discipline of Ahimsa (non-violence) will inspire me to create a world where Hindus no longer live in fear of using the Swastika symbol on the entrance of their homes or Sikhs no longer live in fear of dressing their heads with turbans...,” wrote Suneeta Israni, 21, one of three first prize winners of the Hindu American Foundation’s fourth annual NextGen Essay Contest.
 
If I were elected President of the United States, my Hindu principles would inspire me to... this was the essay topic presented to young Hindu American writers across the nation this year. Contestants, in three categories based upon their age -- 14 - 17, 18 - 22, and 23 - 27 years -- were judged on their creativity, focus, and style by three judge panel composed of two HAF Executive Council members and one Board member. From the many entries, a first and second prize winner were selected in each of the three categories. The first prize gift money for categories 14- 17 and 18 - 22 were sponsored by Seed the World.
 
Israni, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley studying Public Policy and Psychology, received $300 as the first prize winner in the 18-22 year category. This summer, through HAF’s Congressional Intern program, Israni also spent eight weeks working in the office of Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA).
 
"This sensitivity to our Earth displays to me the respect that Hinduism has for our limited resources. To promote a healthy global environment, I would follow a policy of moderation...,” explained Sohini Sircar. “As President, I would ensure that the United States promotes sustainable energy sources, does not engage in environmental dumping and strives to reduce greenhouse gas emission on a global scale.”
 
Sircar, 23, a New York City resident and member of the Hindu Students’ Council executive board, received $500 for winning first prize in the 23 - 27 year category. This is the second time Sircar is receiving a prize from HAF. Her essay last year was awarded first prize in the 18-22 year category.
 
Pooja Patel, 16, a junior in Midland, Texas, was the first prize winner and $150 in the 14- 17 year category. She has been published in Hinduism Today magazine, and writes op-eds for her local newspaper.
 
"Above all, the President is a public servant,” wrote Patel. “If I were to one day have the honor of holding the highest office in the land, as President, I would ensure that...I would strive to uphold the principles of servant leadership.”
 
Aanandh Chandrasekar, 15, of Sugarland, TX, was the winner of the second prize and $100 in the 14 - 17 year category. He is a rising high school junior whose extracurricular activities include the Decathlon and Science Olympiad.
 
The winner of the second prize and $200 in the 18 - 22 year category was Tejas Dave, 18, who also won the second prize last year in the 14-17 year category. Dave is a coordinator for the annual Sri Meenakshi Temple Youth Camp, has spoken at the annual Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference, and has been published in Hinduism Today magazine.
 
Ashok Ayyar, 27, won the second prize and $250 in the 23 - 27 year category. Ayyar, a graduate from Rice University, is currently earning law and public policy degrees from NYU Law and Princeton University.
 
"As they have in the past, these outstanding writers continue to amaze us with their ability to demonstrate how Hindu philosophy, which is thousands of years old, remains so incredibly relevant in today’s world. ,” said Sheetal Shah, a Senior Director for HAF and coordinator of the annual essay competition. “Given the upcoming elections, we were particularly excited about this year’s topic and the opportunity it presented to young Hindu Americans who aspire to reach the highest realms of public service.”
 
Please click on the name of the winner to read his/her respective essay in its entirety.