Selected from nearly 10,000 applicants, Pooja Muthuraj, senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, Virginia, was selected as the National Winner of the estimated $10,625 National Honor Society (NHS) Service Scholarship. The NHS is supported by its parent organization, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
“I am so grateful for this recognition and this opportunity to sit at the table of students and educators who are currently creating the future,” said Pooja Muthuraj. “This scholarship means the world to me, and I have so much optimism for what is to come. Thank you to everyone who made this possible. Seriously, thank you so much.
When Pooja Muthuraj learned that some girls did not have access to menstrual hygiene products, she started a local chapter of PERIOD, an international organization dedicated to ending menstrual poverty and stigma around the world. Through this organization, Pooja and other students lobbied for two statewide bills requiring public schools to provide free vintage products in their restrooms, and the two law were adopted in March 2020.
Pooja also co-founded her own nonprofit, Teen Polytx, which seeks to bridge the divides between high school students on different sides of the political aisle by fostering communication and encouraging conversations about pressing societal issues. Through this group, she hosts monthly talks open to high school students across the state, and the organization has connected more than 60 high school students through meaningful talk.
The NHS is awarding $2 million in scholarships to 600 high school students this year. For the first time ever, four finalists received $10,625 scholarships for embodying the four pillars of NHS membership: scholarship, service, leadership and character. The other recipients of these awards are: Alyssa Speelman of Ashland, MT for service; Ethan Sandoval of Pasadena, California for the character; and Owen Zhang of Bellaire, TX for leadership. Twenty finalists received $5,625 and Evan Osgood from Loveland, OH won the top NHS scholarship of $25,000. Their bios are here.
“We are honored to honor the powerful initiatives of these students who have helped their communities in this time of need,” said NASSP CEO Ronn Nozoe. “We need passionate, forward-thinking leaders like them who combine their pursuit of knowledge with service and advocate for systemic change. These winners have exceptional potential, and we are thrilled to be part of their journey.
The announcement is part of the NASSP Trailblazing Leadership Week, bringing together State Directors of the Year 2021 and the NHS Scholarship Finalists to celebrate their accomplishments and connect with each other. In addition to the gala, the day began at the US Department of Education where officials met with school and student officials to discuss the most pressing education issues.