Moorestown High School junior Alisha Desai has received the state’s Distinguished Students Award in Academics and Leadership for grades nine through 12 from the New Jersey Association for Gifted Children (NJAGC).
According to educationaladvancement.org, NJAGC is an advocate for programs, networks and legislative actions that meet the needs of gifted students statewide. The association partners with parents and educators to increase understanding and expand opportunities for gifted children.
Desai applied for the award after learning about it online and through friends.
“When I applied, I was just thinking that it was just a way that I could recognize myself in a way for the different things that I’ve done throughout high school, and also just kind of have it all put in one place,” she noted.
Desai is vice president of the school’s Interact Club and participates in Mock Trial, Model Congress and Model UN activities. She is also her grade’s blood drive representative, helping her peers sign up and organizing four drives throughout the year.
This past summer, she was chosen to represent Moorestown High School for the HOBy Youth Leadership Seminar, and at the same time, she also served as a marketing intern for Yellowdig, a startup online learning platform. Desai also serves as her grade’s class liaison of Student Council, in which she is responsible for running social media and organizing school events.
“There are lots of hard-working kids in high school, and I’m not by any chance one of the most or anything, but I definitely feel like I do work really hard and I commit myself to a lot of different things,” Desai noted of her award. “It just felt like, ‘Oh, the things that I’m doing are worth it,’ and ‘I’m making more of an impact’ …
“Maybe in the future when other kids are applying, they’ll look at me and be like, ‘Oh, our school has an Interact Club,’” she added. “Maybe I’ll join.’”
Desai’s volunteer experience includes working with the Pink Foundation, an organization with various locations in India to fight against genocide in India, volunteering for Congressman Andy Kim’s campaign, serving as an event coordinator for the Indian Cultural Center of South Jersey, and serving as a Youth Ambassador for Asian Indian Professionals.
“I think it’s just feeling like you’re making an impact with what you’re doing,” Desai said of what she enjoys about volunteering. “I’m very fortunate from the situation that I grew up in, I grew up in a nice town with parents who are supportive but unfortunately not everyone has that …
“It just feels nice to give back to people who aren’t as fortunate.”
Given her participation in clubs and projects and her volunteerism, Desai would like to pursue a career in economics or law.
“I definitely think having experience has shown me what it’s really like, because even though you can hear about it or take classes on it, I think there’s nothing like doing it yourself,” she observed.
Desai also co-founded MHS’ Economic and World Newsletter, for which she writes her own articles and edits and formats articles written by her peers. She explained how the main goal is for those peers to have an opportunity to read about world events in a language that’s written by their classmates. It’s something she would like to see continue after she graduates.
“We’ve always thought about even now, giving some sophomores or freshmen some type of leadership, because they’ll obviously be there after we leave,” she said. “ … I’d love to see it even become a club, or just grow.”