Late last month, the Hamilton County Youth Service Award was presented to recent Hamilton Southeastern High School graduate Laksmhi Pendela during a ceremony sponsored by the Hamilton County Commissioners and the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs.
Pendela, 17, won a $1,000 scholarship as part of the award. She was recognized for her community service in teaching English to Ukrainian students and blogging about suicide prevention.
Pendala said part of the application process required nominees to write an essay on how to promote not using drugs and alcohol. Pendela was one of seven students who was nominated for the award.
“I was awarded the scholarship for my lack of drug and alcohol use during high school, and for the work I do helping Ukrainian students with mental health problems,” Pandela said.
Pendela said she tries to help her community through blogging and participating in various service organizations. Pendela is a youth blogger for the National Suicide Prevention’s “You Matter Council” and is a student board member for the Southeastern Education Foundation. She is also secretary for the Key Club and co-captain of her school’s Speech and Debate Team. She also volunteers for Buddy Help, her local COVID-19 vaccine clinic and ENGin, where she teaches English to Ukrainian children.
Drug and alcohol problems are common in Ukraine, Pendela said.
“So, in addition to teaching English, I talk to the kids about the value of good mental health and the harmful effects of using drugs and alcohol,” she said. “My goal is to one day become a pediatric psychiatrist and start a telehealth platform to accurately assess an individual’s overall health.”
Pendela graduated from HSE in May. She ranked 12th in her class academically with a 4.66 GPA. Although she has received as full-ride scholarship to IUPUI, she also plans to attend medical school and will apply the $1,000 scholarship to expenses.
“I was ecstatic when I found out about my scholarships” she said. “After I get my undergrad degree, I plan to major in biomedical informatics, which looks at different medical data, then looks up ways to incorporate that data into finding ways to help a person’s overall all health and well-being.”
Mental health has always been important topic for Pendela.
She said her most significant accomplishment in her community was starting a new curriculum for the Ukraine students she tutors.
“I taught them to face the mental health stigma,” she said. “Treating that issue from the root with the children is really important in educating them. I incorporated new elements into the existing mental health curriculum ENGin. I found it online and through my internships, I’ve been doing it for two years.”
Six other students were nominated for the Youth Service Award by their respective school’s counseling departments. The other nominees were Samantha Brigham from Carmel High School; Megan Mybeck from Fishers High School; Elianna Watson from Hamilton Heights High School; Delany Shoemaker from Noblesville High School; Elijah Kinkead from Sheridan High School; and Addison Rismiller from Westfield High School. They will each receive a $300 scholarship.
“We are proud of each of the applicants that have chosen to lead a drug free lifestyle and contribute their time to help make positive changes in the lives of others,” stated Monica Greer, executive director of the Hamilton County Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs.