NSA grad recognized for community outreach

Published 8:12 pm Saturday, July 14, 2012

Aakash Shah, who graduated from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy this year, says he is learning valuable skills at the Taylor Bend YMCA, where he is interning after receiving a Bank of America scholarship.

When Nansemond-Suffolk Academy 2012 graduate Aakash Shah first got involved in the Taste of India festival, his goal was to “increase the awareness of Asian culture in Hampton Roads.”

That was in 2007, when he was in the seventh grade. “I sold tickets then,” he said. “My father and myself got involved.”

Shah said he and his father revamped how tickets are sold for what is billed as one of the Virginia’s largest Asian-Indian festivals, introducing electronic credit card billing and a different pricing system.

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“In 2010, I broke away from my father … and created the Youth Organizational Committee,” Shah explained.

In 2011, he decided that the best way to get more youth involved was to harness the power of social media, particularly Facebook.

“I think social media has definitely allowed us to reach more people,” Shah said. “We receive pretty immediate feedback.”

At NSA, Shah was also a student board member for a committee tasked with promoting healthy living.

“We did focus mostly on physical health and also environmental health, because we believe that a healthy environment creates healthy minds,” he said.

Recognizing his work in the community, Shah was recently selected to participate in the Bank of America 2012 Student Leaders Program.

He won a scholarship to complete a paid summer internship and was assigned to the Taylor Bend YMCA in Chesapeake.

“It’s not just me coming in and filing and checking people in … I’m moving around the Y and the entire association, so I can learn how the Y runs and how a nonprofit operates,” he said.

Shah will attend the University of Virginia in the fall as a pre-medicine and pre-commerce student.

His goal is to be an ophthalmologist, but beyond that, he also wants to get involved with an organization like the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which would “allow me to fully give back to my community.”

But for now, Shah seems content to take the necessary small steps toward his goals. He looks forward to an upcoming weeklong Bank of America Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

There, Shah said he will be “meeting with congressmen and other leaders of our nation, and (seeing) how they operate.”

He says he will be rubbing shoulders with other young people sharing similar goals.

“We’re all of the similar mindset of giving back to the community,” he said.